Before we look ahead, let’s look at how I did with my fairly general predictions for the industry in 2007.
1. Several major retailers and banks stop putzing around and go from pilots to rollouts.
Hmmph. There’s some stuff happening, but still quite a bit of putzing. Credit unions and regional banks are doing some things in Canada, but the big five are still doing very little. Not much happening in the US either, as far as I know. A few banks in Europe are active, most recently HSBC in France.
2. Yet more start-ups will get in the game with the latest, greatest revolutionary piece of software … even though little will actually blow anyone’s socks off.
Spot on, not that it took much brilliance to predict that. Every week I hear or read about yet another company getting in the game, and surprisingly, few of them even attempt to say they do anything particularly unique. It will taken one hell of a selling job to come out ahead of established companies in this space, as the networks who have real money will not gamble on pure start-ups with skimpy track records.
3. Many existing players will look at the crowded field and go back to their company roots.
I think this is happening with some very large peripheral players who dip in and out of this space with people and products, though I would say there are more companies coming in then getting out. Companies like IBM are very interested in the space, but they want to partner, not lead. Up here in Canada, all three of the big telecommunications players are active, and you have guys like Best Buy and the Pattison Sign Group wading in.
4. There will be a lot of consolidation and a few more notable acquisitions by players nibbling on the edges of this thing. You have to wonder, for example, why Dell hasn’t formally waded in yet, given their leasing capabilities.
This definitely happened, with arguably the biggest play being CBS buying SignStorey and re-badging it as CBS Outernet. Dell took a look at this space and is sort of on the sidelines, albeit jumping and down and waving from said sidelines. They have developed relationships with a bunch of companies to provide hardware and support, but last time I yakked with them they were not planning to dedicate resources.
5. Companies like SeeSaw Networks, or new ones, will start to roll-up diverse media networks and represent the aggregate to the agencies … probably with limited success.
Lots of success lining up scores of networks small and medium; less success selling ads. But it’s still early and both SeeSaw and Adcentricity have the foundations in place.
6. More and more ad revenue-based networks will streamline their offers and simplify cluttered screens – so people notice the ads, not the news – or go out of business.
Oh, I still see lots of cluttered screens and get defensive e-mail notes back from operators rationalizing the way they do things. And prospects I speak with rarely have simplicity in mind.
7. Display prices will continue to drop, though probably not as precipitously as during the past year. There is some suggestion that things are flattening out.
They kept dropping, but there are again signs of flattening out. LCD prices fell 20 to 25 percent in 2007, while plasma display panels dropped by about 35 per cent. There is a good rundown on that here.
8. New network operators will finally get their heads around thinking through the content strategy first, and THEN worry about the gear.
The tired old Content is King thing is being acknowledged much more now, from what I hear and see. Not that it is translating all that often to what’s on the screen when these things launch. However, the people behind new networks (people with contracts and money, not just the dreamers) do seem to have a much better grip on the business model and what’s important.
9. Packaged software prices and service fees will be under a lot of pressure because of the sheer numbers of competitors. Anyone charging premium rates next year will have taken advanced tap dancing lessons. One company is now offering free software in hopes of drumming up content production work. Expect more to follow, like display and PC manufacturers looking to move boxes.
10. No one will yet settle on a name for this industry, though the search terms records on this blog are overwhelmingly for “digital signage”.
Digital Out Of Home seems to be getting a lot of traction, though I have also seen Out Of Home Digital. I still don’t think we have a name, though, not that this is cause for sleep loss.
So, not bad on my soothsaying, though as noted, much of what I predicted was general stuff.
I’ll follow with a bit of a look ahead.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.