For all intents and purposes digital signage is still in its infancy. While I was walking the show floor of the Digital Signage Expo 2012 (DSE) it was clear to see that the infant was already running, but the communication skills are still developing.
The promise of endless digital signage solutions has given new hope to display and digital component manufacturers who have been hit hard by commoditization in recent years. However, while the hope burns bright, all of those flashy, high-powered, digital signage systems aren’t going to move out of the warehouse without the king of all kings driving it: content.
During my many conversations with end users while at DSE there was a critical component that seemed to be somewhat elusive and that most were still struggling with: custom content creation. Cost notwithstanding, some of the barriers cited were internal resources to strategize, create and manage the content.
There are a number of custom content creation solution providers that already have put a stake in the ground and more are emerging. But display manufacturers are taking matters into their own hands to help ensure the success of their investment.
Sure We Can Do That
So what is a large display manufacturer to do in order to remove barriers to entry for their clients and end users? Easy — offer “managed services,” customized content solutions with strategy, creation, implementation, management, storage on an ongoing basis — or any combination there-of.
In addition to their tiered digital signage content solutions, NEC has been has been offering custom content creation for approximately one year by forming a number of partnerships with custom content creators and providers. “One of our strengths has been that we’ve been able to be that all-service manufacturer,” said Keith Yanke, director product marketing, Projectors & Large Format Displays for NEC. “Our main focus is displays, but we can provide the content. We can provide the consulting in helping the end user have a successful deployment in a signage application.”
Planar Systems has a digital signage approach that has always been focused on custom solutions. With their Planar Mosaic product, the company is piquing the interest of architectural designers, artists and A/V integrators alike. “We started this product thinking about creative expression first and technology constraints second,” says Jennifer Davis, Planar’s vice president of Marketing. “We really thought about the systems approach,” which is in keeping with Planar’s long history of working with custom commercial A/V integrators and consultants.
There was a clear giant on the floor that has had a long successful history in the hardware, software and content arenas already, named Sony.
Like NEC, Sony offers tiered, packaged solutions, but also saw the need to create a high-end custom solution. “We can provide every aspect of the digital signage spectrum,” says Andre Floyd, digital signage product marketing manager for Sony. To solidify their high-end custom digital signage solution, in 2010 Sony acquired Convergent Media Systems of Alpharetta, GA, a video integration solutions company that has long history in digital cinema and robust digital signage background.
Floyd said, “There were a couple of synergies that came together that lead to Sony buying Convergent,” which included the fact that they have installation, integration and design teams.
While it might seem odd on the surface for a behemoth company such as Sony to be offering ongoing digital signage content and management services, Floyd commented, “That’s not new to us on the broadcast side. We’ve been selling high-end products to every TV station in the country forever. They have to be on the air all of the time. We have that kind of infrastructure. We’ve been doing managed services forever.”
Content is Still King
Growing pains around digital content creation is not foreign. The transition from print to digital media is happening at an exponentially hurried pace and is leaving some companies unprepared. Many companies are still struggling with creating relevant content to fill their websites. Add to that pressure over the past few years is the need to develop content strategies for social media.
Tom Nix, CEO of Scala is pretty emphatic about content, “This is super, super important — the content strategy. This is a system that’s on in some cases 24/7 and sometimes driving business performance so there’s got to be a lot of thought and a lot of understanding on how to craft the content strategy.”
Digital signage is not new, but the ability for an end user to have a more active role in developing dynamic content is. It is critical that a strategic content and implementation strategy is built into a business plan. Perhaps outsourcing to a company that has already got a lot of experience with this medium and offers a fully managed service might be something to consider.