Google, Yahoo services mean there’s no excuse for boring digital signage content

Jan. 25, 2011 | by Bill Yackey

Looping content is dead – at least in the mind of Jason Cremins, the prolific CEO of Remote Media. For nearly the past year, he’s been trotting the globe and speaking at all the necessary digital signage gatherings about a new way to supply content to the digital signage screen, which not only ensures that content is always fresh, but also takes much of the burden off of the people running the network.

Cremins dubs it “intelligent signage,” but really he says it is a mindset shift.

“The digital signage media player isn’t just a dumb device that plays content when it is told to, rather, it intelligently communicates with a content source,” he said.

Thankfully, the move to more intelligent media players also means some cost and time savings for the user.

Traditionally, content has been created in an external package, uploaded to a network, and then downloaded by a computer or media player. All of this is facilitated by software which tells the players to run it at a specific date and time. As many readers know, this requires someone to develop, schedule and of course, pay for the content to be created.

But Cremins says there are easier, and cheaper, ways. One of the ways to supply dynamic content to a screen is through Media RSS. This enhanced RSS feed was developed several years ago by Yahoo and works much like a traditional RSS feed except that instead of just text, the feed can also supply video, audio and other rich media. Many consumer services today, such as Apple TV, Boxee and Roku all use Media RSS to deliver entertainment media to internet-connected TVs.

When it comes to scheduling, users can simply drop the media RSS feed into a linear content scheduling platform (Cremins of course suggests signagelive), and the feed will begin running at the scheduled time. As new, fresh content becomes available, the feed will automatically send that information to the screens. You can even schedule advertising and any self-created other messages to interject the RSS feed using the CMS.

The transmission is powered by Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language, or SMIL, which is an XML markup language that tells media how to appear and when to play. In many cases SMIL can be used as a replacement for Windows, Linux, Mac and Android operating systems to play back Media RSS feeds.

Several hardware companies in the digital signage space are already taking advantage of this and creating hardware that takes advantage of SMIL, including IAdea, Advantech, Mitsubishi and ViewSonic. And since SMIL is an open standard, it can be used with heterogeneous playback devices, various CMS platforms and different kinds of content sources. 

“The easier you can make it to lock and load dynamic media, the more you can make the screen relevant,” said Cremins. “You can’t just place back to back ads anymore.”

Using Media RSS opens up your options for content sources, which will help you keep content fresh and exciting for viewers with little work. Here are a few ways Cremins suggests to capitalize on Media RSS:

Flypaper is an entry level, Flash-based digital signage platform that simplifies the content creation process for users and allows users to design content using video and send via Media RSS.

Picnik is a photo sharing site that allows you to edit photos and design templates and send them via Media RSS to SMIL players. The site can also integrate with Photobucket and Flickr, which opens up some content options.

Screenfeed is a digital signage content store that can deliver content channels which are kept continuously updated via Media RSS (think news, weather, sports, etc.).  Users pay a monthly fee per license and can send various channels to different players on the network.

And if you’re interested in using your screen to make some money for advertising, check out Google TV. Google has extended the Adwords model from pay per click to rich media and video. This was first offered to U.S. cable and satellite providers, but now they also syndicate that content out as Media RSS. Advertisers to buy slots across a range of media channels that subscribe to the Google TV ads offering – a connected digital sign could very well be one of those channels. Network operators who can support media RSS can now make time available on Google TV ads platform, and people can bid for those slots.

“It’s early days for this technology, but it’s starting to gather pace,” Cremins said.

For more information on Media RSS and how Google TV will change digital signage, see Jason Cremins’ presentation at his blog and an article from Sixteen:Nine.

Topics: Content , Content Design and Aesthetics , Content Management

Bill Yackey / Bill was the longtime editor of, and continues to be a keen observer of the digital-out-of-home space.
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