Digital Media

2011 June 16
by david

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here but I’ve been swamped with fun projects at my digital media agency, Troubadour Digital Media. See our website for more information on some cool stuff that we’ve been working on. I’ve also been working hard on Gigmor, a new social network which will connect musicians, bands and fans.

A while back, I made some notes comparing traditional media and digital media. Like many of us, I’ve transitioned to becoming mostly a digital media consumer in books, music and, most recently, movies. I now use Netflix’s streaming service exclusively. No more DVDs and envelopes. So here are some thoughts on making that transition, which has had very few downsides.

Advantages of Digital Media

steve-jobs-3g-iphone1Portability

“A thousand songs in your pocket” was the phrase Steve Jobs used to introduce the iPod, which was by no means the first portable MP3 player. But he captured the biggest benefit for consumers.

Instant Gratification

I started buying music through eMusic and iTunes a few years ago. You can hear something on the radio or elsewhere, search for the band and download a song or an album in minutes—before the song has even finished playing. Smart radio stations post their playlists on the web so you don’t need to wait for an DJ to tell you what you’re listening to. XM radio displays the artist and song name and I’m so used to looking at it, I get annoyed when I’m listening to the radio and keep glancing at the screen.

Ease of Storage

There are two advantages here. Consolidation: you get everything in one place (which makes Searching easy). And physical size, or the lack there0f.  My iPod doesn’t get larger when I add a new song and it’s a lot smaller than the racks of CDs currently taking up space in my basement.

Transferability

This has been a thorn in the industry’s side but it’s a great feature of most digital media. Unfortunately, though, I can’t lend a friend a book I just finished on my Kindle.

Durability

Remember LP’s? Need I say more?

Searchability

Ever wasted an hour hunting through your CDs for a particular artist or song?

Price

Remember when CDs were all $15.99? Now we’re saving all those manufacturing, distribution, retail shelf space costs.

But it’s not all milk and honey. Digital media has some disadvantages.

booksDisadvantages

Lack of Tactile Experience

The pertains to mostly to books,which are wonderful physical objects, the product of centuries of development. A book is a wonderful thing to hold in your hand and to pass on to your kids. I can’t imagine a home without rooms full of books. I think books will become more special in the future. I still buy CDs from my favorite artists, whose work deserves to be purchased and preserved in a physical form. That airport paperback that you throw away when you’re cleaning house is, appropriately, replaced by an ebook file that you will simply delete.

Lack of Physical Context

The is the biggest disadvantage of digital media. The physical nature of a book, magazine or newspaper makes it easy to find something again. I remember that a passage or article I particularly liked was about about a third in from the beginning or just after a chapter break, or on the left hand page. I miss this on my Kindle and iPad and find it’s much harder to go back and find a particular section. Search solves this sometimes but I may or may not have the right search term.

Display and Platform Limitations

One example of this is that, until recently, Apple didn’t allow for recurring subscriptions on the iPad. So The New Yorker was in the crazy position of having to sell each issue separately. Another example is that you can’t read an iPad screen in bright sun. The Kindle is a well designed product (although we’re still in the stone age of such devices) but the only way to navigate is by going forwards or backwards, page by page.

UI/Learning Curve

We’re at the mercy of product designers, who are often very talented, but have to live with compromises they’ve made involving battery life, speed, display size, etc.

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