A Closer Look at Scheduling in ScreenScape

Effective digital signage is about sending the right messages to the right people, at the right place, and at the right time. Reaching your target audience means having some access to or control over physical screens, yours or that of a partner, that are strategically placed precisely where your core audience is likely to see them. As for making sure that your messages are being received at the right time? That’s where Scheduling comes in.

What is Scheduling?

Scheduling refers to a set of capabilities built into the ScreenScape platform that allows you to manage when each piece of media is active in your playlist. It includes the ability to play specific content on certain days of the week, or at certain times of the day, a concept sometimes known as dayparting, and much more. This post takes a closer look at this set of functionality and helps to explain how you can take advantage of it to automate the behaviour of your playlist and properly time your messages.

Scheduling rules apply to individual media items

It’s important to remember that when you set a scheduling rule in ScreenScape it always pertains to one and only media item. Although you can easily group media items for mass publishing purposes, you can’t group media items and set a scheduling rule for all of them. And you can’t schedule a playlist (not yet anyway). For reasons that will become clearer as you read this article….scheduling lives at the level of a media item and a scheduling rule is always about one media item at a time. It’s also worth mentioning that scheduling applies only to published media items that have been assigned to one or more live playlists. Scheduling is really all about the playback experience – the content that’s playing on screen on location in the venue where your ScreenScape screen is located. A media item may have some scheduling rules set for it…but if it isn’t published to a live playlist, well it won’t play at all because it’s not active.

Scheduling rules are executed by Smart Player (on your device)

Scheduling is one of the automation features we’ve built into ScreenScape to make it easier to manage the sometimes complex requirements of keeping every screen in your network current with fresh content on a timely basis. Scheduling rules are executed by ScreenScape Smart Player, the software that runs on your ScreenScape device. Smart Player always knows the current time in your venue and will always use the (local) current system time to compare with any scheduling rules you have set and determine whether or not a scheduling rule should apply at any given moment.

Scheduling rules are configured through your ScreenScape account

While it is Smart Player that will ultimately do all the work….first you have to configure your scheduling rules. Scheduling rules are configured through your ScreenScape account, accessible through ScreenScape.com. Although they are quite powerful, we’ve made the Scheduling capabilities in ScreenScape very easy to use because we know that understanding what the system is doing is just as important as precisely timing your content. Now, let’s take a closer look at what you need to do to schedule media so your display is optimized to play the right content at the right time.

  1. Once you’ve logged in to ScreenScape the first thing you’ll need to do is go to the Media page.
  2. Now select any Media item (create one if you haven’t already), and then select Edit from the selection tray at the top right. For anyone brand new to the interface it’s the small white pencil icon that looks like this:
  1. Once you’re editing the media you want to head over to Properties tab in the upper right corner.  Click that and you’ll see Schedule at the bottom of the right pane.
  2. Deselect Always (1).  This activates the scheduling settings.

  Don’t forget to click Save when you’re done.

Let’s walk through the various settings to gain an understanding of what each setting does, and how they work together to allow for more nuanced scheduling rules.

Scheduling Rules Explained

The first settings, for configuring day and time range windows, are probably easier to use than they are to explain (2) . The idea here is to enter the date and time windows your media item is eligible to play.  If it helps you can think of these date and time windows like a store owner thinks of a store’s hours of operation.

The first window signifies the general date range within which you want the item to play, which is akin to the days a store is open for business. Similarly, the second window signifies the time window (3) within which you want the item to play, just like the time of day a store is open.  Both windows have to be “open” for the item to be considered within range and eligible to play.  If the current time of day is within the scheduled time range but the current day is not, the item won’t play, and vice versa (that would be like showing up to a store during normal operating hours…but on the wrong day).   If scheduling is on, by default the date window is preset to play the media item for one year, and the time window is preset to play all 24 hours of the day.

The next grouping of settings, the check boxes, are easy shortcuts that essentially allow you specify the specific days of the week, or the months of the year that the item should play (4).  If the day or month is not checked then the timing is considered not right and the item won’t play.  If the day AND month are checked then the timing is considered just right and the item will play.

Finally we come to the Repeat function (5) which is another automation feature that allows you to set a repeating schedule.  A media item can be scheduled to play again and again – every few days for example, every few weeks, or every few months.

Scheduling rules are cumulative

It’s important to note that these settings are cumulative which means all date and time ranges are considered together.   Your scheduling rules can’t contradict one another.  All date and time windows you specify in your scheduling rules must be currently “open” for the media item to play.  For instance, regardless of the date range you choose (2), the day and month check boxes corresponding to the current day and current month must be checked for the item to be considered eligible for playback.

Similarly, when you are using the repeat function, all the rules you have set must be satisfied in order for the media item to be played. If you are scheduling a media item to repeat every three weeks the system will use the current date and time to determine whether any given moment when the media item might play is within an “on” week or an “off” week.  If it is an “off” week the media item will just not play. If it is an “on” week the system will further check to see what the other scheduling rules have to say. If all the rules say it’s eligible, it will play. But if just one of those other scheduling rules, the monthly or daily checkboxes, for example, says no it’s not eligible, it will not play even though the repeat function considered it an “on” week.

What can you do with scheduling?

I want my media item to automatically start on December 1st.

I want my media item to automatically stop after Valentines Day.

I want my media item to automatically start at 1pm.

I want my media item to automatically stop at  12:59pm.

I want my media item to automatically play between 4pm and 6pm every day.

I want my media item to play only on Saturday and Sundays.

I want my media item to play only in March, June, September, and December (the final month of the quarter).

I want my media item to play every second week.

I want my media item to play every second week, but only on Fridays, and only at noon.

Scheduling can be further augmented by making duplicate media items

Thus far we have shown various ways you can schedule a specific media item.  As you can see there is a lot of different possibilities when it comes to applying complex and nuanced scheduling rules.  However, when you are talking about one media item, those possibilities are not limitless. One way to enhance the power of scheduling is to duplicate a media item and set different scheduling rules for each copy of the media item.  This is an advanced method you could use, for instance, to schedule a copy of media item X to behave a certain way on one day, and a completely different way another day. Or you could have one copy of a media item dictating the scheduling rules for playback in one venue, while another copy of that media item dictates a different set of scheduling rules for a different venue.  While duplicating a media item is a perfectly valid way to apply different scheduling rules to the same message, it also adds complexity. The more media items you have, and the more scheduling rules you apply, the more challenging it is to remember all the details of your overall scheduling strategy. With automation comes responsibility. As time goes on, if you’re not careful, you may forget some of the details and lose touch with the complex interplay of your various scheduling rules.  At the end of the day it’s a balancing act. Unless you have a compelling reason to set up complex scheduling rules it’s wise to keep your scheduling strategy as simple as possible.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed this closer look at Scheduling.  Digital signage is a proven way to communicate effectively to key customers precisely when they’re ready and able to make a buying decision. With the right screen in the right place you can reach an interested party at a point when they are most receptive to a value proposition and a simple call-to-action. Naturally, it pays to have fine tune control over your message and its timing.  This is why scheduling is so important.

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