Access or ownership: Where we’re headed with media content

An observation I’ve made recently is that services like Netflix, Pandora, Spotify, and library e-book rentals have grown tremendously in popularity. What all of these services have in common is that they offer access to content, rather than ownership.

These services work by charging a small monthly fee in return for access to music, movies, TV shows, or books. With Netflix, for example, you get unlimited access to thousands of movies and TV shows for $8 a month — less than the cost of one movie ticket at the theater. With Spotify, you get unlimited access to their music library for only $5 a month, which is far less than the cost of buying just one CD. And in the case of e-book rentals, an increasing number of libraries around the country offer free lending of e-books from their websites for library members.

In each case, you’re able to gain monthly access to virtually unlimited content for less than the purchase price of one item. Sounds like a deal, right?

It is my belief that the cause of the shift to these types of services is that our preferences for media consumption as a society are changing. It used to be true that we valued possessing troves of CDs and DVDs. We relished creating our own personal libraries, and comparing their sizes to those of our friends. We valued these things even though in some cases it cost us every penny we earned. But no longer do we value owning every CD our favorite bands ever make. No longer do we value owning every movie we’ve ever enjoyed. And no longer do we value filling our shelves with books we may never read.

As a society, we’re moving away from the clutter that owning vast amounts of stuff creates. We’re distancing ourselves from the risk that we may never use the things we buy. In short, we’re embracing access to content over ownership.

To use the above services, all you need is an internet connection and a device (whether it is a TV, computer, or e-book reader.) No longer does our enjoyment of media require amassing piles of content. By paying a small monthly fee, you can have unlimited access to these services while freeing up valuable space in your home. Not to mention the money you could save!

What do you think?

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