Blog: Frank Kenna 

Frank Kenna (bio)
President and CEO
The Marlin Company

Wednesday, 27 April 2011
In my last post, I started to discuss the question of where digital signage (DS) content can be found. At first glance it really does seem as though there is an unlimited supply of information on the Net, but when you really start to examine it, things get murky quickly.

Let’s start with a real-world example. If you’re looking for reliable news, you can count on the New York Times, Associated Press or The Wall Street Journal. Once you get away from those top tier publishers, it gets more questionable. For example, are you 100 percent certain about something you read in the supermarket tabloids? Maybe you think some are a little more reliable, some less. Some occasionally do break a “for-real” story, but then what about the ‘Obama-is-an-Alien’ stories? Doesn’t that taint all the other news? If you needed hard, reliable news you would probably steer clear of that neighborhood.

Sourcing workplace communications presents the same dilemma. There are the rock-solid sources, such as the American Red Cross or OSHA, but their content is most likely not in the right format for use on DS. And you don’t have permission to use it. Do you even need permission? Would they give it to you if asked? These are the types of considerations that make digital signage content sourcing get tedious very quickly. I know firsthand because we produce several hundred pieces of fresh, original content every month.

So what’s a manager looking for DS content to do? Start with a list of five basic considerations.

1. What is he trying to communicate?
2. What is the source?
3. Is the information accurate?
4. Can he get permission to use it?
5. How does he get it into a format compatible with his DS system?

Looking at the first consideration, he needs to start with the problem to be addressed. For example, maybe his company is having customer service issues, so he needs to try to modify his employees’ behavior when in contact with customers. He Google’s “excellent customer service” and gets the predictable 120,000,000 results. I just did the search, and here are the top five sources:

Recognize any of them? I don’t. Are you willing to use information from their websites? I’m not, and most likely our fictional manager isn’t either. Those websites may be great, but he just doesn’t know. He wouldn’t risk putting up unvetted content in front of his employees, and he again runs into the issue that he’d be lucky if any of them had DS-ready content.

Of course if he’s willing to spend the time and do the research, he will eventually find a reliable source, such as 7 tips for excellent customer service found on Microsoft’s site via the Google search above. He assumes the information is good, otherwise Microsoft wouldn’t have posted it, and I’d tend to agree.

So far I’ve addressed the first three points from the above list. Next time, I’ll tackle #4, getting permission to use content (or not!).
Posted by: Frank Kenna AT 08:06 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Monday, 04 April 2011
Creating digital signage content in the workplace that actually does the job.

Ok, I think we’ve all got it by now; digital signage in the workplace is almost worthless without a steady diet of content. It might be internal, i.e., company-generated material, or external feeds such as news, weather and sports to draw readership. But whatever it’s going to be, it needs to reach a certain quality threshold if it’s to be effective, engaging and legal.

So what is content? A great explanation by columnist Timothy Rutten recently appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Rutten mapped out an interesting relationship between information, journalism and content. “Information is data arranged in an intelligible order. Journalism is information collected and analyzed in ways people actually can use. [What many websites] actually provide is ‘content,’ which is what journalism becomes when it’s adulterated into a mere commodity,” said Rutten.

Unfortunately, many owners of digital signage systems actually mean journalism when they say content. That is, they’re looking for information that will help them do their job better, whether that means managing people or selling products. Just sourcing content doesn’t cut it, since that term covers such huge territory.

When people say they’re looking for content, they first need to define what it means to them. For example, let’s examine what a company safety manager might need to do. He’s charged with providing a safe workplace for his employees, and needs to get information in front of them that’s relevant to the potential dangers they face daily. That’s his definition. So to find content that’ll work, he needs to list what those dangers are, and then source information that will be relevant, which will turn out to be his content.

He might start with the National Safety Council, as they are a well-known and trusted source. But they only have limited materials which aren’t in the correct format for his DS system. So either he has to convert it to the right format, or look elsewhere. That could mean moving down the ladder to the less well-known sources and less reliable information. The problem now begins to get murky. Who or what are these other sources? What are their motivations for providing this content? How are they getting paid for it?

These are important questions that I will explore in my next post.

Frank Kenna III
The Marlin Company
Posted by: Frank Kenna AT 11:22 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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