Election Over, Digital Signage Won, Nothing Else Was Second

There are numerous things that make me crazy about this space, but two of the biggest are people STILL using the circa 1996 Content Is King thing like it was new and profound, and people STILL trying to force new names on an industry that totally settled on one years ago.

So when I see a “thought leadership” piece that does both, I start using what I’ll call salty language. I saw one of those pieces yesterday.

Here’s the thing. The Content Is King statement is like a zombie. It’s 17 years old and as hard as people try, it can’t be killed. ┬áBut we must keep trying.

We can, however, stop the madness that has been going on for something like 10 years now, of people trying to give this space a new handle.

It’s not narrowcasting. It’s not captive audience networks. It’s not digital screenmedia. It’s not dynamic digital signage. It’s not electronic digital signage (saw that for the first time yesterday … eeesh). IT’S DIGITAL SIGNAGE. Period. Full stop. And on that last bit, STOP. Really.

This is not just me being Mr. Cranky-pants. This is the Internet talking and acting, and spitting out incontrovertible data.

There is a powerful, highly instructive thing called Google Trends that anyone can use to very easily, in a matter of seconds and keystrokes, see how the great unwashed search for things. A user can key in a search term, and see how much activity that term generates. It’s all based on the vast data set crunched by Google, which handles the great majority of day to day web searches.

Type in digital signage, and a busy set of searches gets returned in a graph that can be traced back eight years. Type in any of those other terms, and you get … nothing. NOTHING. Zero. Google’s response in a trending request: “Not enough search volume to show results.”

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None of these other phrases get any action in search requests. I see the same on the analytics for this blog.

So, you can try to ramrod new names into pavilions at trade shows or sessions at conferences, or marketing pitches disguised as editorial in trade pubs.  But the people floating these new terms are pushing a tractor up a steep hill, for reasons that defy logic.

The confusion problem among new buyers is not with what to call this thing. That ship has sailed, and the data wholly backs that up. Going back eight years. Don’t tell me people in the sign industry can’t distinguish between digital printing and digital signage technology. They may not be the cool kids, but they’re not stupid.

The confusion is with all the different technology options that all pretty much sound, look and feel the same, and all the tired, recycled and wholly uninspiring arguments new buyers too often get for why they should give a crap. I just saw a notice for a webinar boldly declaring this session was going to explore getting the right message to the right place at the right time. Never heard that one before.

And by the way, search on digital place-based or digital place-based media, or the shiny new one, location-based video, and you also get crickets on Google Trends. Look up Digital OOH or Digital Out Of Home, and there’s actually some action.

Let’s spend the time building the industry, and its ad-based offspring, and give up contriving new names for them, when there are existing ones totally baked in. The data has spoken. So actually heed it.

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10 thoughts on “Election Over, Digital Signage Won, Nothing Else Was Second”

  1. You are 100% correct, and the language could have been saltier. Those who presume to rename the industry generally do so to sound authoritative. They aren’t, and it is time to start naming names, taking them to task and telling them to cut the shit. The article you read was written by Lyle Bunn, who falsely touts himself as a PhD, and also needs to cease and desist with that masquerade.

  2. That’s telling it like it is. Damn! That’s TELLING it like it is! I tell my grandkids that some people have thirty years experience and others have one year’s experience thirty times. People who are constantly rehashing the old arguments, or replaying old headlines like they are a eureka moment are not contributing to our industry’s growth. And it’s time to call them out. Well done.

  3. Amen, brother. I wrote a piece that was almost identical to yours what feels like a hundred years ago on BroadSign’s old blog called “Industry with an Identity Crisis: a Rose by Any Other Name”. (Article is long gone)

    The problem is named like DOOH and Digital Place-Based aren’t going anywhere any time soon. At least the rest of the cruft can be snuffed out without too much commotion.

  4. GONG

    Was there and involved with the debate day one. Before day one in fact as I was using my Amiga 1000 to do “digital signage” at trade shows in the late 1980s.

    Where you all went wrong (and you did) was first and foremost being assinine and arrogant trying to figure out how to sell slide shows as prime rib. As if.

    Secondly, you all went wrong (and you have) by foolishly trying to refuse to admit that it is not TV per se. Furthermore, it was and remains foolishly arrogant to insist nobody should be using a TV for such purposes as “signage.”

    As we now know its all TV and most everybody knows and accepts the reality. At least those of us who knew this was the way it was going to be and never allowed ourselves to shove our salty heads up our salty @sses because some so-called digital signage association attempted to dictate how to describe selling slide shows as prime rib.

    And that is why and where the greatest opportunity to ursurp naming rights failed for most of you who are still arguing amongst yourselves, the only agreement from me being yes, one should never pass up an opportunity to slap the silly sh!t out of every know-nothing marketing weasel who claims content is king.

  5. As usual, I love the tone and the research to back it up. So what is king then? (and happy to let content is king finally die.) What do we say that will drive a stake through its heart and is easy for the clients to grasp. (Seeing as the world wants things in bullets and sound bites).

  6. I’ve personally always liked digital signage, but there’s definitely merit in helping the medium (and client understanding) along with some context.. DOOH, Digital Menus, Digital Poster..

    Digital Signage can be a little dry sometimes..

  7. Peter

    I am not in love with the name either but it is baked in, and it’s just a catch-all. There’s television, and all these subsets like cable, specialty, reality, etc, etc. Same idea.

    I call a digital menu board a digital menu board, but it’s something that comes out of the digital signage business.

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