I know I'm a little late to the game with a review of a book that's already over a year old -- positively ancient by our industry's standards. But now that I finally got a chance to read through POPAI's digital signage book, I'd like to reprise my role as the haggard old industry "expert" and chime in with some comments. In short, the POPAI digital signage study is a monster: the book weighs in with nearly 550 pages of text and graphics. At around $375 per copy (based on current exchange rates and excluding VAT), it's certainly a great bargain for some people, while others may be disappointed. Which camp do you fall into? Keep reading and find out.
About the book
Assembled by POPAI D-A-CH (the chapter responsible for Germany, Austria and Switzerland) and research firm GIM, the 550-page tome is officially called "Digital Signage. The global study. Opportunities and risks." It consists of genuine research intermingled with expert anecdotes (and I'm quoted in there, so take that for what it's worth) plus whole sections sponsored by industry vendors. That makes it somewhat unique in my mind, since I can't think of many other hardbound publications that take you from scientific data to thinly-veiled advertisements in a page or two. But that's not necessarily to the book's detriment: as you'll see in a minute, that kind of information can be quite beneficial for a certain audience. The editors also did a fair job at pointing out which sections were sponsored and which weren't, though in the future I might recommend that all sponsored sections be relegated to a specific portion of the book, rather than strewn throughout.
Like many of you, I'm always pressed for time. So when I thumbed through this book during various trade shows and events, I always felt that it was great, but just too big for me to ever get through. Having had a copy in my office for a few weeks now, I learned that how you read the book is just as important as how much of it you read. For example, I quickly realized that I could skip several chapters of what I'd call "digital signage 101" material, which is designed for more novice readers. Likewise, I tend to be US-focused, so I skipped a lot of information about the US market that I'm probably already familiar with. This gave me more time to spend on Europe, Asia, Africa and other markets that I'd like to learn more about. And finally, as a very visual learner, I was quite pleased with the number of charts used to distill down the many pages of text.
You said "sponsored sections." So I'm supposed to pay $375 for a wordy book full of ads?
Like I said, this book might not be for you (and if that's your attitude, it probably isn't). The sponsored sections are pretty tastefully done, and in fact some of them are reasonably educational. I could definitely see somebody who is new to the market or trying to gauge their own business model taking some useful bits away from the sponsored case studies like Mood Media's piece on in-salon branded TV networks. In fact, many of the expert anecdotes read more like ads than the sponsored sections did. (One could either make the case for good editing on the sponsored stuff, or bad editing on the anecdotes. Your call.) So is there a bit of soft-selling going on? Yes, here and there. But the Cleverdis SMARTreport or a pull-out section from USA Today this is not, so don't worry about getting hammered with promotional messages.
Who might want to buy this book?
If you're new to the industry and want to quickly gain some global market perspective, the POPAI digital signage book might be for you. That means product vendors, service providers, and companies already working in tangential markets and looking to expand into the digital signage sector are prime candidates. The real selling point of the book (in my opinion) is its global nature, so if that's not something you as a reader would value, you can probably do just as well reading websites or perhaps picking up one of the dozen or so other DOOH books out there already. Traditional media companies and agencies hoping to expand into digital out-of-home would probably find a lot to like, especially if they already have some global exposure and can self-corroborate the book's findings. Likewise, anybody thinking about making an investment in our space (angels and VCs, that means you) ought to find the $375 price tag a bargain, even if they do nothing more than thumb through the 100+ pages of charts and survey results. While this kind of data is going to get stale quickly, it's still a pretty good snapshot of the industry, and again the global perspective is something that very few other resources have provided.
Who probably wouldn't be interested?
If you're already in the industry, you think you have a pretty good idea of what's going on in your particular vertical market, and you have no desire to hear about what some of your competitors or potential customers might be doing, you probably don't need this book. That's especially true if you have no intention of expanding beyond your current country (or continent) -- or if you're already in so many geographic markets that you can provide your own global insight. Similarly, small businesses or do-it-your-selfers looking for a how-to instruction guide for getting started should probably look elsewhere. There are dozens of books, e-books, blogs and websites providing that kinds of introductory information in a more accessible package.
Summing things up
So there you have it: a 1,000 word review of a 550-page book that costs $375 and focuses on a single subject: digital signage. I'm glad I had the opportunity to really give it a chance, because the book has a lot to offer for those willing to devote the time to reading it. It's also a nice complement to POPAI's The Power of Marketing at-Retail, which covers the broader topic of in-store marketing. Finally, if POPAI and GIM decide to come out with future versions of the digital signage study, I really hope they take a more web-centric approach and make the contents viewable and searchable online (for a fee, of course). Some kind of wiki-like revision history would also be great so you can see how market definitions and statistics change over time. And comments. Everything's better with comments :) But on the whole, the digital signage book provides a great deal of valuable information for those readers looking for a truly global perspective on the market. To learn more or to place an order for your own copy, visit the special website that POPAI created for the book. (Full disclosure: I am a member of POPAI's Board of Directors. I received a free copy of the POPAI book from GIM and it was entirely my choice to review it. I don't receive any financial compensation for book sales generated by this blog post.)
What type of info do you wish there was more of within our industry? Do we need more resources like the POPAI book? Leave a comment and let us know!