Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ingram Micro digital signage program grows

From this article at CRN:

Ingram Micro said 60 to 70 solution providers have joined its new digital signage group, and it expects triple-digit sales gains in that market over the coming year.

The Santa Ana, Calif.-based distributor launched the Digital Signage Practice Group at a recent VentureTech meeting. As with other distributors, the company has been dabbling in the digital signage solutions over the past two years, and in April it added a key ingredient by bringing 3M Digital Signage's applications onto its line card, according to Kevin Prewett, vice president of vendor management at Ingram Micro.
Wow, 60-70 vendors is a pretty serious reseller network, and may come to rival Scala's well-known and formidable reseller network. Considering how recently Ingram started this program, it's apparent that there are still many vendors who would like to be able to offer a digital signage solution of some sort. However, I'd also be willing to bet that the vast majority of sales from this network will be of 3M's lower-end products, and for very small networks (say less than 10 screens). Still, add it all up, subtract the cost of supporting a gazillion tiny networks, and you might just be able to eek out a profit. Maybe.

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Making an emotional appeal with in-store media

Note: I've cross-posted this to the In-Store and Retail Media News blog, since the subscriberships seem to be somewhat different (and unrelated).

Institutions spend too much time focusing on the science of shopping, rather than the art of shopping. So says The Integer Group's Meg Kinney in her article "The Art of Shopping," featured in the November/December issue of HUB Magazine. While that sentence might not appear to make a lot of sense on the surface (since when is shopping an art or a science, anyhow?), Kinney looks at the growing number of retailers who are focusing on ways to enhance the in-store experience, and comes to some interesting conclusions about what needs to be done to bring in-store media up to snuff in today's experiential retail environment.... Read the full article: Making an emotional appeal with in-store media

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Wireless Ronin somehow completes IPO

I don't know who first said that there's a sucker born every minute, but apparently there are still a whole bunch of them around, and they've learned how to invest in the stock market. That's right, Wireless Ronin completed an IPO, as the guys at the sixteen:nine weblog were sharp enough to notice. I still stand by my original ramblings on the matter: $3 going out for every $1 earned does not a good business model make.

Stock symbol (for your enjoyment): RNIN

Links to the rest of the posts in this saga:
Wireless Ronin updates SEC filings in preparation for going public via IPO
Digital signage company Wireless Ronin getting ready for a mini-IPO?

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Impart Media Group Releases Web Portal Content

This is kind of interesting, depending on how they actually expect to sell it:

Impart(TM) Media Group, Inc. announced today the formal release of Impart IQ Streams(TM), an easy-to-use, web portal media source and library of premiere infotainment content for digital signage and interactive kiosks networks or applications. As of the launch today, Impart IQ Streams(TM) delivers sports, news, finance, entertainment, music, and weather in motion video, still graphic, flash animation, text, or IPTV formats to media players or to virtually any device via open standard, XML protocols.
Theoretically, that could mean that Impart would sell content to networks that they don't operate or manage, or that the content could appear on devices totally unlike the digital signage systems that are currently their focus. While there are relatively few good (and accessible) sources of content out there for syndication, I don't know if I'm totally comfortable with having a competitor sitting so close to my deals. On the other hand, we know that Impart has been looking for other business to bolster their financials, so it could be a legitimate attempt to enter another portion of the market in a non-competitive way.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

SeeSaw networks raises $10M

According to this press release on their website, digital signage advertising network company SeeSaw Networks has just closeda deal for $10M of Series A financing with Sutter Hill Ventures. The company has a pretty neat advertising system that allows digital signage network owners (or their technology providers, presumably), to band together so that many smaller networks in disparate locations have the clout and ad buying power of a much larger, more homogeneous network.

Similar to what I proposed Google ought to do for digital signage after their acquisition of YouTube, the firm's software lets network owners tag each screen/network with certain target demographic information. Then, advertisers and content producers upload and tag content similarly. Some magic in the background (whether manual or automated) then matches the content to the screens, deploys it, and records views, thus giving network owners a revenue stream and media buyers/planners a homogenous interface to what could otherwise be many smaller networks.

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Channel M acquires ScreenPlay

According to this MediaPost article, digital signage network owner Channel M has acquired content producer ScreenPlay. Under the arrangement, ScreenPlay will be the exclusive content provider to Channel M, and since there's little overlap of the two firm's capabilities and clients, nobody is expected to lose their job (the total head count is expected to be around 60).

Acquiring a content creation house to bolster your internal ad sales or network deployment skills seems to be something of a trend now, though to their credit the folks at ScreenPlay have been involved in a number of digital signage projects over the years as well. While being owned by a network might limit ScreenPlay's ability to attract other (potentially competing) digital signage clients, it may also be that the additional expertise they gain gives them an advantage in the marketplace. As for Channel M, they must feel that it will be somehow cheaper or better to pay another 30 people than keep outsourcing their content production.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

New products for out-of-home AV

Just a quick note: Pro AV Magazine has its November products list out, including a number of items that could make your next digital signage project much easier. Things like projectors, signal extenders, video scalers and other hardware bits and pieces are featured.

Link: Pro AV products

Tags: AV, digital signage, professional display systems

Clear Channel invests in outdoor digital signage

According to this article at Media Post (free subscription required):

CLEAR CHANNEL OUTDOOR IS EXPANDING its digital signage network with a number of new installations in the cities of Tampa, Florida, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the company announced today. In Tampa, three new digital billboards are going live ahead of a planned total of nine for that city's network. In Milwaukee, Clear Channel is bowing six new digital signs.

Measuring 14 by 48 feet, the new signs are standard LED billboards capable of displaying multiple messages, and all are located near heavily trafficked roadways. Segmenting commuter traffic into "day parts" could allow Clear Channel to charge a premium for periods that see heavy commuter traffic--a strategy that Randall Mays, the president and CEO of parent company Clear Channel Communications, has described in public statements.
We typically prefer to call these large outdoor displays digital billboards or electronic billboards, reserving digital signage for smaller indoor applications, but perhaps that's just because of our particular focus on the market.  The article also notes that aside from promoting the viability of the business model Clear Channel is also looking carefully at the technology powering it (unlike traditional media, who, as Paul Meyer, the CEO of Clear Channel Outdoor's global operations says, tend to view tech more as foe than friend).

[ UPDATE 11/16/2006 ] ClearChannel was just purchased by a couple of private equity firms, probably because they want to try some things (perhaps digital signage included) that could have enormous long-term gains, but stock price-killing short-term costs.

Past articles about Clear Channel include:
Clear Channel Outdoor tries out digital billboards in Albuquerque
ClearChannel to try out mall digital signage
Manhattan digital signage network shows sponsored artwork

Tags: Clear Channel, digital signage, electronic billboards, digital billboards, outdoor advertising

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Digital signage: coming to a sidewalk near you?

OLED, LCoS, LEP, PDP and other acronyms have been all the rage in digital display devices these past few years, but a new innovation could bring light emitting, moving images to the concrete beneath our feet, according to this article at Innovation Lab..

As you can see from the video, a projector shines a beam of light into a small diffuser device underneath a large brick of concrete, which sends light to individual glass or poly fibers embedded into the concrete itself, giving you a large, flat (somewhat grainy) screen that's presumably quite durable since all of the breakable parts are underneath.

I've seen a very rudimentary version of this at Epcot in Disney World, where fiber optics embedded in the ground change color as you walk past, but I haven't seen anything that actually displays a moving image.

While commercialization of the technology is probably still a ways out, you can no doubt think of the potential applications :)

Tags: digital signage, out-of-home advertising, electronic signs, electronic billboards

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hughes satellite guys talk up digital signage at Chain Store Age

Chain Store Age is carrying a commentary article by Ken Cohen and Tim Tang of satellite company Hughes. Much of the article is a plug for satellite content distribution, but among the usual banter about the market and the possibilities it presents are these important words of wisdom about utilizing the network to its fullest potential:

[R]egardless of whether you choose to create an in-house team to manage your RDS network or outsource all or portions of the network, create a defined system for measurement. In an ideal world, your RDS network will connect with your sales operations to link messaging to revenue (though this linkage is not yet seamless from a technology perspective). For example, you may want to know how many cans or bottles of a particular soda one store sold in the 15 minutes after running an ad for that brand. You may also look at customer attitudes towards brands through focus groups and surveys. The value of your RDS network will increase with your ability to demonstrate ROI.
The topics of retail media measurement and calculating digital signage ROI are close to my heart, so I'm always happy to see others proselytizing them when talking about network planning and management.

Tags: Hughes, digital signage, network management, content distribution, retail media, advertising

ProAV looks at some pie-in-the-sky technologies

There's no shortage of new technologies coming out that promise to make things faster, better and cheaper for people navigating airports, shopping malls and retail stores, and Pro AV is taking bets on which will be brought to market (in a big way). From super-cool new technologies like Memory Spots and carbon nanotubes to stodgy, boring (but important) Gigabit Ethernet, this article examines what each technology will mean for us 3-5 years out. Even RFID, that solution looking for a problem, makes the list, though I still maintain that RFID technology won't be adopted or used in any meaningful way until retailers can find some way to make it benefit their customers.

I think my favorite item from the list is definitely HP's teeny-tiny memory spots, which can hold a very large amount of information and transmit it to a reader device very quickly. As the article notes, this tech has some key advantages over RFID and other current-generation systems:

Unlike Bluetooth and RFID, Memory Spots are designed to be read from a distance of about 1 mm. That’s largely because the spots don’t have a power source. Instead, the information transfer is powered entirely by the device that’s reading them. For AV applications, installing the spots should be as simple as peel and stick rather than providing them with a power source. A side benefit of this short read range is security because an eavesdropper would have to be so close that it could arouse suspicion. “For a lot of applications, people worry about things that you can read from 10 feet away,” Taub says.
Programmable memory spots could someday be attached to kiosks or digital signs and used to beam a new CD single or music video to your spot-enabled cellphone or PDA, or even embedded into price tags to let shoppers download product information, recipes, etc. (with video and audio tracks).

Tags: RFID, digital signage, in-store media, retail media, Memory Spots

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Getting your digital signage network right the first time

Extended Retail Solutions recently interviewed POPAI CEO Dick Blatt on the status of at-retail media, and specifically the performance of POPAI's Digital Group, whose focus is on digital signage and other forms of retail digital media. ERS and Blatt touch on technology, content, and changing the perception of retail media in general, but Blatt is careful to mention (multiple times) that the keys to growth in the industry are creating a unified measurement system for retail signage, and getting media buyers and planners to be more comfortable with the medium.

As for the other points in the interview, Alexander Wiethoff at the NEXT Retail Experience has a great summary list. Here are his bullets (read his post for the insightful commentary :)

  1. Content is king.
  2. Make the network lively.
  3. Local buy-in is critical.
  4. In-store location is key.
  5. Make sure it's easy to update
  6. Closed loop systems are key.
  7. Don’t rely on SneakerNet.
  8. Employee oriented content is a powerful sales tool.
  9. Sell signage like end caps.
  10. Take advantage of low-cost, high-performance PCs.
  11. Make sure the platform you pick is scalable.
Other articles on POPAI include:
ISMI works on in-store media measurement
POPAI study to measure in-store ads - even without Wal-Mart, P&G
POPAI ponders digital signage standards
In-store TV ads pay off with sales
Digital signage standards are coming our way
POPAI and Other Trade Groups Pursue Digital Retailing Initiatives

Tags: POPAI, digital signage, retail media network, remote management, content management, in-store TV

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

ipSigns says: WireSpring's 3-year digital signage budget estimate too low

Last week on our digital signage and interactive kiosk journal, I published an article called "An updated budget for digital signage and in-store TV systems" which updated an even older article from 2004 in which we attempted to figure out a rough budget for an average digital signage deployment. This being a somewhat touchy subject (and rightly so -- it's hard to figure out an "average" anything in this industry!), Terry Scannell from ipSigns took it upon himself to revise the estimate based on his firm's experiences in the area. His commentary was picked up in this article by, and among other things notes some differences in how to account for various consulting fees, project management fees, network management fees, and the like.

His takeaway: our estimate of $8,250 to deploy and manage a single screen for 3 years is too low, by over $2,000. I think there's some confusion that needs to be addressed and some qualifications that need to be given here, so stay tuned for an update to the update of the budgeting article!

[UPDATE: 11/13/06] - I've written a more in-depth response to the commentary on budgeting for a digital signage project over at the WireSpring weblog.

Tags: digital signage, retail media, in-store tv, retail tv

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wireless Ronin updates SEC filings in preparation for going public via IPO

As we noted a few months ago, digital signage company Wireless Ronin wants to go public, and despite the seemingly impossible math, they seem to be making some progress. I noticed yesterday that they just updated their filings with the SEC, which gives us some insight into how they burn cash, and what they want to do with the $25M that they're trying to raise from their IPO. I'm not a lawyer, I'm not an accountant, and I'm not really qualified to do any kind of thorough financial review of a private company preparing for an IPO, so please take the rudimentary analysis below as my personal opinion and speculation, and nothing else.

First, here's Wireless Ronin's cash flow statement for the past few years:

Nine Months Ended

Year Ended

Year Ended

December 31,

December 31,

September 30,

September 30,






Cash flows used in investing activities

Purchases of property and equipment

(272,114 )

(257,634 )

(280,311 )

(218,779 )

Net cash used in investing activities

(272,114 )

(257,634 )

(280,311 )

(218,779 )
Cash flows provided by financing activities

Net proceeds from bank lines of credit and short-term notes payable




(150,000 )

Payment for deferred financing costs

(100,000 )

(864,509 )

(100,000 )

Payment for prepaid offering costs

(354,973 )

Net proceeds from short-term notes payable — related parties




Proceeds from long-term notes payable



Proceeds from long-term notes payable — related parties




Payments on long-term notes payable

(1,023,069 )

(372,653 )

(657,336 )

(748,787 )

Proceeds from issuance of common stock and equity units



Net cash provided by financing activities









Cash and cash equivalents at beginning of period





Cash and cash equivalents at end of period

$ 134,587

$ 99,644

$ 357,317

$ 394,167

There's a healthy $4.8M draw from their credit lines during the first 9 months of 2006, but otherwise this is pretty uninteresting. Now let's have a look at the income statement:


Nine Months Ended

Years Ended December 31,

September 30,





Statement of Operations Data


$ 710,216

$ 1,073,990

$ 1,917,414

$ 542,455

Cost of revenue(1)





Selling, general and administrative





Research and development expenses





Other expenses





Net loss

(4,789,925 )

(3,339,370 )

(6,318,285 )

(3,316,209 )

Loss per common share

$ (7.18 )
$ (6.87 )
$ (7.79 )
$ (5.18 )

Weighted average basic and diluted shares outstanding





Hmm, that's a bit more of a problem. In 2006 for every $1 that came in, a bit more than $4 went out, for a net loss of $3 for every dollar of revenues. A big portion of these expenses, at least in 2006, is the $3M they paid in interest, but I guess that's what it costs to have a gigantic line of credit. Perhaps they've been forced to go the equity route because they simply can't stomach paying this type of interest anymore.

All considered, I'm not sure how sustainable this kind of operating model is, though according to their use of funds, most of it went to G&A and marketing expenses, and not hardware R&D and inventory, as I would have guessed. In fact, we can see here that those big booths at tradeshows must be costing them a pretty penny, while their hardware/software solution is a more modest expense in terms of programming and maintenance (or they haven't spent that much on it of late):

Nine Months Ended

September 30








Cost of Sales




Gross Profit



Sales and marketing expenses



Research and development expenses



General and administrative expenses




Operating expenses




Operating loss

(3,012,307 )

(2,661,284 )

(351,023 )
Other income (expenses):

Interest expense

(3,316,774 )

(674,108 )


Interest income



(7,504 )





(3,305,978 )

(654,925 )


Net loss

$ (6,318,285 )
$ (3,316,209 )
$ (3,002,076 )

The authors of the documents also offer these notes:
Our sales increased for the first nine months of 2006 when compared to the first nine months of 2005 by $1,374,959. Included in 2006 was $236,658 of previously deferred revenue from a terminated alliance, $500,000 from deferred revenue from a strategic partnership, and almost $1,200,000 from new billing. The continued increase in sales focus and the closing of prospects from our backlog were the primary reasons for the increase. We expect continued increases as our sales organization continues to mature and our products gain market acceptance.

Cost of Sales
Cost of sales for the first nine months of 2006 was $765,264, compared to $394,583 for the comparable 2005 period. The cost of sales increase is due to increased revenues. After deducting deferred revenue from the terminated alliance and the strategic relationship, the cost of sales increased proportionately to the sales increase, with our gross profit being 35% for the first nine months of 2006.
Operating Expenses
Operating expenses for the first nine months of 2006 were $4,164,457 compared to $2,809,156 for the comparable period of 2005. The increase amounted to $1,355,301.
There's a huge amount of additional data in the filings themselves, so if you're interested, I suggest you check them out.

Here's my take on things: Wireless Ronin has spent millions of dollars producing and marketing a product that, by WireSpring's last estimate, is one of about 270 substantially similar competitive offerings available in the marketplace. Nearly all of the competing products can claim some kind of competitive advantage, and in my daily/weekly/monthly customer encounters I rarely come across Wireless Ronin as a competitor. Perhaps they're targeting a different niche than we are, but the lack of visibility is interesting nonetheless.

The company is trying to raise around $20M in the IPO, and the document indicates that the firm values itself at around $45M after the money. Thus, that suggests they've valued themselves at about $25M before the money, which is around 12X sales (and an infinite multiple of profits, since the company has lost money every year it has been in business).

My personal (and obviously NOT impartial) opinion is that this would not be a wise investment to make unless you were very rich and needed some excitement and volatility in your portfolio. There's simply too much competition in what is really an unproven marketplace, and the company seems to burn through cash at a pace that will be very hard to support without regular, ongoing offerings of stock that will dilute shareholders' ownership at a rapid pace.

2006-11-06 UPDATE: Digital View's Dave Haynes seems to feel the same way as I do about this deal, according to this recent post on his sixteen:nine weblog.

2006-11-30 UPDATE: Wireless Ronin somhow managed to successfully complete their IPO. Thanks again to Dave at sixteen:nine for picking this up!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

New vending machines combine the best of interactive kiosks, digital signs

I wasn't sure whether to post this article here or over at the interactive kiosk news blog, but a number of vending machine manufacturers are experimenting with interactive touch screen displays, large digital signs, or both in an effort to make the lowly vending machine (perhaps the most profitable of all self-service devices) a little more 21st century. As this article at AMonline tells us:

[V]ending companies are beginning to consider machine-hosted video screens to advertise on-board products as well as generate additional revenue from external product offerings.

One supplier is testing small screen placement above the machine's payment mechanism, another supports a larger screen across the top portion of the machine, a third experiments with linking wall-hung screens with an on-board display, while yet another focuses on implementing touch screen applications.

Goals of the new technology range from offering additional product lines other than those carried in the machine to influencing buyers at the point of sale with advertising messages. Also, the article notes that the computers that would provide these new services can also be used to provide 2-way monitoring of the vending machines themselves, which is still fairly uncommon.

All in all, the article is quite a thorough review of what's new in the vending world, so I recommend you check it out!

Past articles on digital vending machines include:
The Automat makes a comeback
USA Technologies Points to Intelligent Vending® Success at NAMA
Sony to sell gadgets from kiosk
USA Technologies introduces cashless vending options

Tags: vending machines, kiosks, digital signage, remote management

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Captivate Network reaches 400,000 Canadians a day

Normally I would say "people," not "Canadians," but Captivate is making the distinction here, not me :) As they note in this press release:

Captivate Network, the digital at-work news and entertainment network, today announced the addition of its 100th building in Toronto, making the city the second largest building total in Captivate's North American network, after New York City. This growth brings Captivate's Canadian audience to over 400,000 daily, unique viewers. This is greater than the circulation of many traditional media outlets, such as the Globe and Mail.
Claiming 20% growth in Canada over the past 12 months, Captivate says that their increased audience size makes it easier to attract advertisers, as does their 97% viewer approval rating (whatever that is).

However you want to slice it, the Captivate Network has done well since having been acquired by Gannett a while back. The capital has allowed them to place over 7,000 screens in major office buildings in the US and Canada. This is one of those cases where the acquisition really did help the acquired company attain their original vision while still being a benefit to the parent company.

Past articles about Captivate Network include:
Captivate Capitalizes on Captive Audience
Captivate boasts 2000000 digital signs?!

Tags: Capivate Networks, digital signage, elevator signage, business signage, out-of-home advertising