The Digital Signage Insider

FireCast and Narrowcasting, or Digital Signage

Published on: 2004-03-18

I recently came across this article while reading some other material on Digital Output, a magazine focused largely on traditional print signage advertising. The article, by Mark Hawver, is an introduction to digital signage aimed at the magazine's primary target audience, graphic design and digital printing professionals. While the article may seem elementary to anybody who is already well-versed in the digital signage industry, I found several things about it quite interesting.

The first thing that jumped out at me was that digital signage is not viewed as an entirely positive thing by the magazine's readership. This makes sense, since for every digital sign put in, there is likely some static signage being lost, either due to budget or space constraints. The author, recognizing this, tries to turn a potential problem into an opportunity, noting that, "[t]he traditional large format printer should fully understand and come to terms with this new frontier. Understanding where it works, and where it doesn't and how the printed message can dance among it, will give the old guard a leg up when this technology begins to mature," and, "[f]or those in traditional large format print advertising businesses, such as printers and content providers who create posters, billboards and other "traditional" marketing and promotional vehicles, DDS represents another option in the way products and services will be marketed to current and potential customer bases."

Also quick to point out potential synergies between traditional (print) and dynamic signage is Brad Gleeson, President and CEO of ActiveLight, purveyor of all things digital signage. Gleeson presents digital signage as a compliment to traditional signage, especially in situations where a consumer's field of view may be crowded with many static signs all vying for attention. And, as he notes, "Although the costs of [dynamic digital signage] will decrease over the next 5-10 years, it will never compete on a price basis with static signage." So you printers out there have nothing to fear.

One thing that does baffle me, though, is the constant use of this word "narrowcasting." I understand that salesmen want to leverage the consumer's familiarity with the concept of broadcasting as a way to introduce the concept of remotely-managed media playback devices, however I think that most of the time the use of this term does more harm than good. I think that narrowcasting fails to capture the true power of digital signage -- the ability to deliver a specific stream of content to every single digital sign. For example, with our FireCast software for digital signage, users can create content playlists and customize them for every sign, a group of signs, or the whole network of signs. There is no limit to the amount of variation that can be had on the network. Granted, in his article Hawver states that, "[n]arrowcasting refers to the targeted transmission of audio and video content to a controlled and specific output device, such as plasma or liquid crystal display," to me it evokes the image of an old, closed-circuit TV network in a bank or retail store, where every screen in the place is showing the same tired, untargeted content.

I'm sure that narrowcasting will continue to be a popular nickname for digital signage, and who knows, it eventually might come to mean something more specific, perhaps a particular marketing technique or the actual process of producing and scheduling the content for the targeted playback devices. Until then, it's one more word that I'll continue to explain to customers, and one more search term that we'll have to optimize for Smiley

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