From the number of websites, blogs, magazine articles and ads out there, anybody that's new to the digital signage world might think our industry is a whole lot bigger than it actually is. In fact, when I consult for venture capitalists, holding companies and others looking to stake their claim in the digital out-of-home advertising space, the small size of the industry frequently comes as a big surprise. Where does all of the hype come from? I'd argue that much of it is generated by us -- members of the industry -- and then picked up and expanded by media people who either don't have the desire, the experience or the inclination to moderate things. Let me give you a few examples of this trend and how it impacts all of us.
Digital Signage Blogs
Let's start with digital signage blogs, a subject near and dear to my heart. In our tiny industry, which most analysts agree generates about $1.3B a year right now, there are no fewer than 70 blogs. Many of them -- perhaps a third -- are now defunct, probably because eager authors found out how difficult and time consuming it can be to keep a blog updated regularly. Of course, their articles and posts will be on the web adding to the noise level for all eternity, or until somebody shuts their servers off. Whichever comes first. Of the rest, about a third post very infrequently. That leaves about 30 or so blogs that do regular posts (at least one post every two weeks). But here's the rub: of those 30, there are only maybe a half dozen that are any good. The rest regurgitate press releases with minimal commentary (and even less insight), or trade "stories" back and forth in hopes of attracting some Google AdSense dollars. So while there are some great thinkers and contributers out there, they have to shout over an overwhelming amount of noise to be heard. In my experience, 99% of the stuff that's worth listening to can be found here on the WireSpring Digital Signage Blog and on Digital Signage News (my two babies), and then from
Craig and the
For tangential news, I also follow
Jayne (sorry if I missed anyone obvious).
Industry News Sites and Magazine Publications
Advertising, customer experience, store design and merchandising are established topics that have big companies and long-running publications behind them. Digital signage, being what it is, kind of fits into all of these categories, so we're featured in all of them along with sites and magazines about signage, digital printing, billboards and offbeat marketing practices. The problem is that you would have to read thousands of pages to sift out just a few useful nuggets of digital signage information. For publications (online and print), I follow Marketing At Retail magazine, and I'm a huge fan of POPAI's daily SmartBriefs clipping service. I also read far too many websites to bother listing here, though I can tell you that almost none of them are specific to the digital signage world. (MediaPost and MediaWeek are two of my favorites.)
Social Networking and Forum Sites
This topic really bothers me. Social media and networking has been around for what, five years, and forums have been around for much longer. And in that time, we've managed to make the same exact mistakes as we have with every other medium we've worked on. Social networking sites like LinkedIn -- which I admit I don't use as much as I probably ought to -- could have become the de-facto sharing and exchange sites for our industry, since they're member-neutral and unbiased. But somehow, there are at least seven -- SEVEN -- digital signage-related groups on that site alone, and at least another five on Facebook. (I was born before 1980, so I don't think I'm allowed to sign up for a Myspace account, hence no commentary about digital signage activity there.) So instead of starting well-informed conversations that will be joined by dozens or hundreds of industry veterans, folks looking for advice have to post the same questions and topics across all of these different venues. Beleaguered readers then have to decide when and where they want to leave a response. It's absurdly inefficient.
Managing Information Overload
There's certainly a lot of room for improvement when it comes to managing the flow of digital signage news and hype on the web. My current system involves using clipping services, automated trackers and a bunch of web 2.0 glue to monitor about 150 different sites every day. And that still leaves me and my staff with having to personally monitor about another 100 that don't fit nicely into our automation scheme. For the volume of work that's actually getting done out in the industry today, that seems like an awful lot of manual labor. And again, the signal-to-noise ratio is very low. So of the 100 interesting-looking articles we might come across on any given day, chances are that only four or five will be legitimately new and useful. There must be a better way.
Do you have any tips for keeping track of the important news in our industry? Lots of people would love to hear about it if you're willing to share a few secrets!
PS: With the holidays fast approaching, this will be our last blog post of the year. From all the folks here at WireSpring, we wish you a happy and healthy holiday season. If there's any topics you'd really like to see us cover in January, please leave a comment below.