The Digital Signage Insider

Asking the Tough Questions About Your Digital Signage Content

Published on: 0000-00-00

For a software company, we spend a surprising amount of time working with content. We don't make a lot of content in house -- hardly any, in fact -- but we're constantly testing, tracking and qualifying new technical formats and creative experiments in search of smooth playback, consistent performance and effectiveness in the field. We've also discovered that whether the client plans to handle content production, management and scheduling in-house or outsource it to somebody else, they've often left a lot of very basic questions unanswered. And this can have serious effects on the company's efficiency, growth and even survival.

Getting back to basics

These days, most of the startups and companies starting new networks that we come across have at least a basic understanding of the fundamentals. However, some still refuse to ditch their pie-in-the-sky projections even after a slap in the face with some data on why so many digital signage projects fail. Often the way we help them to see the challenge of scale, for example, is by using content (both its source and management) as a proxy. By getting the client to answer some very basic questions about their planned network rollout, we can approximate the amount of content (and thus the amount of labor) needed to fill their screens. For example:

Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski
  • How many venues will the screens be placed in?

  • How many unique channels of content will there be in each venue?

  • How long is the average content loop?

  • How many unique pieces of content will need to be created from scratch each month?

  • How many unique pieces of content will be provided by third parties each month?

  • About what portion (%) of a typical channel might be changed out each month?
By walking a newcomer through this simple list, they necessarily have to start thinking about related concepts that will invariably have a big impact on their strategy and execution. For example, "average length of content loop" requires the client to have a basic understanding of things like traffic patterns, average dwell time and trip duration. Those answers, in turn, will feed into future questions about dayparting and the associated creative and logistical needs for that. Likewise, the question about content provided by 3rd parties is actually a loaded one. Many networks -- even inside big, established and sophisticated companies -- presume that an agency or creative shop is going to hand over a perfect piece of media that they can then simply drop into their scheduling system. In reality, the content frequently comes through improperly formatted, or in a form that's useless for digital signage (e.g. an unedited 30 second TV commercial). While I find it's nearly impossible to convince a lot of these companies about the reality of the business, I at least have a jumping-off point for proffering some "what-if" questions that let them build out a more accurate worst case scenario budget.

These days, our "starter" content questionnaire consists of about 25 questions, and can be filled out in about 15 minutes. Needless to say, though, it spawns more questions and conversations that can take days to walk through. But for a prospective digital signage network company, time spent answering such questions (hopefully before their rollout begins, but frequently after, in response to some crisis) is time well spent.

More questions than answers (for now)

The boys over at The Preset Group have also been pondering the content question and looking for better ways to get networks up and running with great content. They've developed an online survey to sort out where the weak links are, and what might be done to strengthen them. It's short and easy, and the answers are entirely confidential. According to Preset partner Dave Haynes (whose honesty is the stuff of legend, mind you), it won’t take more than a few minutes to complete, and will hopefully generate a useful snapshot of the current state of content needs.

To thank respondents for their time, Preset will be handing out a summary of the findings, at no charge, to anybody who chooses to leave their email address. They promise not to spam you. And if they do, let me know about it and I'll bust some chops on your behalf. Promise.

So head on over and take the survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/content_provider_survey. And if you'd like more info on our content questionnaire, feel free to let me know via email or in a comment below.


Comments   

0 Przemyslaw Rudzki 2010-04-15 20:25
DS campaigns and "traditional TV" are a bit too far apart. DS network operators need to recognize that in order for the advertisers to look at DS campaigns as something valuable (apart from metrics) they need to get closer to the TV and stop trying to play only the same boring ads in the loop. They should attract viewers by providing them with the content relevant to the context in which particular screen is located. Ads should be played somewhere in between actual content/show. Internet is really flooded with free, interesting content that can be used to attract viewers. It is just a matter of technology to bring it closer to viewers.
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0 Thomas Dockter 2010-04-16 13:21
Przemyslaw, I don't think that the idea to copy from TV is the way to go for most of DOOH. In a store environment it makes not that much sense to have a TV like experience, even in a waiting area you don't want people watching on the screen for a longer time as necessary to wait. TV, at least the ad based system in the US, was always about grouping nice programming around ads. The advertising was the reason to produce the surrounding content and pays the bill. A DOOH network is in a lively surrounding programming already: the public space. Lots of things to see, hear, smell do. It is most of the time a passers by medium - you won't stand there and watch the same loop again and again. And people in public space are not there with the purpose to watch CSI - they wan't to shop, seeing a doctor, go on the bus or up to 32th floor. So contrary to TV you do not match surrounding content to the AD, you match the length, style and loop time for an ad to the context of the passers by situation. I understand that it is easier to have a comparison with a well known medium to sell to media buyers. But take the banner ad market and the rise of internet advertising. It took years to develop a perfect ad solution for the new medium: search advertising with pay per click. There is no such thing in the TV space. What it is the "killer AD" for DOOH?
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0 Thomas Dockter 2010-04-16 13:21
Przemyslaw, I don't think that the idea to copy from TV is the way to go for most of DOOH. In a store environment it makes not that much sense to have a TV like experience, even in a waiting area you don't want people watching on the screen for a longer time as necessary to wait. TV, at least the ad based system in the US, was always about grouping nice programming around ads. The advertising was the reason to produce the surrounding content and pays the bill. A DOOH network is in a lively surrounding programming already: the public space. Lots of things to see, hear, smell do. It is most of the time a passers by medium - you won't stand there and watch the same loop again and again. And people in public space are not there with the purpose to watch CSI - they wan't to shop, seeing a doctor, go on the bus or up to 32th floor. So contrary to TV you do not match surrounding content to the AD, you match the length, style and loop time for an ad to the context of the passers by situation. I understand that it is easier to have a comparison with a well known medium to sell to media buyers. But take the banner ad market and the rise of internet advertising. It took years to develop a perfect ad solution for the new medium: search advertising with pay per click. There is no such thing in the TV space. What it is the "killer AD" for DOOH?
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0 Bill Gerba 2010-04-16 20:09
If I had to guess, the "killer ad" won't turn out to be an ad at all...
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0 Przemyslaw Rudzki 2010-04-17 13:27
@Thomas: I do not mean to copy TV. In my opinion it is just going to be a natural evolution. And yes I agree with you that it might be too much of the simplification but I believe this is what can bring the actual money to the table. Also it is hard not to think in TV-like schemes when nowadays everybody talks about metrics and aggregation which in my opinion is very much TV-like. It is just a matter of putting those two together. @Bill: I somehow doubt that we will be able to see such a revolution as the one that took place with the "google advertising thing". But as they say in Poland "never say never"...
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0 Freddy Murstad 2010-05-14 20:54
@Przemyslaw: Firstly, I do not think DS should get closer to TV due to the fact that DS is not TV! The only resemblance is the TV monitor. Nobody sits in a couch in a store, watching the game. They are on the move and in a totally different frame of mind. BUT, I think you touched a very good point when you mentioned "content relevant to the context in which particular screen is located". It is impressive to see what oeso called experts rant and write about this topic on the net. Now, letTMs be clear, this all depends on what type of network and of course the venues in general. Bill has done some great blogs about these very topics. But since Thomas mentions the store environment, let us chase that for a bit. Just to make sure we are on the same page, I am talking about a chain of grocery stores that wants to implement its own DS network to sell their own merchandise and services. Common mistake: Placement of screens in the oehigh traffic areas. This has had the least impact and ROI in our studies involving several hundred tests and questionnaires in the Nordic region. When we placed screens in a category and played content relevant to the category we got the highest ROI and recall when doing the surveys. So, placement of screens is the first hurdle. Without a clear marketing plan defining what categories the chain wants to focus on, you canTMt place the screens accurately enough. Then content should be relevant to the intended audience and the placement of screen (category/ product line). Otherwise potential shoppers will ignore the screens because it is NOT RELEVANT to them and carry on in their normal routine, buying what they intended to and move on. I have simplified my response to get a point across, but it would be interesting to hear what others think. @Bill: I would be very interested to see the full questionnaire you mentioned if your response.
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0 DoneIn60 2010-05-17 18:31
Great article. The two most important features of a successful digital signage campaign are 1.) Location/placement. 2.) Content. Frequency is also important but honestly if no-one sees it and the content is lousy how much will it matter how often it screens? [[http://www.donein60.com/register.html| Register]]
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0 akash modi 2012-02-27 08:08
I would be very interested to see the full questionnaire you mentioned if your response.
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