Essential Pittsburgh: An In-Depth Look at the Local Sharing Economy

May 18, 2015

Companies such as UberLyft, and Airbnb have been growing in popularity in the Pittsburgh region. Today’s special look into the sharing economy begins with Robert Morris University Economics Professor Brian O’Roark, who discusses the business models and the effects of the sharing economy. 

According to O'Roark, the sharing economy itself is not new, but the widespread scale of it is a recent development:

"The idea of a sharing economy has actually been around for some time, but this taking off of the sharing economy -- the expansion of the sharing economy to things like tools and meals and even clothes -- is much more of a recent phenomenon." -- Brian O'Roark

Also in the program, Sociologist Kimberly Creasap talks about the role of trust in the sharing economy. In addition, we hear from Pittsburghers Bruce Chan, Andrea Wetherald and Frank Battista about their own experiences with different sharing platforms. And finally, Marty McGough of Campos Research Strategy compares the new system of sharing to older models.

A Matter of Trust (begins at 12:06)

Would you allow a complete stranger in your car or house for the night? The role of trust in the sharing economy is a leading factor in consumers' decisions to participate or not. We explore this aspect of the sharing economy with Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Kimberly Creasap.

Creasap says that ratings systems online play a significant role in creating the trust that's needed in the sharing economy:

"Historically, sharing was a community- or kinship-based practice, and well-established social relationships were the basis for trust. ... But reputation systems online ... are designed to create accountability in a similar way." -- Kimberly Creasap

Sharing Economy Participants (begins at 30:57)

Joining us to provide firsthand accounts within the sharing economy are participants Bruce Chan of Couchsurfing, Andrea Wetherald of the Share Closet and Frank Battista of Airbnb. These locals offer their stories, involvement and experiences in these sharing companies. 

"We've really appreciated getting to meet people from all around the world. We have two children, and it's been exciting for them to get to meet a lot of different people with a lot of different experiences." -- Frank Battista

Sharing vs. Subscription (begins at 52:56)

After discussing all aspects of the sharing economy, we’ll now look into the subscription economy and the differences between the two. Does the subscription economy affect the future of the sharing economy? Vice President for Market Insights at Campos Research Strategy Marty McGough joins us to talk about the subscription economy as it rapidly takes hold in businesses across the nation. 

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be found here.