As one looks across the digital landscape, one finds oneself faced with five screens in play: the silver screen, television, PC, mobile and DOOH. Each screen has its own eco-system, business models, audience, purpose, technology, and content. Although new in relative terms to the other screens, digital signage is no exception. The way in which one can look at these differences can actually cause one to see the similarities at the very core of their existence. They are by all means communication vehicles, but what sets them apart is most importantly the mindset in which they are viewed and that will always remain consistent.
What is changing however, are two significant trends that will directly affect how one interacts with each screen and how one creates content for each screen.
Viewers now are interacting with every screen. This is brought on by technology that was born recently. From the simple interaction and engagement to very sophisticated and technologically impressive means to keep the viewer connected to every screen all the time.
One can envision a world where our screens are as seamless as the streaming digital landscape that we find ourselves in. It is this seamlessness and connectedness that technology is just beginning to affect us. Connecting all five screens technologically is a trend that will find new ways to keep the audience turned on and tuned in all the time with every screen.
Does it really become one screen? Once we reach a digital platform the portability of content is next. It is just now beginning to become easier to transport between each of the five screens, but it is the purpose of those screens and the mindset that is setting each apart. What is evolving is how we are beginning to use each screen with this new technology. I contend that as this technology becomes ubiquitous so follows our use. Even though we call it the silver screen, television, PC, mobile and digital signage they are all just screens and the technology behind them is changing. It doesn’t mean that one’s mindset or initial use changes when interacting with each screen, what does change is how we perceive the reach and depth of the digital landscape that spills out from each screen and how it is all connected to a digital world that lurks behind all the screens.
At the very core is great content and great technology. In the near term, technology has been driving connectedness between digital signage and mobile. This is the most significant trend for 2011. Driven by smart phones’ newfound abilities, digital signage has embraced this simply because DOOH is a key activation and engagement point for mobile interaction in the marketplace. Helping to position this screen as a central point of interaction and engagement is the very fact that behind every connected digital signage screen is a computer. Most of the top companies have a strategy around mobile engagement. The very nature of one to many and one to one redirects the purpose of digital signage to match the digital landscape. Mobile interaction is just one of the first steps in creating a seamless digital world.
The integration of technology has been noted by several companies in the industry: Symon introduced its mobile platform that works with digital signage; Enqii (now ComQi) and Kombi joined forces to integrate mobile for retailers; Reflect Systems and TXT4CRM have partnered in text messaging services for Target and GameStop; then there’s Pixel Inspiration’s Twitter integration on the social media side and Clear Channel’s recent Corona promotion allowing people to upload Facebook photos of themselves to a billboard on Times Square.
To meet this new found technological shift, one needs to re-evaluate the content creation process to include “all digital.” One can create content objects and use digital asset management systems to manage the vast amount of content that exists to feed all screens with consistent messages. This is rising to a critical point to offset the costs of creating media.
Content strategies and discussions began to trend quickly in 2010. More presentations were made on content at shows in 2010 than the three previous years of trade show presentations combined. It has been estimated that content accounts for approximately $3.5 billion of services for creating content that plays on digital signage … that is more than the $2.5 billion in the technology sector and more than the $2.1 billion in advertising placed on DOOH. This year will see more of the same. Content is king and will outspend any other sector from here to eternity.
As the lines of technology blur screen to screen, so does digital content creation to deliver content that is truly portable in our new digital landscape. If one thinks about the digital stream as one big pool of bits and pieces of content that can be accessed in multiple different ways and in multiple different combinations while delivering a consistent cohesive message. One can then understand how to potentially create content in smaller bite size pieces that can be assembled upon delivery to whatever screen is before us at the time of our interaction with the content that we desire.
This is a tall order, but evolution will prevail and content will become something different than as it is seen today. Just as we moved from radio to radio pictures years and years ago, and we may struggle with what to call this new found digital freedom, one cannot help wonder where the media behind the screen will influence and potentially evolve to essentially one screen thinking with many types of screens in the marketplace.