Executive Q&A: Content Creation for Everyone

JJ Parker, Carousel Digital Signage
(Image credit: Future)

SCN: Why did you decide to create Tightrope Media Systems and the Carousel Digital Signage solution?

JJ Parker: The seeds of the company and its vision were planted in 1996 when I was working for a K-12 school district. One of my responsibilities was to train teachers about how to use their video bulletin board system. It was obvious that the tools used to create and manage messages at that time were not built for teachers. These were tools built for IT specialists and multimedia designers, and it was unfair to expect teachers to navigate that learning curve. That sent us on a mission to create better software for teachers and other everyday users.

[The Digital Signage Best Practices Guide]

Carousel Digital Signage Logo

(Image credit: Carousel Digital Signage)

SCN: Currently, what are your most popular verticals?

JJP: True to our founding story, Carousel Digital Signage remains very strong in education. We consistently announce deployments with higher education and K-12 customers, and we support the education vertical in diverse ways. One example is our Social and Emotional Learning Collection of content templates for K-12 schools, which provides district administrators with the content and guidance to raise awareness, communicate procedures, and build healthy habits. Carousel also has a strong presence in the corporate market. We are often the choice for corporate HR departments that are communicating to many regional offices. Our Carousel Cloud platform is built for communicating over widely distributed environments.

[Executive Q&A: Innovation on Display]

SCN: Why is a template-based solution so important to client success?

JJP: Template-based content creation empowers many users across the organization. The ease of use makes it possible for everyone to contribute content to the network. One of Carousel’s strengths is how it limits content creation in ways that ensure the network still adheres to the organization’s branding guidelines and standards. Users can’t just select any font or color they please. Templating empowers simple content creation while maintaining consistency across the organization. 

SCN: How do content zones, RSS feeds, and other content features allow users to enhance their messaging?

JJP: We like to say that the best digital signage CMS is one that you never have to touch. Naturally, that’s not always the reality, but the ability to take in a variety of data feeds that automatically populate on the network eliminates the process of manually retyping that information. We prefer that computers share data instead of requiring manual intervention. The use of shared zones, feeds, and other data sources allows the customer’s digital signage to stay up to date without people maintaining it. And we all know timely, relevant, and fresh content is what creates a truly successful digital signage network. 

SCN: Do you have any general rules on determining the number of screens and locations of those screens for digital signage deployments across a campus?

JJP: Put the screens where the people are. Areas with high foot traffic are typically preferred, but the real art is placing screens in areas where people gather and wait. The audience should have time to consume the information on the screen. Someone rushing to a destination is not going to stop and absorb the content. We look to cafeterias, lobbies, waiting rooms, and large gathering spaces as ideal targets versus focusing strictly on high-traffic, high-movement areas. 

[Carousel Cloud Brings Customized Content to 300 Screens in Oregon School District]

SCN: How can your reseller program provide AV integrators with recurring revenue opportunities?

JJP: Carousel Digital Signage has been working with AV resellers for more than 20 years. Before Carousel Cloud, it was more about box sales and shipping hardware for installation. Selling software subscriptions introduces a recurring revenue element for AV integrators, who can sell Carousel Cloud subscriptions to end users. Our reseller program is very well-structured for resellers to make money year after year—and build that base of recurring revenue over time. 

SCN: How can customers choose the right media player for their digital signage deployments?

JJP: We have seen many media players comes and go over our 25 years in the digital signage business, ranging from high-end Windows players to very low-cost Android sticks. We have remained focused on media players that offer long-term stability. Network player maintenance can add up quickly when you are using $20 sticks that aren’t built for sustainability. The upfront cost may be lower, but in the long run those costs escalate because there is a need to replace power supplies often and occasionally replace the actual media players. While we support a variety of media players, we feel that Apple TV and BrightSign players represent the best long-term solutions for performance and total cost of ownership.

SCN: What is Carousel Cloud and how does it keep content secure?

We like to say that the best digital signage CMS is one that you never have to touch.

JJP: Carousel Cloud is a SaaS solution, and we host and run everything in a typical SaaS configuration. There are a few ways that we keep data secure that differentiate us from other signage companies. We are SOC 2-compliant, which means that we meet requirements for safeguarding customer data based on criteria for security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. It was a widely accepted, standards-based framework in the IT industry. Carousel Cloud’s architecture also segregates data, which means that our customers’ data is not comingling. Each customer has its own server instance, database, and data storage. A lot of SaaS companies operate with shared databases and storage. 

[Cybersecurity and Pro AV]

SCN: Is Carousel looking to expand into digital menu boards and other digital signage applications?

JJP: We are increasingly winning corporate communications business in the retail and restaurant business. This is more back-of-house and breakroom content for employees, and not necessarily consumer-facing. One of our biggest recent wins in this space is with a regional McDonalds chain in Pennsylvania, and we are doing pilots with other QSR chains. Our education customers also use Carousel Cloud for indoor digital menu boards in cafeterias. 

SCN: What’s next for digital signage?

JJP: It’s no longer about just reaching people in the physical workplace or on the school campus. Hybrid lifestyles mean everyone is not always in the facility or on campus. How do we reach them elsewhere? We have been building features into the Carousel Cloud platform that break beyond the facility’s walls and communicate the same message to smart phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. One way we are doing this is with our new Carousel Daily service, which allows organizations to streamline communications to audiences within an app. That app includes external URLs within a digital signage feed, guiding viewers to essential destinations for tasks such as training completion, video viewing, and other urgent matters, for example. The goal is to reach people where they are and change how users engage with an organization’s content.

Mark J. Pescatore
Content Director

Mark J. Pescatore, Ph.D., is the content director of Systems Contractor News. He has been writing about Pro AV industry for more than 25 years. Previously, he spent more than eight years as the editor of Government Video magazine. During his career, he's produced and hosted two podcasts focused on the professional video marketplace, taught more than a dozen college communication courses, co-authored the book Working with HDV, and co-edited two editions of The Guide to Digital Television.