Services such as Spotify and Netflix want to keep you listening and watching for as long as possible, so they work hard to serve up new stuff at every turn. That means recommended playlists, suggestions about shows you might like, auto-play options, and more.
A lot of these engagement strategies are powered by algorithms that consider what you’ve previously listened to and watched, then suggest something new along similar lines. Smart as they are, recommendation engines like this aren’t always the best way to discover music, movies, or shows that are completely new to you.
We’ve got seven ways to help you organically find new stuff, without all the baggage of your past habits or the restrictions of an algorithm. Try them out, and you might be surprised at what you find.
1. Use social media
Social media isn’t always a pleasant place, but if you use these platforms intelligently, you can learn plenty. Try the #newmusic or #newmovies hashtags on Twitter, for example, to bring up some of the newly released tunes and movies that might be worth checking out.
Admittedly, social media can generate a lot of noise, but sifting through all those those tweets and posts immediately becomes worthwhile when you find a recommendation that you otherwise would never have found. Tumblr is another good place for this—try searching for TV, music, or movies, and see what comes up.
You could even get your friends and followers involved too, by directly asking them for recommendations. They might offer up a lot of the same old stuff, but you’ll usually get a few decent new options to check out.
2. Read forums and comments
You don’t have to look very far to find opinions on the web. Everywhere you go, you’ll find people explaining why one movie is better than another, or which up-and-coming artist’s new album is worth sticking on repeat for the next week.
Try checking out forums focused on movies, music, and TV, or just general forums. Even those dedicated to your local area or favorite sports team can provide surprisingly good recommendations. Sometimes complete strangers on the internet can point you in an interesting new direction and get you watching or listening to content that you might not have found otherwise.
It might take a while to find forums that you enjoy reading and that have enough members to keep the recommendations flowing, but when you do, it’s a valuable way to discover new stuff.
3. Subscribe to RSS feeds
Really Simple Syndication—better known as RSS—is an older web technology, but still a useful one. It essentially presents you with a chronological feed of every new post published on a given site, without any additional sorting or commentary.
It might seem outdated, but subscribing to an RSS feed works well for keeping up with streaming movie and TV show services, where new material is constantly being added. If you sign up for a feed from a site like New On Netflix, for example, you’ll get a clean, uncomplicated list of every new show and movie that gets added to its namesake streaming service. Other options include the RSS feeds for new content on the iTunes Store.
4. Consider professional reviews
In our modern age of user reviews and instant ratings, the professional review often gets overlooked, but it really shouldn’t be. Reviews from recognized press outlets still carry a lot of weight and are worth considering when it comes to deciding what to watch or listen to next.
Where you get these reviews really comes down to your personal preferences, but you probably already know a lot of the big names: Rolling Stone and Pitchfork for music, Empire, Total Film, and Variety for movies and TV, and so on. If your interests are more niche, you can probably find a similarly niche publication that covers them.
The important part is finding an outlet or a specific critic that you trust and enjoy reading. Keep up with them and you’ll get a regular stream of new recommendations with a human touch.
5. Browse Reddit
The self-styled “front page of the internet” has its uses, and one of those is definitely as a source of recommendations for new music, television shows, and movies. As you test the waters, start with those linked pages, then have a wider look around.
Reddit is also a great resource for taking deep dives into shows like Game of Thrones or Westworld, and the dedicated communities where fans congregate to chat may also feature talk of other series that are worth checking out. Once you start, it’s easy to go down a Reddit rabbit hole and resurface with a whole bunch of recommendations.
The more you put into Reddit, the more you’ll get out of it, but you don’t even need to create an account to browse the discussions and see which TV shows, films, and music artists are dominating the conversation online.
6. Sign up for email newsletters
Email newsletters seem to be having a moment right now, judging by how many sites and experts are offering them. Subscribe to one and you’ll get a curated collection of links, news, music, movies, TV shows, or whatever else, delivered to your inbox on a weekly or even daily basis.
Some newsletters do a fantastic job of directing you toward any music, movies, and shows you should be queueing up next, so they’re worth a shot. Try Watching from the New York Times, Five Song Fridays from Song Exploder, or the TV Insider newsletter, for example.
There’s no real magic trick for finding good newsletters to subscribe to—you’ve just got to keep your eyes open online, ask friends, poll social media, or employ whatever other strategies work for you. After all, there are plenty of newsletters out there.
7. Talk to real people
You may or may not hold the opinions of your friends and family in high regard, but it’s always worth hitting up the people you interact with every day when you’re looking for new entertainment.
You could even have some fun with the idea. Get one of your friends to make you a personalized Spotify playlist for your next long haul flight or road trip, for example, in a nod to the mixtapes of old.
Sure, you might get a number of tips that are wide of the mark, but other times you’ll come across some gems, especially from the people who know you best—maybe they know you even better than a Netflix or Spotify algorithm.