The Cost of Content: Effective Content Planning Leads to Cost Savings By Vern Freedlander

At this year’s DSE I had the pleasure of being a member of a panel that discussed one of the biggest dilemmas we face in the digital signage business; to attract viewers and advertisers, networks need engaging, high-quality content, BUT production costs often place great content out of reach. And to compound the issue, networks need content to be updated and refreshed on an ongoing basis. So what’s a network operator to do? We have witnessed operators spending big bucks on content only to have viewers not interested or finding out their business model is unsustainable because content acquisition and/or production costs are too high.

We have also seen the opposite where operators choose to run “wallpaper” and fill the time with meaningless content that is cheap but does nothing to further the communications and business aspirations of the digital signage network.

The solution lies in formulating a cohesive content strategy that is well planned and wherever possible leverage automation. By taking advantage of features such as templating the production process, pulling and visualizing content from existing databases in real-time and incorporating social media, operators can control costs and still remain focused on communications objectives and brand aspirations. To accomplish these goals operators need to turn to a software provider like X2O that has the ability to combine an effective technology solution with strong editorial content and present it in an attractive and brand consistent manner. Let’s have a look at how operators can save time, money and headaches and how X2O can help fulfill your network’s communication goals.

Content Planning Drives ROI

You need to have a plan and it begins with ensuring that you know what you want the digital signage network to accomplish. This may sound obvious but with multiple stakeholders with different communications, marketing and business interests, this is not always clear. This has to be married with a keen understanding of who your audience is and a strong idea of the kind of content that appeals to them. Knowing who your audience is, is key and gathering information about them and learning what kind of content will connect with them is a fundamental and essential first step.

 More than a Network: A Brand

Your network needs a vision which will eventually be developed into a brand. I’m not talking about just a logo. A “brand” means distributing a consistent editorial message that has a specific tone and personality. It is a message that is reliable, trustworthy and personally relevant to your audience. In other words, it dictates what kind of content you’ll run and just as importantly what kind of content you will not run. How will you and your organization police the content to make sure it is on-brand?  If you’re lucky enough to work with an external agency, or have an internal communications department, they can certainly help.  However most network operators don’t have or can’t afford these services.  It is important to chose a software partner that can not only guide you through the content design phase , but can also build highly efficient and effective content approval systems that piggyback on to your network so your content teams can view, approve or reject content or add editorial notes regarding changes.

HTML5 = Cost Savings

Operators should look to take advantage of a new generation of technologies and tools that accelerate workflow.  HTML5, for example, is a new standard that’s enabling exciting new content to be efficiently created and distributed across different devices.  The X2O platform is completed built using HTML5, and the HTML5-based authoring application allows users to drag and drop “smart objects”  – design elements already married to data sources and production logic – on to a canvas and in turn publish content to any digital screen; place-based, smart phones, tablets or desktops. It’s fast, easy-to-use and supports any content type including HD video, real-time data, 3D, animations, social media and more. This results in substantial savings as the cost of content production is amortized over multiple devices and reaches an even larger and more diverse audience.

The Evolution of Templates

But some of the most dramatic cost savings can be found in the production process itself. The use of templates in digital signage is a very common practise. However the concept of templates has evolved dramatically and we have progressed far beyond the old paradigm of simple reusable, “reskinnable” layouts. Templates have lost their relevancy to the concept of “channels”. Channels populated by reusable smart objects can drive and alter content depending on a number of predetermined factors. For example,  content pulled from a database that has to be married with an image in a very specific layout can have that logic built directly into the object. Or text that has to be formatted and positioned in a very specific way that is brand consistent can also be preset. The result is an extremely impactful digital signage presentation that takes advantage of automation and maintains a consistent look and feel.  By taking advantage of smart objects,  digital signage operators can easily create communication channels of unprecedented power that fully leverages content from multiple sources and fully leverages automated workflows, saving time and money.

But the concept of templating also plays an important role in the video production process. By taking advantage of a templated approach where portions of video clips remain consistent but only select sections are updated, high-quality video content can be produced quickly and refreshed efficiently. By making some decisions early in the content planning process, operators can create a high number of animated production templates that look great and serve various editorial purposes. By simply dropping in the changeable video elements into the templates, a fresh new item is created. Templates can also serve the needs of advertisers to create new campaigns or special promotions. Remember, pulling live content from internal databases or collaboration sites like SharePoint allows dynamic, timely content to automatically populate on screen. Internal or external live data feeds like RSS or XML provide an ongoing refresh of text, images and video. This is a fantastic, inexpensive way to take advantage of content that already resides in-house and to present it in a creative, visually exciting manner.

There are lots that can be done to alleviate your content production headaches. It all begins with a well thought out plan that is supported by products and services that ensure that you are consistently putting your very best content forward and satisfying the demands of your audience and advertisers. Contact us to learn more.

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Gregory Marlin

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