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An AV Guy's Guide to Talking IT
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How to Control Your Own Digital Signage Content
Digital signage is only as good as the content it displays, and organizations are increasingly taking control of - and creating - their own.

Article


February 25, 2013 | by Pete Erickson

Content. Depending on who you ask, it’s anything from “king,” to creative, to costly; while to others it’s just plain confusing. At least, the thought of creating and managing content can seem that way.

If you’re a seasoned integrator, selling a customer on the merits of great hardware with its specs and latest features probably comes as second nature. Content, however, has a more subjective, less defined quality to it. You know the client needs it, the client even knows they need it and, after all, those screens and software only have value if they’re turned on with content to show.

If this final piece of the puzzle has you reaching for the proverbial panic button, fear not; it might be simpler than you think.

Some of the most successful content may already be created. Syndicated content is just that - all you have to do is shop for the providers offering content that best fits your network and budget. The nice part is that covering this task can easily be added as a line item on your proposal and sold as a valuable add-on to your services. Your client can benefit from the fact that syndicated content keeps screens updated with minimal effort. It also costs significantly less than custom content regardless of how large or small your network happens to be.

Today’s syndicated content has come a long way from text-driven tickers crawling along the lower third of your screen. In fact, several outlets offer subscriptions to fully produced HD content that not only looks great, but also stays fresh with the changing news of the day, weather and entertainment. If your software is media RSS-enabled, a playlist will automatically grab the latest visual media you’ve subscribed to - even video. Syndicated content represents a self-sustaining, plug-and-play solution.

Custom content will most likely be needed to communicate network-specific messaging. But whether it’s promoting a product, event or campaign, someone will need to actually create it. These three considerations will help you ask the right questions before creating custom content.

First, explore the production options that best serve the message. Static imagery is generally the most cost-effective and works well for communicating simple info. It can also be designed to be easily modified to scale usability. Motion graphics usually cost more to produce, but offer the visual appeal of, as the name suggests, motion. On top of extra aesthetic potential, video content (motion graphics included) is especially effective at communicating more complex messages. Live-action video production is typically most expensive simply because there are more variables - and people - involved. The upside is the ability to create a more genuine connection between the audience and actual people on the screen.

Whatever option makes the most sense, be sure to evaluate how audio will perform (if at all) in the screens’ environments. Content featuring music and voiceovers adds production value, but don’t depend on it to carry your core messages - always reinforce key points visually.

The second point to consider is how production will be handled. Are in-house creative personnel available for content creation and maintenance? Does it make sense to outsource the creative work to an agency, production house or freelance professional? They’re all viable options with distinct advantages. Look for creatives familiar with software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (static imagery), Adobe After Effects and Cinema 4D (motion graphics) and Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro (live-action video). These are the basic tools of the trade needed to create quality content. Even if they don’t bill themselves as signage content producers per se, you’ll find most marketing agencies, post-production houses and interactive designers are more than capable. Also consider if producing a video template makes sense — you’ll notice several software options even feature templates inside their interfaces.

Third, take some time to familiarize yourself with basic media production processes and messaging strategy. Industry trade shows like the Digital Signage Expo offer a multitude of learning opportunities for DOOH-specific content. Vimeo and Wistia also offer a wealth of concise video tutorials covering topics from video production methods to how to script and schedule content effectively. Simply learning some of the lingo will give you an easier time talking to creatives, setting budgets and managing expectations.

Sound doable? As you leverage time and cost-saving syndicated content, along with needed custom content, you’ll no doubt find allies in the industry eager to swap advice and insight. You’ll quickly discover that folks working in signage content are pretty passionate about it - and usually happy to talk shop.

About the author

Pete Erickson is the VP of content for Screenfeed and will participate in the “Secrets of Successful Content” at the 2013 Digital Signage Expo in February. To learn more, visit DSEnow.com.
View all posts by Pete Erickson
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