The impact that Apple TV, and similar device-oriented Internet technologies, have had on the way we consume media at home is well documented. A mass abandonment of cable television is underway. It’s been dubbed the cord cutting revolution, and it is being led by millennials who grew up in the Internet age and expect their entertainment to be delivered on their terms.
What is Apple TV doing that we could learn from, adapt, and apply to digital signage?
Digital Media Players like Apple TV™ arrived on the market only a few short years ago and yet they have already penetrated millions of homes. Digital signage, on the other hand, which has been around for decades, has yet to achieve this kind of mainstream acceptance. Where consumers are rushing to connect and control their screens to the Internet so they can become masters of their own media universe, business owners, by comparison, seem to be lagging.
Apple TV™ and other solutions in its class, like Roku and Google’s Chromecast, have managed to successfully eliminate the need for complicated hardware and complex installation processes to allow average non-technical homeowners to bring the Internet to their television screens. This trend in consumer entertainment offers insights we can adapt to the commercial world and lessons for digital signage vendors and their customers which lead towards to simpler, more cost-effective, more user-friendly, and more scalable solutions. We have a new whitepaper that explores this topic in detail. Some of the lessons are as follows.
Simple appliances outperform PCs and Macs as digital media players
Sourcing and mounting a TV is not the critical challenge
In order to scale, digital signage networks must be designed for average non-technical users to operate
Creating an epic viewing experience isn’t as important as enabling a large and diverse network
Simplicity and cost-effectiveness go hand in hand
By making it easier to connect and control screens, tomorrow’s digital signage solutions will help more businesses to reap the benefits of place-based media. Digital signage networks will be able to scale more cost-effectively, and businesses of all kinds will be able to participate.
This release will feature a revamped version of Setup for Windows based media players. The release will also include new networking options (e.g. proxy networks, WiFi Enterprise networks), built-in LogMeIn support, and a range of bug fixes.
New Setup Wizard
Setup has been redesigned as a 3-step wizard. Users are guided through a standardised 3 step process every time Setup is launched. The steps are:
Connect a keyboard
Connect to the Internet
Login to ScreenScape account
Embedded ‘LogMeIn’ Support
It’s often the case that the software problem that’s driving you crazy has a simple solution… if only the right person could look over your shoulder and point it out.
That’s why ‘remote desktop‘ software is so powerful. It provides a fast track for new users to get expert help. The trick is to make remote desktops accessible to users who are in trouble exactly when they’re in trouble.
The new setup wizard will have embedded LogMeIn support. LogMeIn is a world class remote desktop solution. Embedded access to LogMeIn will help expedite solutions when users call our Customer Help line. During Setup, users will be able to click on a Support icon and directly enter a code provided by our Support team, at which point their screen will be immediately shared for assistance by a ScreenScape expert.
Who will receive the update?
Customers purchasing new Windows based media players from ScreenScape will receive this latest update pre-installed.
All customers currently using Smart Player for Windows will see an automatic download of the update when it is released. No action required.
There is no update for customers using the Android-based Connect device, or customers still using our older Browser Player software. No action required.
Our Engineering team is putting it through its final paces now. We will announce a release date on this blog as soon as the date is set. In the meantime, you can always find up to date information on ScreenScape’s status and maintenance schedule at trust.screenscape.com
Instagram has removed the “New Media from Feed” trigger. This triggers when a photo or video is posted to an account you follow. Read Tech Crunch’s article on reasons for this change here.
Who will this affect?
If you use this “New Media from Feed” trigger your feed will be empty and this content will be skipped in your playlist.
If you haven’t already, please update your Zap to use another trigger such as “New Media Posted”. This triggers when a photo or video is posted to your account. Once updated, your content will resume playback.
We released several new image templates in the Get Started collection that allow for random playback of images within a defined set. These templates can be quite useful. They add dynamism to your display and can save you the time and effort of having to manually orchestrate a long, static playlist to feature all your ads.
For example, the “Chester” template as shown above will play five full screen images. When creating content with this template, you’ll provide three image options (i.e. Option a, Option b, Option c) in each of the five image sections. One of the three image options will be randomly selected for playback, for each of the 5 image sections, for a total playback of 5 images.
For example, this graphic illustrates a sample random selection of 1b, 2a, 3c, 4c, 5a:
These templates will be helpful for those that would like their image content to vary each time through their playlist. For example you might use this image pack as a “commercial break” between two dynamic videos. Because the image pack is randomized, one instance of the template is all you need to create a dynamic block of ads. Over time all images in the pack will be featured. However, every time the image pack plays it will pick random images from the set. Try it today.
Today we announced the arrival of another major update to our Saas-based digital signage solution. This one delivers significant performance and scalability improvements to all customers, and it’s available now at no additional cost.
Understanding scalability in digital signage starts with putting yourself in the position of an advanced user, a busy marketer on a limited budget that is trying to grow an expansive network of screens across hundreds of locations. Ask a few simple questions and think about the cost and effort involved in scaling up and sustaining the network. Is it easy for me to add new screens? Is it easy for me to keep my content organized and under control? Is it easy to execute my promotional campaigns myself, cost-effectively, keeping content fresh and relevant, optimized for each viewing audience?
You also have to put yourself in our position, the platform provider. For example, what if thousands were to join the service on short notice? What if all customers were to use the system at the same time? What if all customers simultaneously published a large set of content to a large set of locations? With the new release, ScreenScape 4.0, we’ve made massive strides in this key area.
Questions of scalability in the digital signage industry, traditionally have been addressed primarily by adding man power. The early proponents of digital signage maintained a strong separation between the people that owned and operated the businesses where digital signs were to be placed on the one hand, and the so-called technical experts who, behind the curtain, would deploy and manage the system on the other. This set up a linear relationship between the size and complexity of a network, and rising operational costs.
The computer industry provides an example of how systems have evolved to become more scalable, easier to use, offering lower costs and much greater utility in the process. People point to Moore’s law, and rightly so, as the reason why computers have evolved from heavy machinery that only a few experts could operate all the way through the personal computer revolution to current times. Today’s new generation of mobile and wearable technologies were designed with average people in mind and are now used by millions worldwide. Moore’s law isn’t the only force at work here. The paradigm shift required by systems designers, who had to conceive of new, simplified user interfaces that would be used by average, non-technical business people, was itself a key contributing factor. This “democratization” of the technology, along with rising ubiquity, is inseparable from the hardware breakthroughs and the new economics that came with the global build out.
The lesson is if you make it easy for average people to use a system then you can start to see the real potential of what they can do with it, and that fuels a virtuous cycle to scale up even further. We are at the cusp of that virtuous cycle in digital signage, but the systems have to become easier for average business people to use, and more cost-effective for the average business to afford.
With ScreenScape Connect we made it easier for businesses of any size to get started with digital signage, or to extend the reach of their network, in a way that is also cost-effective. With this release we’ve made it easier, even for non-technical operators, to manage a large collection of assets and a large collection of playlists so they can better optimize each promotional message across a large collection of screens.
Big thanks to all the people on the ScreenScape team who contributed to this milestone! Scalability improvement and Infrastructure improvements are not always visible on the surface, but we know how critical they are to keep the system humming for our most progressive customers and preparing for the next wave of growth.
ScreenScape 4.0 brings a new release of ScreenManager, our content management system. The latest release introduces:
Performance and scalability improvements
‘Content Tags’ for Venues and Content members
A new, faster Map
A power user interface for Content Sharing
Improved layout – larger viewing areas and consistent screen design
What does this mean for ScreenScape users?
Drag and Drop publishing from playlists (new for Venues and Content members)
Easier to organize content
Many small-but-mighty time saving UI improvements
A Revamped User Interface
The Create tab has a new Content Tags column, a larger item list and preview area, and contextual details about each item (‘Share to’ and ‘Published to’ info).
Publish (for Venues)
Publish for Venues has a new Content Tags column and a new playlist area. Venues can now publish ordered playlists directly from tags.
The Community has been completely revamped. Changes include:
A new Map using a new technology for smoother performance and faster filter searches. The new Map also features a larger viewing area, a new member filtering tool and a new geo-search bar.
A new Share UI has been created following the design patterns established by Group Publish. It replaces the old 2-screen Content / Member lists.
Users can now drag and drop content to members for Sharing, in the same way they do for Publishing.
Content Tags have been introduced, so that users can employ a simple drag and drop action to share large collections of content items to large collections of members
The Track tab has been simplified, with the removal of the right hand panel. (It used to show user account info, which added screen clutter without a lot of value.)
The queries behind Control have been revamped for faster and more scalable performance. Member tags have been introduced to simplify monitoring of sub-groups and specific accounts, and a Search bar has been added for large groups. Actions have been renamed and re-organized for legibility.
Performance and scalability
Many of the improvements in this release are under the radar scalability improvements. (Scalability is a measure how well our internal systems can perform under high use and growth conditions.) Great performance is something we expect our users to take for granted – but it takes a lot of behind the scenes work to get there.
Examples of scalability questions are:
How efficiently can the system process large scale requests from our users?
How long will it take to run a ‘normal’ search? How big is a query result set allowed to be?
What happens when 1000 users log on at the same time? What happens if they all request a lot of data at the same time?
How will shared parts of the application, like the Community, perform under the heaviest of loads?
How many items can be published or shared at one time? To how many users?
To prepare for future growth of the system, new capabilities have been added to ScreenManager such as:
A redesigned Search interface
Asynchronous publishing / sharing and queueing of requests
Efficient search queries and paging of search results
While scalability improvements often may not make headlines, they keep the system humming and our users productive, while ensuring ScreenScape’s customers are prepared for future growth.
Hot off the tail of ScreenScape 4.0 will be a new release of Smart Player for Windows. The new version will have new Setup UI and several network connectivity improvements. Stay tuned!
Be sure to check out our updated support articles. They will help guide you through the new software version and highlight some of the exciting updates that have been made to content creation, content tagging and content sharing. If you have any questions about the new software version don’t hesitate to contact support.
Today ScreenScape is happy to introduce a template collection called ‘Infotainment’. This collection will be shared with all ScreenScape members free of charge.
This collection’s goal is to make ScreenScape displays more interesting to watch. Many of our members want to keep their audiences engaged with ever-changing playlists, but are challenged by time constraints and limited budgets. The weather and news won’t cut it: their playlists are in danger of becoming (!) boring. Over time, this trains audiences to stop watching. ScreenScape’s complimentary Infotainment option offers a no-cost, low-effort and high-return solution.
In addition to the simple entertainment value, engaged audiences are more likely to retain higher value information. Infotainment items are usually mixed with other messages, such as ads and educational content. They catch the eye and help retain attention. This technique works especially well in venues with extended dwell times.
Infotainment trains the audience to keep coming back to the screens, looking for the next bit of entertainment. As a side effect, they are more likely catch and retain the ‘real’ messages delivered before and after. Display operators with even the simplest of content loops (a single ad, call to action, menu or logo) can achieve higher levels of audience engagement using Infotainment.
“Infotainment trains the audience to keep coming back”
To create an Infotainment item, just select it, save it and forget it. There is no user data to enter and nothing to refresh over time. The item will automatically rotate through a random selection of items designed to keep audiences engaged. Several items can be combined together, either back to back or by setting daily and weekly schedules (e.g. Music trivia Mondays, Film trivia Fridays).
Infotainment categories include:
Trivia infotainment is presented in an animated 30 second format. Categories include Film, Food and Drink, Literature, Science, Geography, General and Music. Questions are geared to a universal audience with general knowledge and span a range of difficulty levels and demographic interest. The presentation is simple, colourful and iconic, designed to work with the maximum number of screen designs.
Famous Quotes range across a variety of wise, silly or insightful quotes from luminaries throughout history. The 20 second animated text format is backed by moving images that grab the eye.
Pop Quiz (originally introduced earlier this year) provides a question and answer format with a longer duration [1:20]. 5 questions are presented in sequence, supported by glossy animation and high resolution imagery.
If you like what you see, let us know your ideas for new Infotainment categories: “Did you know?”, “Travelogue”,, “Fun Facts”, “Brain Teasers”, “Sports Trivia” … the sky’s the limit!
One of the most common questions we field from people new to ScreenScape and digital signage in general is simply this: how can I use it to boost revenue?
Digital signage is a powerful, multi-faceted communications tool and it can be used for a whole range of applications that aren’t directly related to boosting sales or selling advertising.
That said, the common sense nature of digital signage as a sales tool is indeed what separates it from other less targeted forms of marketing. The physical presence of a digital sign on location acting as a silent salesman in a retail store, or in every retail store across the country, means that your marketing efforts are, by definition, going be well aligned with your real world sales activity. Your customers are making important buying decisions in retail stores, right this moment, where your products or services are already on sale. Obviously this is an important moment, one where you’d like to be in a position to own some mindshare inside the venue, to engage your customer and position your brand.
And so, without further ado, to help, in part, to answer the basic question, how can I use digital signage to make money, we offer our top five ways to boost revenue with ScreenScape. We hope this list inspires you to come up with your own!
5. “Flip the funnel” and turn loyal customers into raving fans
The customers that are making buying decisions in your store at this moment represent more than a singular revenue opportunity. To the extent that they like your product, they might also become your vocal advocates. The question is, if they like your product, do they know how to share a positive review with their friends? Do they have any incentive to promote your brand? Are they aware of the big event you have planned for next week? This is where digital signage comes in. A key reminder while on location in your store might be all they need to tell a friend, or even make a post on social media.
4. The timely, hyper-relevant promotion
If you owned a grocery store and you had some produce, maybe a head of lettuce, or some tomatoes, that were getting a little old and coming up to their best-before-dates, what do you do? Naturally, you post a sign that announces a sale on those items. Even if you sell them at a deep discount, at least you’ve got something them….after all in a couple of days you’d likely have to dispose of them entirely. This is an example of a timely promotion…..one of many different kinds you can use to optimize sales at retail. Where does digital signage come in? Well that sign that announces that your produce is on sale can be even more powerful if it’s a rich digital promotion. If it’s done well a digital ad can be more engaging, more professional, and better for the environment.
3. Educate, educate, educate
We know that the retail environment is becoming more experiential. Increasingly, the goals of running an effective retail establishment extend beyond simply selling stuff. Today’s savvy retailers try to create a purchase destination that offers a range of value added services, or experiences that make for a more satisfactory feeling before, during and after the transaction. This is where an informative and educational digital sign comes in. A printed flyer or a well placed printed sign advertising mosquito repellent is ok…but it pales in comparison to a two minute video showing how mosquitos spread the Zika virus.
Now, If you were the manager of a pharmacy offering travel health services, which medium would you say is more effective? In educating the public on the risks to pregnant women while traveling in Central and South America? In selling mosquito repellant? The digital sign wins hands down as a selling tool, and oh, by the way, it’s more hygienic and less wasteful than that printed flyer.
One of the easier ways to boost sales using digital signage is to focus on increasing and expanding basket size. For instance, you may visit a car dealership with the simple intent of getting your car’s oil changed. If a digital sign reminds you that you should rotate your tires every 10,000 miles, or that it’s time to start thinking of putting on your winter tires, there’s a better chance you’re leaving that store having acquired more services and having spent more money than you had planned for originally.
The upsell is stock-in-trade of the retail industry. You know all those convenience items they like to place up by the checkout? They’re there to try to convince you to buy on impulse, just one more thing before you go. Well digital signs do that too and they do it very well, not just at the check-out counter….but everywhere you place them in the store. If you’re buying a stainless steel frying pan, don’t forget the stainless steel cleaner, if you’re buying new skates, don’t forget the fancy laces, if you’re buying some new electronics equipment did you know you can also buy the extended warranty? I think you get the picture.
As retailing becomes more technology-enriched and more globally accessible through Internet technologies, a whole new marketing landscape is starting to emerge. Progressive retailers who understand their role in the value chain stand to gain through this process.
Digital signage networks have gatekeepers, played by the party that is paying the bills, that owns title to the underlying technology platform that governs the flow of information across the network. The power of any given digital sigange network to influence purchase behaviour can be used as a currency by those who control it using the golden rule: (s)he who owns the network, makes the rules. This means the gatekeeper of a digital signage network is also in a position to monetize their screens by requiring some form of consideration from their partners in exchange for the privilege of gaining access to the audiences inside their store.
If it is your goal to maximize the revenue potential of participating in a digital signage network it pays to understand the supply and demand dynamics involved between and among the various kinds of participants. Firstly, it usually does pay to grow your network. The more screens you control the bigger the potential audience and this is what most marketers understand. Size and scale matters. Secondly, as more participants vie for a limited supply of advertising placement opportunities on hand, you will eventually see increases in the utilization and value of any network. Growing your roster of 3rd-party advertisers, convincing an advertiser to buy incrementally more placements, and to deepen their investment in the network by using it to promote an ever broader set of product categories, will naturally lead to higher network utilization rates. This will generate more ad dollars per venue and, as more of the available ad space is consumed, in turn it will lead to a scarcity of supply. If you have more demand for your limited supply of ad placement opportunities then you can satisfy, you may eventually be able to increase the price of those ad spots while maintaining full utilization. This is a straightforward supply and demand equation. The game is to build out your network, drive up demand for your ad spots, so much so that your ad partners will compete with one another and, over the long run, bid up the price of each new ad spot. In summary, increasing demand among 3rd-party advertisers leads to higher network utilization, and higher prices both of which translate directly to boost revenue.
Where the business opportunities inherent in building out an Internet of Screens are finite and scale up in a more or less linear fashion in proportion with the size of the physical network, the business opportunities involved in utilizing the network, governing the flow of advertising and content services, are virtually limitless. You only have to look at the evolution of the World Wide Web, by comparison, to see that even while the pace of growth of the physical network might eventually slow down, the pace of innovation within that network and the growth opportunities in content and communication services will continue to grow exponentially long after we’ll have said the Internet of Screens has arrived.
Share the video!
If reading a long blog entry is NOT your thing….here’s a succinct video that says it all.
I was recently asked to share a WiFi router recommendation for digital signage, so I thought I’d pass along the response to our blog.
My first thought was that the request like recommending a car to a new acquaintance. So many questions! (target price? driving style? climate? business or pleasure? urban/rural? passengers? gear? kids? pets? … ). There’s no end of room for debate, and no single right answer.
That said, most of our customers aren’t strangers and their needs are pretty simple. They’re small or medium sized businesses, not international airports or NFL stadiums. And although they’re businesses, they usually don’t have complex commercial demands like high scalability or VPN. They just need something reliable and fast for the digital signage in their lobby. A quality consumer router will likely do the job. If you’re that type of user, read on. (If you need higher security or scalability, take a look at business routers.)
The TP-LINK Archer-C7 is a good all-round WiFi router for about US$100.
In general, you’re looking for:
a WiFi router that supports the /a /b /g or /n WiFi standards. If you find a new router that has support for /ac – that’s fine. It just means it supports the latest and greatest standard – the router will still be compatible with the ScreenScape Connect.
reasonably high speeds (>100Mbps). A higher speed is important if you’re planning to stream video like YouTube, and less important if you’re not.
a WiFi router that’s equipped with dual band (2.4GHz and 5Ghz). The ScreenScape Connect supports both of those bands. You want this so you can get a strong signal to your device, even if your location is crowded with interference. The dual band option will help to find a quiet(er) frequency. Having a 5GHz option is like moving a conversation to a side room in a crowded bar – it’s much easier to communicate.
Recommendation: the Archer C7 WiFi router
With these points in mind, the TP-LINK Archer C7 is a good all-round router that sells for about US$100 at the time of this post. It’s what I use for my own network, and it’s good value for money. To continue the car analogy, the Archer C7 is like a Honda Accord V6 – reliable, decent power, good mileage at a great price.
You may also consider a simple range extender like the TP-LINK RE200, depending on the proximity of your router to your digital signage device. They’re inexpensive and it can’t hurt.
For more options, the New York Times recently offered a good article on consumer grade routers that you can read about here.