There’s No Content Fairy In Digital Signage

August 9, 2013 by Dave Haynes

contentfairyEvery so often, I have to look across a table at clients and drop the devastating news on them that there really is no content fairy.

The many minutes of original creative and content programming they envision for the shiny new digital signage network they’re planning to light up will not just magically load in hard drives and appear on the screens.

Then I have to really bust them up, and let them know there are also no fairies that might regularly visit the network and keep the content fresh.

Instead, I tell them, they’re going to need a start-up budget for programming and creative, and then an operating budget. And that content number is going to represent a big part of the overall operating budget … probably a lot more than they were thinking about … IF they were even thinking about programming costs.

It’s often the lost element in digital signage network planning. You get people all wound up in finding the right content management platform, playback devices and display hardware – because the people selling that stuff are almost invariably the first people in the door with end-users. There are not a lot of creative or content companies – certainly not in this space – doing direct calls with end-users.

So content is often just this thing – this general idea – floating around as part of the project, until some of the other stuff gets sorted out. THEN the end-users start saying, “Ok, now that we’ve got the tech lined up, what are we putting on the screens?”

Wrong approach. Totally.

Practical, Not Magical, Thinking

First, any network in its embryonic state should first get defined as to why it will even exist. What’s it for? What will it deliver?

Then you turn to how it will deliver on those objectives, as in “The screens will go here, here and there, and do this, this and that.”

Then you figure out what the content mix is to drive that strategy, and how much content there is, where it will come from, and who will produce it. And what will all that cost over what everyone agrees is a network operating timeline? Like three years.

Once all that gets figured out, then – and only then – should the discussion turn to the tech. Because at that point, the project has fully defined what the need is and the best, most effective ways to address that.

There is no logic in buying everything to execute on a plan before you even have that plan.

Any rationally considered network is not about the screens, but what’s on them. Content planning HAS to be the central discussion for any network development, from Day 1.

There are no fairies that are going to come one night, and make things just happen on the screens.


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