In the last few decades, we’ve had the chance to see the amazing evolutionary process of the ways we consume media. Those born in the 1970s have seen the emergence and downfall of a series of standards (even the ones that have won the various “format wars”): Betamax and VHS, audio tapes, CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, digital downloads, and now streaming.
Today, an ever-increasing number of people use Google Home in Canada: get entertainment and more on-command has never been easier. You just have to tell the smart assistant what you want to listen to, and it will do the tedious task of searching and playing it for you. But it is but an interface between us, the consumers, and the content itself available in a digital form.
At first, it was recording methods that changed – from physical to magnetic, then to digital on a tangible support, then to completely digital, transmitted through the airwaves, without the need for cassettes and disks. And with these changes, our attitudes toward media has also evolved. Creating a mixtape to listen to in the car was a long and tedious task back in the day – today, there are services that will do it for us. Even YouTube, the world’s most popular video streaming service, will do it without any user intervention. And there are others that are even better at identifying our tastes and finding music that will fit our needs.
In this era of online streaming and digital downloads, vinyl is still around – its supporters claim that it offers a superior quality and a much more “realistic” feeling to the music recorded this way. When it comes to video content, the situation was similar – although the transition from tape to streaming is not entirely over yet. Movies are still released on DVD in many countries in parallel with Blu-ray disks (HD-DVD lost the HD video disk format war between 2006 and 2008), and a lot of original content is only released through online streaming by services like Netflix and Hulu.
At the same time, movie theaters are still very much alive – the concept behind them has remained largely unchanged since the first sound film was screened in 1900. Studios still release their feature-length productions through cinemas first, then weeks, often months later in a digital form, either on disk or through various on-demand streaming services. In 2018, people will be increasingly reliant on services that offer them whatever media product they want, in the form they want it and whenever they want it. Slowly, traditional forms of broadcast – TV channels and radio stations – will go out of style, being replaced by an increasingly “on-demand” way of consuming media. This will be a slow process, though, taking years to complete.
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