State of the Digital Signage Industry: What's Trending

State of the Digital Signage Industry: What's Trending
  • The leadership team of the Digital Signage Federation is pleased to host the DSF’s monthly Hangout event on December 16 for the purpose of initiating a discussion on the “State of the Digital Signage Industry,” meaningful trends that are and may yet impact our business, what your DSF has accomplished in this past year and plans for 2016.

Ken Goldberg, Digital Signage Federation Chair and CEO of Real Digital MediaI will be joined by Randy Dearborn, incoming 2016 DSF Chair and Vice President Multimedia & Guest Technology, MGM Resorts International; Rich Ventura, incoming DSF 2016 Vice Chair and Vice President Business Development Solutions, NEC Displays; and Kim Sarubbi, 2015 Chair of the Chairman’s Council and CEO, Saddle Ranch Digital.

We look forward to engaging DSF members (and non-members) in this 45-minute discussion. As a group, we are passionate about the Digital Signage industry and not shy about sharing out views, which is why I’m taking this opportunity ahead of time to share my own predictions for 2016.

1.LEDs emerge and prices start to drop: The Yesco acquisition by Samsung and the Planar acquisition by Leyard were about gaining market share and product portfolio for the former, and North American distribution for the latter. They represent the visible tip of the iceberg, as other traditional display manufacturers are looking to expand product offerings with LED, and the once upstart Nanolumens has grown up to pre-IPO phase. The Infocomm show floor looked like Times Square with many (predominately Chinese) LED companies showing off high wattage monsters. The stage is set: LEDs of many sizes, shapes, use cases and pixel pitch factors will flood the market, and prices will continue to drop as a result.

2.DPAA mission evolves: The Digital Place-based Advertising Association, more familiarly known as the DPAA, has slowly morphed its membership model over the past couple of years. Once effectively a club in which members paid big bucks to sponsor private research and drive standards, the DPAA now takes on members at significantly lower dues rates. Despite that, legacy big players are still asked to pay high rates, and are counted on to add to the kitty by sponsoring events such as the upcoming Video Everywhere Summit. DPAA’s focus on media, advertising and research on out-of-home remains, but its value proposition to members must shift somewhat as its member demographics change. There is danger of friction between factions (both old and new) and my guess is that the DPAA must resolve that before it goes further, which may involve re-inventing itself or recasting its mission and how it spends its money. As an aside, one hopes that the DPAA aligns the date of their 2016 Summit with New York Digital Signage Week. It would be a further signal that they want to embrace the industry at large and develop that weeklong event further rather than forcing a sense of exclusivity via scheduling.

3.In proximity, beacons recede while marketing advances: In recent blog post, I referred to beacons as a dog whistle, hypersonic distractors to those with specially tuned ears. There are many beacon tests in play, and you can expect to hear much more about the tests than the results. In 2016, I believe that the focus of marketers and digital signage network operators will turn from a technology (beacons) toward a concept, proximity marketing. Or put a different way, execution as opposed to tools. The difference will be actual integration with digital signage in a more natural manner than beacons offer both for the technologists and the customers. Key words to remember will be “opt-in,” “privacy,” “WiFi”, and “triggers.”

4.Bigs move their chips: The really big players have been in and out of digital signage since the very beginning of its growth curve some 12-15 years ago. In retrospect, all of their bets can be characterized as dabbling relative to their size, usually in enabling software. Cisco and Intel made tiny software acquisitions relative to their size with no impactful results. Oracle sniffed around through a partner company. Harris, now out of the business, made a relatively small deal to get Infocaster and subsequently invested heavily in it before bailing out. Google raised eyebrows by appearing at DSE in 2014, but has likely determined that digital signage is not enough like online advertising to excite them, although they will be happy to push boxes and use partners as probes for their ultimate goal of an AdWords-type offering for digital signage. Going forward, I believe the big companies will express their interest in the digital signage space via marketing and data based points of entry, rather than through backend software and devices.

5.No public pure plays: Here is one that is binary. It will either be prescient or
absurdly off base. Today there are arguably two public companies that are pure digital signage plays: RMG Networks and Creative Realities. Neither derives any discernible benefit from being public at this point, and they pay a heavy price to support public company compliance requirements. Further, their ability to raise new cash through a normal secondary is near zero due to stock performance. The prediction: at this time next year, one way or another, there will be no public digital signage pure plays.

6.Trolls back under bridge: 2014 was a busy year both for patent assertion entities, more commonly referred to as trolls, and those fighting hard to de-fang them. Our industry’s busiest troll, Activelight, has been relatively quiet since last year, likely due to the legal and health problems of its primary stakeholder. While there is reason to fear the sale of his interest to his hedge fund backers or other PAEs to defray his ongoing expenses, other forces are in play that might keep Activelight and others at bay. Cross-industry entities such as United for Patent Reform (of which DSF is a proud member) and many other groups and individuals are working hard to get Congress to do what is right and make important reforms in law and in practice at the PTO. No one ever made money betting on politicians to do the right thing, but the odds are even between real reform passing and some kind of window dressing Act being passed that does nothing. Let’s hope for the best in the name of innovation, real inventors and small businesses everywhere.

7.Content triggers become more relevant and interesting: The cornerstone of digital signage is and always will be relevance in context. The next wave of making digital signage content more relevant will without doubt be triggered content, content that changes in near real time as a result of some type of external data point. That has always been possible in simple use cases (pick up an item, react to weather forecast), but only becomes truly relevant when something is known about the audience at a specific moment in time and content can be delivered while that knowledge can be leveraged. This has been conquered online in the most annoying ways possible using cookies and retargeting software, but can be done more subtly and effectively with digital signage as the sources, quality and speed of data analysis improves and scenario-based content can be delivered quickly. Hopefully not like that Tom Cruise movie whose title shall not be invoked here. 2016 should be the year where some of these strategies start to appear and get sorted out.

There you have it, seven predictions for 2016. Times are becoming more exciting for our industry and there are many more moving parts than there used to be. We look forward to talking about these and other trends in our December Hangout event and hope you can join us.

Author Ken Goldberg will be a panelist on the Digital Signage Federation’s December “Hangout,” which will feature a discussion by the DSF Leadership on “The State of the Digital Signage Industry,” December 16 at 2pm EST. More information on this and other DSF events can be found on the DSF website. Both DSF members and non-members may join this or any of the DSF’s scheduled Hangout conversations for free – but registration is required and can be accessed on the DSF website at