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The digital signage industry borrows its favorite cliché from the media folks, which is: "Content is king." Maybe we should ask at this point, if content is king, who is doing the coronation?

When I was a younger man, a college professor warned me against the use of clichés in my writing. The problem with clichés, he said, is that they are by definition "hackneyed" and "trite." Leave it to a professor to send me back to my dictionary to figure out what he was trying to say.

Being worn out, however, seems to be a matter of opinion. After all, how many people drive cars with more than 100,000 miles, especially in today's economy? How many patch the knees of their kids' blue jeans? Who discards a dull knife?

To me, clichés become clichés because they succinctly bundle a truth into a few memorable words, which become used to the point of exhaustion because they so aptly describe something. To "reinvent the wheel" with an original phrase might leave you "looking for a needle in a haystack," requiring you to become "busier than a one-armed paperhanger" when a simple cliché would have conveyed your point without the fuss.

The kingship of content is easy to understand. If you want someone to read your newspaper, listen to your radio show, watch your TV program or look at your digital sign, you'd better give them a reason. That "tried and true" reason is content. It better be fresh; it better be interesting; it better serve your audience's needs; and it better look just as professional as the competition's presentation. And just as important, quality content must be presented in the proper context or otherwise interesting content becomes irrelevant.

Those who are successful in the media understand these truths instinctively. However, the same can't be said for the digital signage universe. Sure, there are digital signage ad networks being put in place by media groups. Professionals in these groups understand the importance of content, but there is another vast group of digital signage users who aren't professional communicators. They run independent retail stores, car lots, local restaurants, bars and any one of a thousand other small enterprises. These people "first and foremost" are business people concerned with all of the things that got them to the level of success they've achieved so far. Adding digital signage adds another responsibility, the implications of which may not be fully understood.

Obviously, these small business owners are adding digital signage because they understand the importance of promoting their goods or services. But they likely don't have the time, understanding or expertise to develop the content that fully exploits the potential of the digital signage medium.

For small business owners, this raises a critical question: If digital signage is king, who's doing the coronation? In other words, how does a small business owner with limited resources create — or afford to hire someone to create — digital signage content that attracts the attention of viewers, holds their attention and influences the process of making a purchasing decision? How do they make their content king?

While there's no simple answer that meets the needs of all small business owners, there are some straightforward, logical steps to make clear, effective, professional digital signage content possible. I'll review this summer some of those steps to help small business owners put together the messaging they envision for their digital signs. Till then, at the risk of using another cliché, "stay tuned."

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Latest posts by David Little
David Little
David serves as Keywest Technology’s director of marketing and has a background in emerging digital technologies, working for more than a decade as an electronic field engineer with digital video equipment manufacturers before joining Keywest Technology.
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