Washington Post Misses Link Between Sharing, Subscriptions, and Services

March 7, 2012

Tien Tzuo, CEO


The Washington Post’s Lifestyle section published a piece on Sunday highlighting many subscription-based companies that have challenged the conventional single-transaction business model. While the Post’s analysis is mainly on retail-products-as-services like Zipcar, Rent our Boxes, Netflix, and Tie Society, the simple fact that subscription businesses have penetrated into the lifestyle section of newspapers speak to the growth of the subscription economy these past few years.

Personally, I prefer the term “Subscription Economy” to the Washington Post’s use of “sharing economy” as “Subscription Economy” encapsulates products and services that aren’t merely tangible objects to be shared. Dell, The New York Times, Billmyparents, and Pearson’s move to subscription monetization isn’t simply about “sharing,” it’s about having a stronger relationship with the customer that (hopefully) will be longer lasting and deeper.

But The Washington Post poses an interesting question: is the move to subscriptions partly generational, as each generation approaches ownership differently? Is the younger generation simply more okay with sharing their toys, cars, movies and ties? Or are we simply too impatient/cheap to put up with inefficient models of consumerism? Why bother owning a car that is idle for the majority of the time? Why invest in a tie you’ll wear only twice? And, if you know you’ll use a service continually, why not invest in a monthly payment system?