What Is Digital Distribution?

Digital distribution is a method by which producers of content can provide consumers with said content, through a digital medium.

So, digital distribution is a way for you to get that new album or video game or movie without having to leave the house. iTunes, Steam, Netflix, GoG. These are all digital distribution services.

Say I want to buy Scott Pilgrim vs The World (which you totally should, seeing as it’s an awesome movie by my favourite Brit. director), I could go to the local DvD/Blu-Ray store and buy it there (for around £9.99 – £19.99); which is fine. But, say it’s raining, or I haven’t showered, or I just want to watch it right now. All I need to do is fire up iTunes, or Netflix and I can start watching it in minutes (depending on my connection speed and bandwidth).

That, in a nutshell, is digital distribution.

Why Use Digital Distribution?

One reason for using digital distribution is that it’s (almost) instantaneous. Instead of leaving the house, going to the store, buying the product, coming home, and sitting down to use it; you simply click a few buttons and hey presto it’s there.

Another reason is that it’s, typically, cheaper.

Shogun Total War 2 came out recently. It was £34.99 at all the stores I went to, and around £30 from online retailers.

Not bad, considering that was the price on day of release.

Then I looked on Steam (a digital distribution service for video games). It was £29.99.

That’s the same price as the online retailers, isn’t it?

Yes, it is the same price as the online retailers. But the caveat here is that I wouldn’t have to wait for 3 days for it to get to my house. Sure, I’d have to wait for it to download, but that’s only a few hours.

Another example would be “Let Them Talk” by Hugh Laurie.

Not this, again!

Yes, this again.

I’ve talked about this album, online, in many different forms. I really can’t wait for this one. (I’m a big fan of the blues, you see). Anyway, back to the plot.

There’s a plot this year!? Look out

I checked online, and at my local CD store. The average price for pre-ordering this CD would be £9.99. Not bad. Only problem is:

  1. At the store, I’d have to go and get it on day of release (And they’re not that great at holding on to pre-orders, round these parts)
  2. Online, I’d have to wait for it to arrive in the mail.

So, I went away and looked on iTunes. £7.99, and delivered straight to my PC as soon as it’s available in the UK. Technically, I could stay up until midnight the day before and it would download as soon as the time was 00:00 and 1 second.

Pro’s of Digital Distribution

  • Instant transfer of data (depending on your connection speed and bandwidth available)
  • Cheaper (no “middle men” running stores, with high overheads)
  • Ready to go as soon as it finishes downloading (especially in the form of video games, no lengthy installers here)

Con’s of Digital Distribution

  • Depends, entirely on having a stable connection to The Internet
  • You might have to install some middle-ware (iTunes, or Steam for example)
  • Three letters: D. R. M


This all brings me, quite neatly, onto the topic of my ISP. My ISP is not the best in the world (they’re certainly not the worst in the world, either). I’m not going to mention them by name. I’m not stupid enough to leave myself open to libel. So, you’ll have to guess what my ISP is called, although the clues I’ll give you (backed up facts) will help you to deduce the name of the ISP.

Connection. Is It Good?

Mine? Terrible. I can be connected to The Internet one day, and not connected the next. Considering that I’m paying a premium to get online, too (around £20 a month, not mention line rental and the phone bill).

It isn’t just the stability of the connection, either. I pay for pretty high speeds, around 10 Mb (remember, that’s megabits, not megabytes), and get a maximum of 400Kbps (again in bits, not bytes). Their reason for this? I’m sat behind a router… oh and “there are lot’s of people in your postcode using that service”

Customer Satisfaction.

Which? recently did a nationwide survey of ISPs. They asked, around, 200 people from this area what they thought of their Internet connection and ISP. Their answer: “Not good.”

In fact, when all of the numbers had been crunched, then scaled to reach a national average. My ISP was second worst in the country.

Their (the ISP) response? “That wasn’t a big enough sample!”

Considering that this particular ISP is only available to a few thousand people, that seems like a big enough sample, to me. Even guestimating, you get something like this:

If the maximum amount of people connected to this ISP is around 2,000; then 200 people is 10%. More than enough.

Other Areas Of The Globe.

I’ve been informed that there are “under-developed” areas in 3rd world Africa that have better telecommunications systems than those provided by this ISP.

I’ve no proof of this, so a grain of salt is required.


The problem with this ISP is that they run a virtual monopoly in this area. You can’t switch to another provider, as other providers wont come into this area, as it’d be too expensive.

A second provider would have to pay the first provider for using the exchanges. The price of which would be passed on the to customer.

Back To Digital Distribution?

This all brings me back to the topic of digital distribution. As, I mentioned earlier, digital distribution is an excellent way to get products out to customers very quickly.

A problem I have with accessing digital distribution is that my ISP enforces download limits. If you go over the limits, you have to pay, I’m not sure what the scale is as I’m always cautious of going over. So much so that I’ve installed an app/gadget/widget that monitors my speeds and data transfer totals.

With everything going the route of digital distribution, ISPs that enforce download limits are going to die a slow and painful death if they don’t change their policies. Except it wont be the ISPs who suffer, it’ll be the customers. Especially if those customers have no choice on the service they use.

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Jamie is a .NET developer specialising in ASP.NET MVC websites and services, with a background in WinForms and Games Development. When not programming using .NET, he is either learning about .NET Core (and usually building something cross platform with it), speaking Japanese to anyone who'll listen, learning about languages, writing for this blog, or writing for a blog about Retro Gaming (which he runs with his brother)