Thursday, October 27, 2005

VARs can profit from digital signage...

... at least according to this article at PC Magazine, anyway :) The last few lines of the article read:

Ben Leet, senior consultant at analyst firm Decision Tree Consulting, agreed that the digital signage market is poised for growth.

“The demand is definitely there but it hasn’t happened yet. This is mainly because digital signage is so complex and it addresses so many different verticals,” he said.

“The large AV specialists have been going after big deals, such as 10,000 units for a major supermarket, but there is also a lot of demand for small deals.

“There are plenty of opportunities in gyms and pubs. However, the smaller clients need an integrator that can pull together all of the different elements of a project.”

Ok, I'll be the first to agree that digital signage networks take a healthy amount of planning and work to set up, however I think it's wrong to say that any tech-savvy VAR can jump right in and expect profits. Digital signage networks require a wide range of business, finance, creative services, marketing and merchandising knowledge ON TOP of the tech, which you'll need to know cold in order to handle all of the display, network and transmission systems that exist today. Sorry for the rant, but I know that a lot of A/V VARs expect digital signage to be a natural extension of their existing services portfolio, and only after they find out about the other components of a successful network do they step back to think about it.

Play networks expands digital signage empire

Whita Bizjournals is carrying this article about PlayNetwork, a previously audio-only network provider to retailers, who is beginning to experiment with networked digital signage:

Since its founding nine years ago, PlayNetwork Inc. has provided customized music and some video content to retailers and restaurants. The Redmond-based company selects and provides music meant to encourage customers to linger longer and spend more at stores such as apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch and athletic footwear seller The Finish Line.

The company also sells audio-video systems to its customers, pulling in about 60 percent of its revenue through those sales.

Four months ago, PlayNetwork merged with video and digital signage company Crows Nest Entertainment of Seattle. With the new capabilities and customers added by the merger, PlayNetwork expects its video segment to be a major growth engine in the future.
Crow's Nest currently has a very large network of DVD-driven screens, and it is only a matter of time (and money) before they will have to convert those over to a connected network of some sort.

Minicom hardware powering Swedish bar and club digital signage network

Minicom audio/video hardware runs the digital signage system in Switzerland's 'Bars & Clubs Channel'

Switzerland's screenIMAGE uses Minicom hardware exclusively in its digital signage applications

Minicom Advanced Systems, a leading provider of audio/video distribution systems for the last mile in digital signage, revealed today that Switzerland's screenIMAGE uses Minicom hardware exclusively in its digital signage applications. screenIMAGE ( is one of the largest A/V integrators in Switzerland, and the only one to provide complete turnkey digital signage installations.

Christian Brantschen, one of the owners at screenIMAGE noted, 'Minicom met all of our audio and video requirements with a high level of service and prices which we were able to pay. Their products met our needs for flexibility, availability, and scalability. Minicom believed in our project since the beginning and supported us even without any existing order with evaluation systems, pre-sales support and local presence.'

The Bars & Clubs Channel project was so successful that screenIMAGE has since implemented Minicom video distribution solutions in additional digital signage projects.

You can read the full press release here.

Digital signage / digital retailing terms glossary online

Lisa Jachimowicz, the founder of the Digital Signage Forum, has written a nice glossary of some of the terms and acronyms that get used (and occasionally abused) in the digital signage / digital retailing industry. While I'm not sure I've heard the term RDS (retail digital signage) used that often, the rest of them are terms that come up every day, including POP, ROI, RFID and CPM. Don't know what any of those are? Well, you'd better go check out the article then!

Progressive Enterprises to roll out digital signage to entire chain

As reports in this article, New Zealand's largest supermarket chain will be rolling out digital signage to all of its 93 stores. This comes after a successful 6 month trial, and some positive research. More than a press release or company announcement, the article actually lays out some of the results of that research, including:

  • A discounted energy drink featured on the network experienced a 146 percent increase in sales at the 277 Foodtown store, compared with a 70 percent uplift of the same product in a comparable store with no screens.
  • A cereal advertised with a special offer on the pack saw sales increase 224 per cent at the store showing digital signage, compared with a 32 per cent increase at a control store.

Obviously, numbers like that make it a bit easier to secure advertisers for the network. To read the rest of the results, check out the article at the above link. You'll need to register with aka (free) if you haven't already.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Carrefour deploys instore TV network

As AV Interactive reports on Carrefour's foray (sorry for the alliteration) into digital signage:

Europe-wide retail group Carrefour has launched an in-house TV pilot in its Dietlikon hypermarket near Zurich.

The Carrefour Live project will offer shoppers hourly-updated local news and weather forecasts and will also screen Carrefour promotions and advertising. The ad-funded project is being developed by Swiss digital signage group Neo Advertising, which claims to be able to get breaking news on to the Carrefour screens before any other media runs it.

‘Carrefour has realised that retail is in itself the future mass media and that digital screens are the posters of tomorrow’, says Neo co-founder Christian Vaglio-Giors. ‘The idea rests on the size, number and quality of the LCD screens and the online broadcasts from our Lausanne control room’.

‘Our customers have reacted extremely positively’, says Carrefour communications manager Franck Linstrumelle. ‘If they continue to do so, all our hypermarkets will be equipped with similar screens’.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Focus Media acquires outdoor ad firm

Chinese digital signage megapower Focus Media is on a tear buying up companies in the region with the cash acquired from their IPO (or their profitable digital signage network, of course :) As this article notes:

Focus Media Holdings Limited, which owns and operates one of the largest digital-signage advertising networks in China, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Infoachieve Limited, a BVI incorporated company, whose 100 percent-owned subsidiary Shanghai Framedia Advertising Development Ltd (“Framedia”) claims to be the largest community advertising network in China.
Under the agreement, Focus Media will acquire a 100 percent equity stake in Framedia for US$39.6 million in cash and US$55.4 million in the form of Focus Media common stock and an additional potential future payment of up to US$88.0 million in Focus Media common stock (valued at US$24.56 per ADR) contingent upon Framedia meeting certain earning target in 2006, for an aggregate potential payment of up to US$183.0 million. The acquisition is expected to close by the end of 2005 and to be accretive to Focus Media’s earnings per share in 2006, according to the company's announcement of the deal.

Norway's ProntoTV digital signage service set to expand

From this article over at

Norwegian network operator ProntoTV is to establish an in-store TV service for Reitan Service Handel (RSH).

The Reitan Group is one of Scandinavia’s leading franchise-based retail operators, managing more than 1900 outlets including REMA-1000, Narvesen, 7-Eleven and PressbyrĂ„n stores in five countries, with an annual turnover of NOK28.4bn (US$4.38bn).

The digital signage systems will be deployed to several hundred sites across Scandanavia where they will be used to provide product information and offer advertising opportunities to product manufacturers and suppliers.

Digital signage industry pundits announce Screen Expo Europe tradeshow

As The Retail Bulletin notes (in this article): Screen Expo Europe is for everyone operating and or interested in digital signage and the digital media network arena! Screen Expo Europe has been carefully designed to benefit all parties needed to make indoor and outdoor digital media networks happen.

The show will include coverage on:

  • Digital media content creation and management
  • Advertising, media planning and sales, media owners and network operators
  • Digital media application design incorporating POP and interactive kiosks
  • Display hardware and digital media technology solutions
  • Content management & distribution software and communications platforms
  • Trade associations and networking bodies
  • Consumer research and data feedback
Given the quick rise of digital signage oriented shows in the US, it's not surprising to see this sort of thing coming out of Europe, where consumers and retailers alike seem to be on the forefront of digital retailing technology.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Digital signage standards are coming our way

As Broadcast Engineering reports:

The first draft of industry standards for digital signage is slated for release to the broad signage marketplace this month. These initial standards — non-technical definitions of common industry terminology and processes — were developed by the Digital Signage Standards Working Group, one of five Digital Signage Group committees formed early this year by the not-for-profit Point-of-Purchase Advertising International (POPAI) organization.

Non-technical nomenclature standards were deemed the most appropriate starting point because they will help establish a common lingo for the other digital signage groups at POPAI – and for the maturing signage industry at large – according to Matt Nelson, director of strategic business at Avocent, who was recently named chairman of the standards working group. His committee, which meets via conference call every two weeks, is charged with fostering both non-technical and technical standards to enable compatibility and interoperability among digital signage technologies and signage-related business processes.

I'm extremely curious to see what name they've decided to settle on. I still like digital signage (DS) the best, but print signage folk seem to prefer electronic digital signage (EDS), and the Brits seem to love captive audience networks (CANs), although I know that UK firm Avanti ScreenMedia has been flogging the term screenmedia a lot (can't imagine why). Visit POPAIs site for additional information about the digital signage working groups, and the rest of the Broadcast Engineering article can be found here.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Digital paper may become a reality soon

The applications of digital paper would by myriad (digital signage not the least of them), but this article focuses on one newspaper's goal to make their flexible e-paper a reality by as early as 2007. Advertisers are probably salivating over this, though I'd have to imagine there would be a certain amount of reader backlash after the third or fourth page of blinking, moving, flashing ads harassing you as you try to read the sports section. Still, it looks pretty cool, as illustrated by this clip:

Siemens spokesman Norbert Aschenbrenner claimed the new screens, which are literally paper thin, can do everything a regular TV screen or computer monitor can do, but cost a fraction of the price.

"The technology makes it possible to put moving images directly onto paper ... at a cost that would make it economical to use on everything from magazines to cigarette packets ... where the moving images would give more detailed instructions than any photo could ever do," he said.

He said that the technology will be used for Harry Potter-style dynamic pictures in newspapers but will probably take a little while to get cheap enough."We think that at the moment the screens will appear first in more expensive magazines in the form of high-impact adverts. But as the price sinks we expect them to appear in papers as well, possibly as a really attention-grabbing front page."

The images are in colour, and can broadcast anything that can be shown on a regular flat screen monitor or TV, although with a slightly lower quality. These could be short film clips or flash animations like those found on the internet.

The company believes there will also be a market for using them for simple computer games which could be printed on the side of a package or given away free in magazines.

The Siemens spokesman said that one square metre of the material costs around £30, and scientists working on the screens said they should be available by 2007.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Ex 24/7 Media Asia CEO predicts the age of digital signage

Christian Liu, former CEO of media buying company 24/7 Media Asia, predicts that good things are in store (no pun intended) for the digital signage industry:

Studies indicate that digital signage boosts sales of new products advertised in-store by 30%-300%, increases revenue by more than 30% of profiled products, and receives 10 times the eye contact of static signage. This is very good news for retailers.

Retailers and other service sector businesses are increasingly beginning to view digital signage as a viable means to advertise their brand and their wares more effectively and to further improve the contact with their customers outside of their homes or cars, closer to the physical location of the point-of-sale.

Reasonably priced, large plasma screens are not only applicable for the new generation of HDTV home televisions; they are starting to impact the operations of department stores, large retail outlets, sports arenas, schools, airports, and business organizations far and wide. Digital signage is a sexy hot new growth industry, allowing companies to put relevant, informative programming, entertaining and eye-catching marketing information in front of hundreds of thousands of customers at a very low incremental cost.
He actually expounds on this theme quite a bit, pointing out his short list of benefits of the technology, as well as briefly explaining some of the applications in use (including digital menu boards, narrowcast networks, etc.). He ends with this conclusion:
It's important and crucial to plan each aspect carefully in the deployment of digital signage network. Digital signage is changing the face of advertising and emerges as the next killer application. It will revolutionize the way your organization communicates with your customers, increasing revenue opportunities well beyond the expenses involved.
It's a good read; I suggest you go check it out!

Verite and Helius partner to provide digital signage solutions

This press release from satellite service provider Helius tells us that
digital communications agency Verite and Helius announced a strategic partnership to offer full service digital signage solutions for retail, corporate and distance learning applications. Verite will add technology to its digital communications production design and eTools(TM) offerings allowing it to interact with Helius MediaGate technology. From the PR:

"This partnership is very strategic due to Verite's 12-year history in digital communications and Helius's experience in delivering cost-effective solutions for content delivery, says Kimberley Jones, CEO of Verite. 'The relationship allows Verite to provide complete digital signage solutions -- from content strategy and production to networked display systems.'

"According to Jones Verite is proud to be a member of the Helius Strategic Alliance Program and have partnered with Helius Inc, a proven leader and innovator in high-tech content delivery solutions. As a Helius partner, Verite can integrate its high-impact messaging with Helius' proven high-tech delivery systems to bring companies a complete digital signage or training solution that is not only more innovative and effective, but much less expensive than traditional means."

Digital signage firm StrandVision wins the 2005 Create Your Own Business competition

I'm not really sure where Eau Claire Wisconsin is, but apparently they have an Area Economic Development Corporation (EDC), and further, apparently said EDC likes to give away an annual prize to startup companies in the area (which makes sense, considering that startups can bring jobs, outside investment and prestige to a city).

This year's winner was digital signage startup StrandVision (formerly something like From their press release:

"The $10,000 award recognizes the strength of founder and CEO Mike Strand’s vision and StrandVision’s market potential. StrandVision is Strand’s second major business venture. He was one of the early recipients of the Business Plan Competition when he received the award in 1989 for StrandWare Inc., which he subsequently built into a leadership position in the bar code software industry and ultimately sold to Brady Corporation of Milwaukee.

"'It's great to get support from the Eau Claire Area EDC,' said [company founder Mike] Strand. 'Its investment in 1989 was a major milestone in StrandWare's development. This time, we’re planning to build a worldwide digital signage business right here in Chippewa Valley. It's terrific to be able to grow another high-tech company in Eau Claire where I live with my family. We are looking forward to working with the many local businesses that can use our products and services. We didn't have that opportunity much with StrandWare.'"

Digital signage company Symon acquired by Golden Gate Capital

Digital signage software provider Symon communications has announced that it is being acquired for an undisclosed sum by private equity fund Golden Gate Capital, who, according to their blurb, are:

"a San Francisco-based private equity investment firm with approximately $2.6 billion of capital under management. Golden Gate is dedicated to partnering with world-class management teams to invest in change-intensive, growth businesses. The firm targets investments of up to $200m in situations where there is a demonstrable opportunity to significantly enhance a company's value. The principals of Golden Gate have a long and successful history of investing with management partners across a wide range of industries and transaction types, including leverage buyouts, recapitalizations, corporate divestitures and spin-offs, build-ups and venture stage investing."
Symon acquired its digital signage technology from Target Vision a few years ago, but hasn't garnered any major wins, instead focusing largely on corporate communications. It will be interesting to see how a cash infusion and potentially new management will affect their performance in the near term.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Deloitte ranks digital signage firm PlayNetwork on Washington state Technology Fast 50

PlayNetwork Inc. announced today that for the third year in a row it has earned a place in the top ranks of Deloitte's prestigious Technology Fast 50 Program for Washington State. PlayNetwork was named Tuesday by Deloitte & Touche LLP as the 17th fastest-growing technology company in the state with its growth rate of 476 percent during a five-year span from 2000 to 2004.

Technology Fast 50 companies must have had operating revenues of at least $50,000 in 2000 and $1,000,000 in 2004, be headquartered in Washington, and be a "technology company," defined as a company that owns proprietary technology that contributes to a significant portion of the company's operating revenues; or devotes a significant proportion of revenues to the research and development of technology. PlayNetwork, with its proprietary media management system and professional support services, provides high-profile retailers and restaurants with customized media (music, messaging, digital signage and other media) services to enhance their stores with a branded customer experience.
This is especially impressive when you consider that all of the digital signage network owner's sites rely on the manual changing of DVDs every month (for their video narrowcasting networks, anyway. I don't know how they handle their audio-only networks). Quite a logistics operation. You can find out more about their award here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Wal-Mart adds checkout TV to in-store network

DSN Retailing Today notes that:

Wal-Mart is expanding its in-store TV network with Checkout TV, a network of flat screen monitors in checkout lanes meant to "entertain and inform."

Checkout TV will be added to the Wal-Mart TV network starting with eight market areas this year.

The content on Checkout TV is complementary but distinct from content aired on Wal-Mart TV in other areas of the store. Programming at checkout is designed to entertain shoppers as well as inform them about new products and products that are available near the checkout stand. The network will also include local programming and information. A ticker will provide news and weather updates.

Avanti analyzes the digital signage industry

British digital signage company Avanti Screenmedia says a number of things in their latest research on the industry, including their argument for while the medium should be called "screenmedia" (because, yeah, another name is exactly what we need ;)

Still, as notes, they have some interesting points to make, and as one of the most successful digital signage firms in the U.K. For example:

"Avanti found a high level of commitment to the medium among media buyers, for example, with 77 percent of those it consulted through a questionnaire stating that they expect to buy screenmedia airtime in the future. Among those handling young-adult brands, slightly more – 85 percent – expected to use screenmedia.

"In terms of different location types, the buyers said that bars were well understood and researched, and that it was also well understood how screenmedia could add value in retail. Malls and gyms scored far lower, although almost half of media buyers expected to buy gym airtime in the future.

The rest of the article is a good read, as I'm sure is the report itself, though I don't think it's in wide circulation just yet.

Coming soon to a bar near you: digital signage holograms

As reported in the Retail Bulletin:

"A new advertising medium, ColoHolo, which is a three-dimensional full-colour hologram, will now appear in approximately 40 Punch Tavern pubs across the greater London area and Central Region, offering advertisers a new and interactive way to reach pub goers.

"In this unique venture, ColourHolographic, the company that created these holograms and Punch Tavern Pubs, who owns 8,400 pubs throughout the UK, will offer two holographic sites at each participating pub for advertising space rental...

"Unlike wall posters or banners promoting the latest beer special, ColoHolo can include movement. By integrating 70 frames of video per hologram, each ColoHolo can show up to three seconds of film footage."
Three seconds isn't very much, but in reality the entire purpose of these devices is to catch the eye, not to necessarily make a long-winded brand argument :)

New Digital Signage directory released

ActiveLight has once again updated its quarterly digital signage directory full of vendors and suppliers to the industry. WireSpring is of course listed under digital signage software, content management, and source controllers (which is probably what I would call a digital signage player). You can download your copy here.