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Streaming vs Downloading: Examining the Consumption of Digital Content

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Streaming vs Downloading

We’ve loved movies and music for as long as these mediums have existed. The only thing that’s changed in our relationship to these forms of art is how we’ve consumed them. We may think fondly and with a bit of nostalgia back on the idea of vinyls, VHS, walkmen’s, and old ways of listening and watching.

But technology moves fast. Has downloading files to watch gone the way of these old methods? Today, streaming accounts for the majority of sales in the entertainment industry. Most major companies are in the streaming game now.

Are there big perks of streaming vs downloading, or is there still room for a downloading-based system in today’s media landscape? Read on, and we’ll walk you through what you need to know.

What’s the Difference Between The Two?

At the end of the day, streaming and downloading aren’t all too different. They both have us relying on our computers and the internet to access and enjoy the media that we want to interact with. But there still are some key differences.

Streaming

Streaming is the more modern of the two concepts. When you think of big streaming companies, you have to be thinking of Netflix and Spotify, the two titans of the music and film world.

These companies truly revolutionized the industry over the past decade, bringing streaming platforms forward and forcing huge companies like Apple and Disney to adjust their methods.

Streaming carries content directly between your computer and a database on the internet. Streaming transmits data with a constant flow, meaning you the user can watch or listen to what you want instantaneously.

That’s really the key to streaming: there’s no waiting. You simply find what you want on the platform you use and press play. And there it is. The big difference is that with streaming, that transfer of data is all there is.

Unlike owning physical media, or even downloading a file, there’s no personal ownership over the piece of content that you are watching. You are paying for access to a library, not for a particular piece of media, and that ownership will never be yours. More on that later.

Downloading

The process of downloading media was the main method of obtaining media in the previous decade. You can think of places like the iTunes store, where songs and movies were available for purchase and downloaded to your hard drive.

You might also be thinking of files that you could torrent for Mac, where music and media were online and available to download and transfer.

When you download a piece of media, the file is being transmitted from one computer to another. Unlike streaming, this is the true transfer of the source file from Location A to Location B. Unlike with streaming, this process means you will have the actual piece of content with you on your hard drive at the end of the day.

In this way, downloading exists kind of like a digital version of owning physical media. It’s closer to the idea of owning a CD or a VHS than streaming is, which has less of a real-world correlation.

Though streaming finally overtook downloading in popularity over the past few years, many people still prefer this method of media consumption.

Pros and Cons

One of the biggest complaints people have about the shift to streaming is that you no longer have control over the media you own. Unlike with downloading, there’s no promise with streaming that the album you like or the movie you enjoy will stay on the platform.

Licensing agreements between big companies shift all the time, and it’s not so hard to see something disappear. That’s why one of the biggest albums of the decade, Watch The Throne, isn’t on Spotify anymore. There’s no way to access it.

Streaming also forces you to rely on a solid internet connection. As media is being streamed to you, you must stay connected at all times to the platform. With downloading, you only need to be connected to the other source during your download period.

Once you have the file, it’s easy enough to disconnect and watch or listen to what you’ve downloaded anywhere and anytime. This is simply not the case with streaming, though there are some streaming platforms that do allow you to download media for use on the go.

All that being said, it is indisputable that streaming is more cost-effective for the user. Most streaming platforms base their system off a monthly model. So instead of paying for one movie or one piece of media, you’re paying for access to a large library.

In this way, a user can get access to a far greater amount of media than they could probably afford if they were forced to download everything. Of course, people still torrent things for free in many places on the internet. So for some people, this kind of cost issue isn’t a high priority.

At the end of the day, there are advantages and disadvantages to both forms of media consumption. Your personal preference really might be the deciding factor between which is the best to go with.

Streaming Vs Downloading

We love our media, but in the modern era, there are so many different ways to access it. If you are curious about streaming vs downloading media, the above information should clear up a lot of questions you might have.

Want more advice, tips, and tricks like these? Check out our media page for more.

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