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01.29.2004
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Falling technology prices spur the quest for compelling content

As sophisticated digital signage comes within reach for most organizations, a new challenge emerges: How to use it to maximum effect.



Consumers expect digital signage to rival the quality and variety of content they see on television. Here, in a golf tournament example using Inscriber’s InfoCaster technology, viewers see not only live video of the players, but also dynamic content that includes the current time and tee times, multiple advertisements, and a live-feed news crawl. Click here to view a larger image.

“With the price of hardware dropping dramatically, you can focus on what matters most – the content that really leverages the power of the medium,” says Joel St. Denis, product manager for InfoCaster digital signage software at Inscriber, Waterloo, Ont., Canada.

However, even after successful test deployments, digital signage users still can be surprised by the effort required to consistently deliver compelling content.

“So far, our experience has been that the trials exceed the customer's expectations. So they install it, and the biggest surprises consistently seem to come from the effort behind content production and management,” explains Jonathan Holmes, marketing manager for digital signage at Sony Electronics in Park Ridge, N.J. “The amount of content needed to make this happen is pretty big. Some clients will focus on the technical aspects, and forget about the challenge of producing content. That's why it's really important to enlist with someone who is able to bring content to the table. And it's extremely important to spend time thinking about your content strategy.”

Competitive pressure for rich content is intensifying now that digital signage is no longer a novelty.

“You’ve got to be smart about it – if you’re in a retail forum, your competitors are looking at it just as much as you are.,” says Tom Perchinsky, CEO Adek Corp., an Annapolis, Md.-based digital signage consultant, systems integrator and content developer. “Within budget, go as high-end as you can – digital signage is not something you want to go into on the cheap.”

The reason you can’t skimp? Today’s consumers ingest a rich diet of entertainment and information media – and thus expect digital signage to deliver the same value and variety of experience. Simply put, “people want the quality they see on TV,” says St. Denis.

As with broadcasters like CNN, increasingly that means multiple sources of content appearing on one digital signage display.

“Video, even if it’s high-end, is not the only thing you need,” St. Denis explains. “Using a multi-zone software application, you can keep the video, then utilize the rest of the screen to do other things. You may want a stock ticker, headlines of what’s going on in the world, a clock on the screen, the weather forecast.”

Frequent content updates also are essential, Perchinsky says. “You really need to refresh your content on a weekly basis in most applications.”

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