Most of the media is not positive about the on-demand economy. A good example is the coverage of Pew Internet's Shared, Collaborative and On Demand: The New Digital Economy report.
The study findings show the on-demand economy has extensively penetrated the U.S. economy in a relatively short time.
As the study chart below shows, 72% of Americans have used some sort of on-demand/sharing economy service, 15% have used a rideshare (meaning Uber, Lyft, etc.) and 11% a home sharing service such as Airbnb.
Few industries have grown as fast - especially since most of these services have been broadly available across the U.S. for only a couple of years.
But based on the media coverage, you'd think these services hardly have any customers.
Despite the impressive numbers, the press has been reporting that the Pew survey found few Americans are participating in the on-demand economy. Some examples include:
Fortune's 89% of Americans Don't Even Know What the 'Gig Economy' Is And only 15% have used Uber of Lyft has the key quote "Nearly 28% of Americans say they have not used any major shared or on-demand platforms." Somehow the fact that 72% reported using on-demand platforms escaped their attention.
Most Americans Don’t Know About Ride-Sharing and the ‘Gig Economy’ from the Wall Street Journal says "only 15% of adults have used ride-hailing services." This, of course, makes it sound like having 35 million Americans (roughly 15% of adults) using a service is a very small number.
The reality is in just a few years - Uber went live 2011 and Lyft in 2012 - ridesharing has fundamentally changed the taxi business.
Fortune's Uber and Lyft Have Absolutely Gutted L.A.’s Taxi Industry is one of many articles chronicling how much share ridesharing companies have taken from taxis. So grabbing 15% of all adult Americans isn't so small after all.
Other articles portray the users of on-demand services as only used by the rich and well-educated.
Quartz's Uber and Airbnb really are for the wealthy and well-educated is a good example. It says "The new digital economy is increasingly looking like it belongs to the rich and well-educated", which simply isn't what the data shows. Yes, higher income people are more likely to use these services than lower income people.
But this is true for all consumer discretionary spending. For example and not surprisingly, Starbucks sells more coffee to middle and high income people than they do to those with low incomes.
The general media bias against the on-demand economy is understandable.
Uber's intentional bad boy image and confrontational style certainly is one reason the press doesn't like this sector. Labor issues also clearly have had an impact on how the press (and others) view the on-demand economy.
But we think a bigger issue may be that the original, utopian vision that the sharing economy would lead to a kinder, gentler and more equal economy has not come true.
Instead, we got companies like Uber. Even the early sharing economy darlings Aribnb and Etsy have turned out to be profit driven instead of just socially minded. Etsy even had the nerve to legally minimize their tax bill.
We suspect the disappointment with how this turning out is behind much of the media bias.
We're not suggesting there aren't problems with the on-demand economy. There are and these should be covered by the media.
But as the Pew data shows, the on-demand economy is successful and consumers of all kinds are embracing it because the services add value.
It would be nice to see more balanced coverage of these facts.