Death of Physical Media?


By Shea Garner

As a kid who grew up in the 90s, I’m used to the clunkiest forms of physical media. Plastic cassettes, chunky videotapes, and their accommodating players were all key parts of my childhood. Even the introduction of the CD blew me away—I found myself perplexed by the clarity of a DVD, endlessly searching for the familiar HiFi fuzz tracking that regularly plagued my VHS copy of Jurassic Park.

The transition to digital media has been far from seamless. From MP3 players to the battle between HD-DVD and Blu-ray, it’s been quite an interesting ride. And now, it seems the industry has arrived at somewhat of a standstill. Even digital properties, like the iTunes store, are struggling to find their place in this ever-changing environment.

Why? Because whether you like it or not, physical media is basically dead. No purist wants to admit it, and it sure looks like even the industry can’t come to terms with it. Physical CD sales have been on the decline since the introduction of the iTunes store, and Netflix and VOD (Video on Demand) have essentially put Blockbuster rental stores out of business.

The current digital media climate is even more intriguing. Popular music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora have clearly made a significant financial impact on the industry, even causing Apple scrambling to soon incorporate a streaming service of their own into the iTunes interface. Netflix and VOD services have forced Sony to include digital copies of films with all of their Blu-rays, going as far to announce a purely digital service called “Ultra-Violet.”

Color coding aside, when digital media properties are struggling to keep up with each other, it becomes more evident that physical media has breathed its last breath. I’ll be the first to pick up a vinyl copy of an album I enjoy, and one could argue that the musical quality of a record triumphs the digital counterpart. Could you say the same about a VHS compared to an HD video stream? I think not. What are your thoughts on this digital media transition? Tweet us at @jerkmagazine to let us know.

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