And then there was the DSF …

February 18, 2010 by Dave Haynes

DailyDOOH broke the news Wednesday morning about Exponation, the people behind Digital Signage Expo, starting up a new trade association for the industry, to be called the Digital Signage Federation.

I don’t really know the timing, but it kinda looks like that email leak prompted a release to be either pulled together quickly or moved up on timing. Whatever the case, we now have twin, competing industry associations in North America and other entities that also have an interest in representing the issues and concerns of stakeholders.
I am the personality type that pretty much heads in the opposite direction of entities that have things like minutes and motions and people sticking their hands up to second things, so getting me excited about another assoiciation just ain’t gonna happen.
There are a few more people like me out there, and probably many more who don’t mind that stuff but will not get involved in something unless it is truly worth their attention.
When the Digital Signage Association reached 100 members I lobbed in a stink-bomb wondering aloud whether this was going to be an active association or a money-maker for NetWorld Alliance. To its credit and with the work of David Drain and DSA prez Stu Armstrong (of EnQii), the association actually does stuff. But it is joined at the hip with NetWorld and that was always going to be a big issue.
Ken Goldberg recently raised concerns and wrote a good breakdown of the concern around the DSA and non-profit status (or lack thereof).
There will be all kinds of motives behind the DSF’s creation, but at its root it only makes sense for the DSE people to protect their turf and do what they can to keep the DSA people from establishing their own trade show, something I have heard members talk about privately. The biggest trade show in the AV industry is InfoComm and it is owned and operated by InfoComm, the trade association.
My view from the bleachers is that me and probably a lot of other people don’t care what the trade association is called or who is behind it. We do want to know whether it is worth the investment of money and, more so, time. I also want to see some focus, and that’s why I really, really, really don’t see that happening because the interests among the stakeholders conflict too much.
The interests and therefore needs of the digital out of home network community and the aggregators and people who feed into that are TOTALLY different than those of most vendors and service companies. I have sat in meetings and watched ad-driven network people drive, understandably, their business agendas while people from panel, deployment and software companies sat wondering why they bothered coming. Or joining.
The interests and needs of retailers and companies that develop business in that area will, mostly, not have much interest in advertising because that’s not a model that has or will work for them in stores. They don’t care about notice and presence metrics. They want to know if the screens are selling more stuff.
Elements of the hardware and software crowd have, again, very different interests.
Sure, there are common interests, but how you hive this under one broad umbrella, and make it work, I don’t know. Particularly when you have elements of the industry very actively involved with POPAI. OVAB pushing its member needs in the US and Europe. A very well-established InfoComm servicing the panel and projector crowd and, increasingly, software companies that have no interest in ad-based networks. Then there is the nascent Digital Content Circle for the creative community. And I have heard the Internet Advertising Bureau has an interest in this sector.
As the digital signage sector grows, and it converges even more with online and mobile, there may be strong reasons for companies to get more involved in other trade groups that don’t even have obvious ties to digital signage. The sector is going to evolve so much in the next two to three years that even calling it digital signage might seem odd – though the name thing is another one I think already ties up too much energy.
This overall industry is going to grow, but the numbers of companies will very likely thin out through what is inevitable consolidation and, sorry, natural selection. So the member pool and therefore money pot will either stop growing or shrink. Maybe the very big companies coming into the space have the budgets to support multiple organizations, but an awful lot of the ones I know NEED to be very persnickety about how they allocate money. They can probably afford one association, and depending on their industry agenda, it might not even be one of the now two umbrella organizations.
I’m not at all opposed to industry associations and applaud the efforts of people who put in the time – and it is often people who absolutely don’t have the free time to do it. But I doubt I am alone in thinking whatever I invest some time and money in better return tangible value, and better be talking about and dealing with things that matter to me. And not just on a token sub-committee that ticks an interest area box.

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