Online distribution, digital distribution, or electronic software distribution (ESD) is the practice of delivering content without the use of physical media, typically by downloading via the internet directly to a consumer's device. Online distribution bypasses conventional physical distribution media, such as paper or DVDs. The term online distribution is typically applied to freestanding products.
Content distributed online may be streamed or downloaded. Streaming involves downloading and using content "on-demand" as it is needed. Fully downloading the content to a hard drive or other form of storage media allows for quick access in the future.
The major attraction for online distribution is its direct nature. To make a commercially successful work, artists usually must enter their industry’s publishing chain. Publishers help artists advertise, fund and distribute their work to retail outlets.
By opting for online distribution, an artist can get their work into the public’s access easily with potentially minimum business overheads. This often leads to cheaper goods for the consumer and increased profits for the artists, as well as increased artistic freedom.
The effect of online distribution can have a major impact on a buisness. The rise of online distribution (of music in particular) has been blamed for a number of traditional retail venues closing, such as the iconic Canadian music chain Sam the Record Man in 2007-08.
Examples of Notable Online Distributors:
• CD Baby
• Good Old Games
• iTunes Store
• Mac App Store
• PlayStation Store
• Xbox Live Marketplace