Becoming a Digital Media House

Dynamic Signage QuestionOne of the questions that seems to come up more often lately – not surprisingly – is, What does it take to become a content provider for dynamic signage? Well, first and foremost, in our opinion, you need to upgrade your mindset. We recommend you think of yourself not as simply a content provider, but rather as a media house. LobbyPOP is most definitely a media house, not simply a content provider.

Not to offend anyone at all – that’s not our style! – but there are differences between content providers, content distributors, encoding houses, and media houses. Each serves a purpose! Here are the main degrees of separation:

  1. Content providers come in every shape and size. CNN is a content provider. Netflix is a  content distributor. (It seems hard to believe now that Netflix streaming video is available on nearly any Internet-connected home video product, but back in the spring of 2008, the only Netflix-compatible device was a tiny streaming media box called the Roku Player.) HBO is a content provider and a content distributor.
  2. Content DISTRIBUTORS are entities like Hulu. As content providers, NBCUniversal, News Corporation and The Walt Disney Company bring shows, movies and clips to the Hulu video library. Although Comcast recently acquired NBCUniversal, Hulu users will continue to enjoy the same NBCUniversal TV shows that they have come to expect from the Hulu distribution service, when, where and how they want them.
  3. If you want to convert existing media (video or audio) into other formats for mobile, streaming, or dynamic signage, an ENCODING HOUSE can format and deliver your content.
  4. A Traditional MEDIA HOUSE typically includes a relatively fixed in-flow from professional partners, as well as from reporters and other content providers. This will include writers, photographers, ad agency creative, and artists.
  5. In a DIGITAL Media House, content provided can include RSS feeds, stock tickers, motion artist products, animations, audio content, music, raw video, and more.
  6. In a Media House, the SOURCES can have a complex role, as in the the case of the LobbyPOP Media House, where Sources are Digital Signage Certified Experts or LobbyPOP Pros, who are in essence collaborators, certified to submit information straight into the ordering system, in fact not requiring additional modification.
  7. In a Media House, creation of brand new elements (Content Creation) is accomplished with the use of software, hardware, audio equipment, musical instruments, artists and more. This can lead to use of the term “Production House” in some circles. The Media House team will minimally include camera operators, sound recordists, editors, graphic designers, presenters, writers, technology architects, and video producers.
  8. In the LobbyPOP Media House, the information flow consists of information submitted, with great variation, by a network of 280 collaborators. The collaborators are connected directly to end-user organizations, such as municipalities, small businesses, and different entities in the fields of advertising and marketing.
  9. Collaborators have been trained, and have a detailed manual, in how to submit information into the media house system and they are allowed to do so without much additional guidance. The majority of information is, submitted by a web form on the School of Sign Arts website, or to some extent by phone to the editors.

Digital Content Production FlowchartWith this very broad brush stroke review, we can see that Media Houses must be able to work with a vast array of content types, and be able to format for any type of output, with the services that an encoding house would perform. But what a Media House must also be able to achieve is an artistic expression and blending of content, from music beds and voice-over, to the actual architecture and design of the engaging final digital sign product.  Not simply a transformer making ice cubes from water, but an alchemist, changing mineral elements into gold, creating intuitive, inspired audio-visual communications.

This leads to the next question: What sort of equipment, hardware, software, microphones, etc, should a media house employ?

Well, that is for the next blog. How perfect is that?

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Part 1: CLEVR is a Clever Acronym for Digital Design

We mentioned in our previous post that sign industry professionals use the science of signs when creating a communications vehicle for their clients. These same principles should be applied to your dynamic digital content as well. The four considerations are known as Conspicuity, Legibility, Visibility and Readability. We like an acronym to help recall these four design factors: CLEVR. It really is more than clever 😉

Just what are these four factors, when you analyze them?  Today’s post gives you a framework for understanding these principles, as we tackle each one in this blog series.

For communication to take place, a message must be conveyed. Just like speech, or signing, a physical sign exists to communicate a message. This is considered commercial speech. Let’s look at Conspicuity!

Lake in ForestIf you were to shout out a math answer in a forest, a teacher thousands of miles away will never know you had the right answer- this relates to “visibility.” If you were standing in front of the professor, and then relayed the test answer with a language you made up that morning, the professor will still not know if you answered correctly or not. This relates to “readability” in the typographic world. If you are speaking clearly, but at a low volume while a jet passes overhead at 120 decibels, your voice will not stand out. This is akin to a sign that is not conspicuous.

The same policies holds true for dynamic digital signs: Your sign’s message must be noticed, and then, it must clearly communicate. This entails conspicuity, legibility, visibility, and readability.  For the sign industry, “conspicuity and readability” have become synonymous with sufficiency in size, height, placement, and illumination to allow the message to be seen, read and comprehended.

Today we’ll focus on Conspicuity (no pun intended!). Conspicuity is the “quality of a character or symbol that makes it separately visible from its surroundings” (Sanders and McCormick, 1993). Typographic research on conspicuity has mostly been concerned with the effect of underlining, change of typesize and so on, using eye-movement and comprehensibility measurements.

A sign placed in an empty room may meet all the criteria for visibility, legibility (letters and/or graphics can be easily differentiated), and readability (the legend in totality conveys a meaningful or understandable message to the viewer.). Now, place that same sign in the urban environment, where it competes visually with other signs, telephone poles, street lights, bus shelters, flags, banners, and right-of-way landscaping, it can be essentially invisible.  In other words, conspicuity has to do with the context in which the sign appears. 

In the case of dynamic digital signage, often though not always seen indoors, the unit placed on a wall or kiosk is not going to find too much competition for attention in its natural environment. With its internal illumination, and motion aptitude, the dynamic sign is unlikely to suffer from inconspicuousness.  

It should be easy to understand, therefore, that CLEVR is evaluated according to the application.  Within a textbook, for example, conspicuous text is not the aim. Legible and readable content is of great importance. The CLEVR science, according to the criteria of legibility, readability, and conspicuity, will be reviewed here with interior dynamic digital content application in mind.

Next posting: Let’s look at Legibility (no pun intended!)

Content Design is… Sign Design

When Booz Allen Hamilton asked marketers which organizations would become more important to them by 2010, media companies, media planners and communications planners topped the list, with 52% believing they would be more integral. Ad agencies of record? Only 27% thought they would be more integral. At the same time, 53% of media sellers say they expect to do more business directly with marketers.

We hold firmly to the belief that the strongest visual communications companies in North America are perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between creative, engaging content, and millions of small and medium businesses. Already deeply immersed in visual communications, the digital sign company professional must make absolutely certain they bring to the table their deep expertise, and not undervalue it. Electronic digital signage has much the same mission of digital print signage: To convey a message in a readable, conspicuous and legible manner in order to elicit a positive action on the part of the viewer.

Digital SignageWhat many creatives and ad agency executives forget is that electronic digital signage is SIGNAGE, not television. It is a hybrid product, including elements of the best commercial spots we see today, but clearly featuring the fundamental message for which it is established.

Just what elements of science are found in sign design that are not found on the list of considerations for ad agencies and media houses? There are three, and every sign professional knows them:

  1. Legibility
  2. Conspicuity
  3. Readability

In our next post, we’ll talk about the scientific principles and human factors research that give us these “rules” for sign design!