With the advent of unlimited streaming services like Spotify and Netflix, you can access more music, movies, and TV shows than you could ever hope to hear or watch in one lifetime. So how do you go about sorting the best content from the time-wasters?
Taste is personal—and we've found personalized ways to get recommendations about what to listen to or binge-watch next. Some of these recommendations come with the services you're already using, but you can also tap into independent third-party sites and apps.
Inside the apps you already use
We won't go through every music and movie streaming service in detail here. But whatever subscriptions you have, the streaming app will provide a recommendation or discovery section somewhere. If you haven't already found them, simply click or tap around inside the interface to turn up this option.
These engines base their recommendations on content that you've already listened to or watched. To improve their suggestions, you can give them a helping hand. On Netflix, for example, look for the thumbs up and thumbs down icons next to each show or movie, and use them to express particular likes and dislikes.
Apple Music uses a similar system, but with hearts instead of thumbs up. You can also go to Account and then Choose Artists For You: Here, you tell the service about the singers and bands you love.
As for Spotify, check out the Discover Weekly and My Daily Mix playlists it automatically generates for you. If you hear any music that particularly grabs you, save it to your personal library to improve the recommendations even further.
Similar options will be available whatever your app or service of choice. Just make sure you're ranking and rating what you've previously watched to tune up your recommendations list. If the kids take over your account or your own tastes change, you can usually reset your recommendation or viewing history to adjust. On Netflix, for example, head to your Viewing activity page online in order to remove anything you don't want to influence your recommendations.
For music: Last.fm
If you don't limit your listening to a single service, consider getting recommendations from the third-party app Last.fm. It can track everything you listen to across multiple apps and services, including Spotify and iTunes. Not only does it crunch that listening history into interesting stats and charts, Last.fm also powers a scarily good recommendation engine. Just click the Play your recommendations link on the front page of the site and enjoy.
The free service can also surface individual artists, albums, and tracks that you might dig based on what you've listening to in the past. It even connects you to like-minded music fans from around the world. Whether you want to track your listening across multiple services, need spot-on recommendations, or both, Last.fm can help.
For music: Gnoosic
Gnoosic is a stripped-down, experimental music recommendation engine built around a smart set of algorithms called Gnod (aka the Global Network of Discovery). What we like about Gnoosic is its ease of use—just type in the names of three bands you already like, and Gnoosic does the rest.
Rather than overwhelming you with a long list of tracks, Gnoosic simply suggests another artist you might be interested in. You can fine tune the Gnod engine further by saying whether or not you're already a fan (if you've actually heard of them at all). Based on the testing we've been doing, Gnoosic's educated guesses are pretty accurate.
For movies and TV shows: Metacritic
Metacritic hosts one of the biggest collections of reviews on the web. Although it deals with games and music as well as movies and TV shows, we'll focus on the latter two here. Click the Movies or TV links at the top to see aggregated scores from professional reviews as well as scores left by users. You can submit your own opinions to the database, and pick out the good titles from the also-rans.
In terms of personalized recommendations, Metacritic isn't as comprehensive as some of the other options we've mentioned. You'll have to do more digging if your tastes don't align with the majority's. But it's still well worth checking out if you need help deciding what to watch next. As a bonus, regular features highlight the shows and films that should be on your radar.
For movies and TV shows: TasteDive
If you don't want to spend ages building up a viewing history and entering movie and TV show ratings one by one, then give TasteDive a try. You simply type in something you've liked in the past, and the site works its algorithm magic to provide a list of similar content you might be into. We've been putting the site through its paces (it also includes trailers and reviews), and the recommendations seem very good.
You can even get recommendations for TV shows to watch based on a movie you like, or vice versa. In addition, the site extends across to music, games, and books as well. The general algorithm draws on the tastes and preferences of existing TasteDive users—and if you sign up for a (free) account, you'll get even more personalized recommendations.