What Is Digital Media? All You Need to Know About This Booming Industry
Defining Digital Media
Exploring Types of Digital Media
- Audio: Audio forms of digital media include digital radio stations, podcasts, and audiobooks. Tens of millions of Americans subscribe to digital radio services such as Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, and Sirius, which provide a wide range of musical stations and allow users to listen to databases of millions of songs on demand.
- Video: Many digital media outlets are visual, from streaming movie and television services such as Netflix to virtual reality surgical simulators used in medical institutions. One of the biggest players in visual digital media is YouTube, which hosts billions of videos. Launched in 2005, the website is one of the most popular destinations on the web.
- Social media: Social media includes sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat, which enable their users to interact with one another through text posts, photographs, and videos, leaving “likes” and comments to create conversations around pop culture, sports, news, politics, and the daily events of users’ lives.
- Advertising: Advertisers have made their way into the digital media landscape, taking advantage of marketing partnerships and advertising space wherever possible. The internet has moved away from the use of pop-up and autoplay ads, which flooded early websites and drove away visitors. Instead, advertisers look toward native content and other methods of keeping consumers invested without overselling their product.
- News, literature, and more: Traditionally, people consumed text via books, print newspapers, magazines, and the like. Even though digital media has proliferated, the desire for those kinds of reading experiences has endured. Research from the Pew Research Center indicates that 38% of adults in the U.S. read news online. The proliferation of literary websites, the popularity of resources like Wikipedia, and the rise of e-readers like the Kindle all further underline the continued importance of written work in digital media.
Examples of Digital Media
Major Digital Media Companies
- Google, founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, started as a revolutionary new search engine, which spurred the growth of one of the world’s most valuable brands (worth $309 billion in 2019, according to statistics reported by CNBC). Google has become a massive, multinational technology company, developing all things internet-related, including its own web browser (Chrome), laptops (Chromebooks), smart glasses, and internet television streams (Chromecast). In 2015, Google announced that it was forming the parent company Alphabet to run the organization’s diverse departments with Google existing as a subsidiary.
- Netflix launched in 1997 as an online-based movie rental service, where people could order DVDs and have them delivered to their home. Customers made their wish list of films, and Netflix sent them DVDs from the list. Users could keep DVDs as long as they wanted, receiving the next movie on their list upon return of the first. Netflix has since grown from third-party movie distributor to online streaming giant, with over 150 million subscribers paying for a mix of television, movies, and original content. The brand has launched pop culture sensations such as “Orange Is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” and “BoJack Horseman.”
- Apple has grown from a niche computer company with elegant marketing into one of the dominant technology forces on the planet. Founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976, Apple spent the first quarter-century of its existence as a cutting-edge though struggling computer company, with a few impressive products that never quite caught on. Then, with the introduction of the iMac in 1998, followed by the iPod three years later, marketed with Jobs’s brilliant strategies driving intrigue and demand, Apple moved to the forefront of the gadget market. In the years since, products such as the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch have kept Apple going strong. Millions of Americans consume large amounts of digital media each day through their Apple products, such as iTunes and Apple TV.
- Facebook and Twitter are two of the biggest social media websites. Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and TikTok also have substantial user bases in the hundreds of millions or more. According to a 2018 Pew Research Survey, 75% of all U.S. adults use YouTube and 68% use Facebook. Over 94% of 18- to 24-year-olds use YouTube, and 80% of them use Facebook. Major players in the business world own these brands. For example, Facebook owns Instagram and other platforms such as WhatsApp. Additionally, Google owns multiple web ventures including YouTube. As generations that grew up with social media get older and new users come of age, the number of people on these platforms will likely continue to grow.
- Amazon remains a digital commerce titan, with an enormous presence in the digital media sphere. The company, in fact, is one of the world’s largest by market value according to Investopedia. From Amazon Prime and its accompanying streaming service to personal assistants, cloud service, and digital advertising, the company has an expansive presence online. This is reflected in its growth, with revenues tripling between 2017 and 2018, from $117.9 billion to $232.9 billion.