Cloud Computing And The Streaming Of Everything Will Change Media Forever

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We’re getting much closer to the world of dumb clients… and that’s a smart thing.

Five years ago, the conversation about live video streaming was always relegated to a conversation about "the pipe" (the technology and the ability to deliver this type of data intensive media with the same flawless flow as broadcast TV). While it’s still not perfect and many people still grumble over video buffering issues while they try to watch on their computers, tablets and smartphones, the technology is improving and we’re getting very close to that moment in time when grabbing and watching videos will be as speedy and flow-perfect as grabbing your email. The biggest change is going to be that you won’t have to really download anything, as all content will not only live in the cloud, but will be accessible to you on-demand.

This isn’t streaming as you’ve thought of streaming to date.

Amongst media and marketing professionals, the idea of streaming is more commonly thought of as a way to broadcast live where the data and information is never stored on the consumer’s hard drive – they can simply enjoy the content (text, images, audio and/or video) live and "in the moment." That is the streaming of yesterday. The streaming of today looks very different. Take a look at what Apple is attempting with their upcoming iCloud product. The idea is that all of your content (or the data you used to save on your hard drive) will now be stored "in the cloud." This way, whether you’re opening your laptop, tinkering with your iPad or roaming with your iPhone, the content that you want can be streamed from one central location and acts as if it is resident on your hard drive (it’s also pretty great if your hardware crashes… now you won’t lose everything). Now, push this even further and imagine that your content is not just the things you have downloaded to date, but it now becomes anything and everything that can be sold via iTunes (and beyond). Suddenly, the notion of streaming has a new paradigm. The world’s catalogue of content is now your catalogue.

Imagine a media world…

Imagine a media world where the consumer doesn’t own any one piece of content, but simply has unlimited access (for a fee) to any piece of content on any of the devices they choose. In essence, you own it all. This is the true promise of streaming and it’s the type of technology and media delivery mechanism that should get the traditional broadcasters and publishers either extremely nervous or amazingly innovative. Consumers used to be very different. We collected this content and built shelving in our home to store it and display it to our friends. This is what Seth Godin now refers to as "the artifact" -  having a record collection, a library of books, or a DVD collection. As the digitization of media continues to evolve, the idea of having these collections becoming akin to the way certain individuals collect old Coke signs (it’s more about the art than the functional use). The majority of people will simply be able to access every type of TV show, movie, music artists, book, magazine, newspaper, radio station, etc… when they want, on the device they want and they won’t need any hard disk space for it or built-in shelving units to house it.

Bandwidth is the new hard disk space.

As the Internet becomes the ultimate archive for all of your personal stuff (photos, emails, etc…) and it’s mixed with the full streaming of content, bandwidth becomes the new hard drive. This will be the big (and hard) media hurdle. To date, the cable and mobile carriers have made it difficult. Many of them have invested lots of money in existing infrastructure that becomes out-of-date much quicker than they can recoup their investment. We have issues of bandwidth throttling and the ability to have unlimited data is becoming (once again) a topic of heated discourse. The truth is that technology can’t be stopped. Unlimited data through high speed and mobile access is an inevitability and it’s also going to be an amazing media experience for the consumer. Getting the content producers, hardware manufacturers and access providers to play nicely (and fair) is where the challenge lies. This form of streaming is inevitable, and once consumers experience it and understand it… they’re going to demand it.

If you thought broadband changed everything, just wait until you see what the streaming future of media holds for us all.

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for The Huffington Post called, Media Hacker. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:


  1. You say “In essence you own it all”. What exactly do you own? Itunes has changed the playing field – now ereaders are doing the same with books.
    Great article Mitch – very thought provoking…thanks

  2. Haven’t spotify and, to an extent, netflix made this a reality already? A colleague and I were just discussing the antiquated iPod that he forgot to bring to work. My mobile device is all I need now. If I can just NOT drop it in the toilet….

  3. I embrace all of this and use it, but it leaves me asking questions …
    Will I leave my child an ereader that no longer works? A pair of headphones without sound? Will I leave her an empty bookshelf? Will I leave here a handful of expired licenses when I die? I might say to her, “These are the works I read that influenced me as a child, let me make sure I purchase another license for you in my last will and testament.”?
    Moore (computing) never met Nielsen (bandwidth) and imagined an agreement that locked certain content up on a single piece of hardware and limited it to a single provider/carrier.
    For this to succeed, the price needs to come down and the content needs to be unlocked – note I did not say free. Just free to move across platforms and devices.

  4. “Getting the content producers, hardware manufacturers and access providers to play nicely (and fair) is where the challenge lies.” Yes, Mitch and don’t forget policy makers and regulators. I think this is where some pretty visionary thinking is need. The day we can pay for orignal [meaning not “Canadianified”] selective BBC, PBS and NPR programming will be a great day indeed.

  5. Good point. Ownership – in terms of something physical – will evolve in these digital channels. So, much in the way you own a CD, once you’ve paid your monthly streaming fees, you’ll have access to everything (which, in turn, will be the new “ownership”). I realize this might sound esoteric, but it makes sense in my brain ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Much in the say way people lose a book, a CD gets scratched or the house goes up in flames… glitches happen all of time – sometimes they’re physical… sometimes they’re digital, but they’re always inevitable.

  7. I have a vision that in the not so distant future we will be able to choose the media device we want and choose the content we want to watch when we want to watch it by just touching the screen of the device. We know that someone has to pay for this so we understand that free means we must tolerate 30 sec commercials or pay. But we should have the option. I had some TV challenges during the Women’s World Cup. I watched some of the games online because I can now and I was so impressed with the quality now vs not so long ago. This made me realize the time is now where we should be able to pick and choose our own content we want to to watch. No longer should we allow a company to dictate what we can watch and when. Now we are in the driver’s seat. The internet is ready for all our media needs. If the cable companies do not get this they will no longer exist. I watched many games on line and all I had to tolerate was a 30 sec immediate commercial. The time is now! Keep inspiring! Thanks Mitch!

  8. Access isn’t ownership, though. You won’t actually “own” anything, you will just hold a license to access content.

  9. All of the new developments in cloud computing forces us to rethink ownership. Having a login and password is much better than hanging onto a device that will be out of date and “uncool” in no time. The ease of use will save people time, which means they will be saving money- which is always a good thing in a world where things are becoming insanely expensive.

  10. Advertisers and marketeers will definitely have their work cut out for them. If consumers are sitting in the pilot seat, companies will need to invest time and money into market research and really get to “know” their customers before blasting out ads.
    This brings us back to social media- the idea of having a conversation or an interaction where its human to human, as opposed to “how can I sell you in the least amount of time possible.”

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