Start With Content, Not Gear, for Digital Signage

Start With Content, Not Gear, for Digital Signage

(Editor’s Note: Author Jeremy Gavin will be moderating “Cost of Content” seminar panel at Digital Signage Expo 2013 in Las Vegas on Wednesday, February 27, 4:00-5:00pm. To register:

It’s important in every digital signage project to accurately predict the costs associated with your project. More often than not the chief budget-busting item is content. Content itself is usually not the problem. In fact, isn’t messaging the reason you are putting up the screens in the first place? The problem is the failure to properly plan for the cost of content early in the process. Without a proper plan defined early, content needs reveal themselves late in the project when its painfully obvious that content is suffering (devaluing the investment in hardware you have paid for), or when you incur additional unplanned costs for more content.

Jeremy Gavin, CEO & Head Content Chef, ScreenfeedIf effort to budget content is made early on, your budget will be more accurate and you’ll find additional benefits such as clues to making cost-effective decisions on hardware and software. For example, if you determine that much of your content will be created in Flash, you’ll know to purchase PCs for players. If your content will be 100% video, you may purchase a non-pc media player to save on costs. If use of syndicated media feeds are planned, you’ll know to choose software that supports it.

So what does content cost? Clearly that answer is different for every network, but each project should consider the following once a content strategy is defined:

Does content that will meets my needs exists in the marketplace?
Syndicated media has come along way since the days of the text ticker. Content providers now offer content built for the medium such as health tips, local info and short-form video in addition to news and weather. Syndicated content provides constant updates, while providing a fixed content cost that is lower than producing it yourself. Costs are typically per media player and networks often spend anywhere from $5 to $25 per month per media player depending on the number of screens.

What custom content needs to be produced, and who will produce it? Evaluate costs for both hiring a creative agency as well as the production of content from your in-house team. A large quick-serve restaurant whom recently deployed digital signage began producing content in-house until they quickly found their needs scaled beyond the single employee they planned to handle the production. They are now faced with hiring an additional motion graphics designer or outsourcing work they hadn’t budgeted for. Depending on your area, salaries of experienced motion graphics pros can run between $60,000 - $100,000. Outsourcing can run between $80 - $150/hr, though many creative firms can offer monthly pricing for a set amount of work.

Are there ‘free’ content options? You may be able to enhance your network with some well-done PSAs which can be obtained for free, but a good rule of thumb is - if you have not paid for it, or you don’t have direct permission from the content provider to use the content, you do not have the rights to display it on your signage. Yes, this includes RSS news feeds like CNN and Yahoo! that you may even find available within your software. All clearly indicate in their terms that they are not available for commercial use.

So flip your budgeting on its head and start budgeting with content. You’ll make better decisions on hardware and software and you'll increase your chances of coming in on budget in the end. Be sure not only to plan for the content needed at launch, but also imagine week 12 or 24. What are the messages and promotions that you would like to communicate overtime and what is your strategy for getting viewers to value your screen enough to watch?

Author Jeremy Gavin will be moderating “Cost of Content” seminar panel at Digital Signage Expo 2013 in Las Vegas on Wednesday, February 27, 4:00-5:00pm. For more information: www.DSEnow.comJeremy Gavin ( is CEO & Head Content Chef, Screenfeed. Screenfeed provides syndicated content over the cloud for plug-n-play usage in digital signage software. Mr. Gavin has pioneered the use of Media RSS as a media delivery standard for digital signage since 2007, managed the delivery of content for over 40,000 signage locations, and continues the innovation of new content for the medium of digital signage.