Network Failure Is Not an Option

February 11, 2013

Control Costs and Engage Viewers Through Early Content Planning

Content is what ultimately determines the success of any digital signage network. Unfortunately, effective content can be expensive to create, manage and distribute. Without adequate planning early in the network's development, the costs of creating content can easily spiral out of control leading to the network's failure. By making content planning a priority, however, network operators can rein in these costs while providing their audiences and advertisers with a superior network experience.

An effective strategy for beginning the planning process is to shift focus from individual content elements and set your sights on the overall content flow. When employing this strategy, there are three main considerations to take into account:

The first is to identify the network's purpose. For example, the purpose of an ad-based network is to ultimately deliver advertising content to as large an audience as possible. To realize this, the network operator would make editorial content choices designed to complement the venue and the advertising.

The second consideration is to understand who the audience is demographically. This can best be accomplished by using a third-party research firm that is experienced and respected by the advertising community.

Third, the look and feel of the network must be consistently presented. This applies to everything from picture quality to sound levels, and in particular to branding.

Content selection for a network, network operators should keep in mind that screens don't only need to be populated with initial content — content needs to be continually refreshed. Operators need to fully understand the workflows to accomplish this, and the resources that will be required. Most importantly, operators require the content management and content creation tools that erase the pain points associated with keeping network content up to date.

Video content is the most impactful, but can potentially be the most difficult to manage, as the video production process can be time-consuming and expensive. One valuable way of tackling this is through the use of production templates. The entire video production process can be sped up with a template-based approach, where certain aspects of a video clip may never change — such as opening and closing graphics, layout and color schemes — but editorial content does change.

As an alternative to video content, dynamic graphics featuring text and images can be easily updated in real time by using readily available RSS feeds and databases. By combining text and imagery, network operators can create a variety of timely content that is attractive and relatively inexpensive. Operators must ensure that their signage software can easily integrate data feeds and provide the ability to update in real-time. While there is a common belief that any data feed found on the Internet can be used freely in a digital signage application; this is most often not the case. Before this type of content is redistributed, it is vitally important that the signage operator looks into the particular licensing issues involved.

Repurposing content on a variety of screen types and devices will allow network operators to reach more viewers, customize messaging and amortize content-related costs. By repurposing existing content for tablets and smartphones, network operators get a bigger bang for their content buck while simultaneously reaching audiences that may have never been exposed to a place-based sign. In addition, vital information can be taken directly from internal databases or sources, such as SharePoint and Excel documents, and presented to key stakeholders through an entire organization. Operators need to be sure that their technical systems can accomplish the demanding tasks associated with pulling a variety of content types and handle distribution to various devices.

As we've seen, there are several costs involved in creating content and keeping screens populated, many of which can be offset by focusing on internal content and repurposing existing assets. The ultimate cost, however, is an ineffective network. To avoid this and engage viewers, network operators must think of themselves as content programmers and examine the overall content flow.

Vern Freedlander is vice president of production services for Montréal-based X2O Media, a full-service provider of technology, network management, and content services for professional digital signage applications. With more than 20 years of broadcast television experience as a producer, director, and executive, Freedlander oversees all of X2O Media's content initiatives. He can be reached at

Freedlander will serve as a group leader during Digital Signage Expo 2013's Industry Discussion Groups "VW4 — Educational Facilities" from 11 a.m. to noon on Feb. 27 and "VT8 — Hotels & Casinos" from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. Feb. 28, as well as as presenter during the "S12 — The Cost of Content" DSEG renewal from 4 to 5 p.m. Feb. 27.

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