Industry Research: The Sharing Economy

When it comes to Uber or Airbnb, how do you categorize those services into a distinct industry? As Rashmi Dyal-Chand asks in the Tulane Law Review, “Is Airbnb a hotel chain, a rental agency, or a website provider? Is Uber a taxicab service employing hundreds of drivers or a developer of an app?”

My guess is that the best way to get a 360 degree view of the industry would be to do a little research in all those areas (hotels, rentals, website providers), to get a good feel for where things are and where they are heading. SWOTs or industry reports for the hotel industry might mention Airbnb and their stake in the industry, for example, as might articles about peer-to-peer websites.

A quick search in OCtopus for “sharing economy” brings up a wealth of articles in both scholarly and popular sources.

Use different keywords– try specific company names (like Airbnb or Uber, to name only those that I am familiar with!), as well as terms like “sharing economy,” “peer-to-peer networks,” and “collaborative networks” (these are a few terms that show up in article searches- different writers may use different terms for the same concept).

A lot of interest in the scholarly realm seems to be related to regulation within the industries. Trade journals and popular sources often focus on how to compete or keep up to date with this new type of business. Where you are gathering information will have some impact on the type of information you will find.

Here are some examples of articles, both scholarly and popular, on the topic:

Chafkin, M. (2016). AIRBNB OPENS UP THE WORLD. Fast Company, (202), 76-95

Bradley, R. (2015). Lyft’s Search for a New Mode of Transport. MIT Technology Review, 118(6), 48-53

Malhotra, A., & Van Alstyne, M. (2014). The Dark Side of the Sharing Economy … and How to Lighten It. Communications Of The ACM, 57(11), 24-27

Marchi, A., & Parekh, E. (2016). HOW THE SHARING ECONOMY CAN MAKE ITS CASE. Mckinsey Quarterly,03/31/2016(1), 112-116

Sundararajan, A. (2016). What Governments Can Learn From Airbnb And the Sharing Economy. Fortune.Com, 1

And a couple books, for a more detailed look:

Stephany, A. (2015). The Business of Sharing : Making It in the New Sharing Economy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Johal, S., & Zon, N. (2015). Policy making for the sharing economy : beyond whack-a-mole. Toronto : Mowat Centre

OC Library users have access to the database Passport, which might provide some stats and analysis on the sharing economy or specific companies within that realm. However, Euromonitor (the company behind Passport) has a blog where they post valuable information for free (as do many other market research companies, to point out their paid resources), such as in this post: The New Consumerism: The Reach of the Sharing Economy

Other freely available reports online include this one by PricewaterhouseCoopers: The Sharing Economy

From these reports and posts, we can glean info such as what types of services and goods are best suited to the sharing economy, the names of up-and-coming companies in the industry (who has heard of Spinlister, Rover, or Roost?), and the percentage of the US population that has provided services through one of the sharing economy platforms (1.4%!)

There’s so much to learn…


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