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"Context is king," "results are king," "content is king," and on and on the media debate continues until everyone is blue in the face. And while "it's good to be the king," as funnyman Mel Brooks famously observed in "History of the World Part I," achieving that status can be complicated and treacherous.

In the kingdom of digital signage, things aren't much different. Creating fresh, compelling content worthy of regal status is no simple task. Large enterprises and even SMBs often turn to outside creative agencies or full-time in-house creative resources to build advertising campaigns that capture viewer interest and hold attention. Even though anyone can have a creative flair, some are endowed with creative genius, and thus exceptional work should not be taken for granted.

Regardless of the size of business, most communication managers recognize the benefits of digital signage but often lack the time, money and/or personnel to create fresh content on an ongoing basis. And fresh content is crucial if digital signage is to remain effective and relevant to audiences with specific and ever-changing needs.

Fortunately for us common folk, with a little planning and creativity, it's possible to sidestep these impediments and create a fresh stream of digital signage content on an ongoing basis.

In Part 2, I laid out in detail five tactics businesses can employ to reduce the expense of content creation, including the use of templates; relying on digital signage software with automatic data import capability; leveraging existing digital media; integrating RSS feeds into digital signs; and taking advantage of cable or off-air TV reception. Here, I explain five more powerful tactics that can be of help in reducing the strain of creating fresh digital signage content.

Tactic 6: Consider offering internships to graphic art students from local community colleges, universities and institutes. Both paid and non-paid internships are a staple of the college experience, and local colleges and universities offering graphic art programs are filled with students looking for a chance to let their talent shine. Often, institutions will have requirements for companies offering internships to ensure their students are properly supervised and receive a quality experience. For a small business with a marketing manager who's able to invest the time to direct a student, offering an internship to a graphic art student to create fresh digital signage content can be a winner.

Tactic 7: Select digital signage software carefully, and be leery of the too-good-to-be-true marketing gimmicks and charlatans the industry is fraught with. Trustworthy companies are typically involved with the industry's two major associations. And never forget, 'you get what you pay for' holds true even with digital signage. Ask: How difficult is it to use? How much support is offered and at what cost? How long has this company been in business? Will they be in business next year? Does the software use an offline or online user interface? Which UI matches my needs better? Companies with limited time to devote to digital signage should carefully evaluate how easy the content management software is to use, because poorly designed software will waste epic amounts of time.

Tactic 8: Leverage existing non-digital assets, such as brochures, flyers, sell sheets and catalogs. The good news for small and large businesses alike is they're probably sitting on a mountain of existing "analog" material that can be repurposed for use as digital signage content. Yes, these resources will need to be reworked to fulfill a specific requirement for digital signage use — something most business people don't have the time or talent to do. However, graphics art departments or interns should be able to make quick work of repurposing these sorts of resources as digital signage content.

Tactic 9: Subscribe to a digital signage content service for news tickers, sports scores, weather conditions, stock data and more. Broadcast TV channels aren't the only media entities that can crawl text across their screens. Businesses employing digital signage also have access to these resources through specialized content providers. Best of all, unlike cable news channels that seek to offer a broad range of news headlines, businesses can subscribe to feeds that more narrowly match their areas of endeavor. Doing so will make the digital signage content relevant and elevate the stature of the business in the minds of those viewing the signs.

Tactic 10: Add video from a webcam or weather camera. Many digital signage controllers make it easy to integrate video from a live video camera. Imagine the possibility of a retailer at a ski resort using this capability on its digital sign to show the length of lift lines or views from a mountaintop lodge. Or, those responsible for signage at an airport might wish to integrate video from a camera mounted atop the control tower to display takeoffs and landings. Like integrating off-air or cable TV, webcams and weather cameras offer a regular source of fresh content without having to devote personnel to the task — aside from setting up the camera in the first place.

Using these tactics can reduce the burden placed on a business to create fresh digital signage content. Any approach that can keep content fresh without taxing limited personnel and financial resources will prove in the long run to be an important element of succeeding with digital signage.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • John Klaasman
    content is king, context the Queen, and we all know she rules with iron hand...
  • Jim Kealy
    Content will only ever be king if it is designed to be of value to all parties involved, be that the network operator, advertiser or viewer. This industry is full of ideas on how to make content with very little investment... and that's OK... it can be done, but there is no value to content that is not strategically thoughtful. It must embrace brand values, leverage the unique qualities of the it's OOH environment, and most of all provide information that is of value to viewer in that particular space. Smart knowledgeable people are responsible for kingly content. Templates, software, feeds, etc. are only tools that need to be used responsibly (if at all!) Jim Kealy 2 Hemispheres
  • Joe Sengupta
    Yes, content creation and content display is the most important marketing technique in restaurants. Totally agreed - Joe(
  • Christian Lindqvist
    This article is making me upset! Hire interns for cheap, pump out TV broadcasts and unauthored video from webcams... please, the world is better off without screens showing this kind of content. I agree with J. Kealy. Look over your strategy, see if there is a ROI to be made and then responsibly add some value to the world by making communication stronger, experiences richer and information better. /C. Lindqvist Creative Director, Visual Art, Stockholm
  • David Little
    Hello Christian, I'm not suggesting that all of these potential "inputs" should be a boilerplate for digital signage in general. I certainly don't think that. But there are many good reasons why deployers may want to use them when and if it fits their purpose. All of these things really fall under the principle of "sticky" content, and we have many deployers (not many retailers however) that enjoy the results of some well placed sticky content. Here's a good article that explains sticky content from a supplier's perspective:
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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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