Content as a Service (CaaS)

Posted by on Jul 2, 2011 in DOOH

As the market prices for digital media ease to a truceful middle-ground and off the price-warring battleground, we will see the cost of digital signage shift to content creation. Mark my words: content creation services will own the lionshare of regular maintenance of most signage displays. Those of us sick of catch phrases like “content is king,” “measurement is queen,” and “software-as-a-service” will probably side with me in the assumption that we need another industry catch-phrase like we need another hole in the head. However, there will be a phrase that you will most likely come across at a future date which will not surprise you: Content-as-a-Service.

What is Content-as-a-Service?

Much like software-as-a-service (SaaS), content-as-a-service (CaaS) gives ongoing support and regular maintenance of display content. And, much like a digital sign hosting, CaaS gives a company peace of mind. This is partly due to the fact that a network admin now becomes hands-off on content creation. I am a very big proponent of continual learning and education, but I’m also a very big stickler when it comes to core competency. Unless the signage network has planned for a regular content creator anda  regulator is assigned, these duties must be outsourced to a third party company, especially in the event that no real good content creators are available on-site.

Why CaaS?

There are other reasons for providing a CaaS model for dynamic graphics.

1. Good content takes work. And good work takes time–even more time if you are not efficient and do not know what you’re doing.

2. You can’t simply rip-off broadcasted content from a TV tuner and repurpose it.

3. Give credit where credit is due. Give the creative work to the creatives. I can fumble through the Adobe programs to create content, but there are people who go to school for this stuff and love it. I, most unfortunately, do not have such a passion for content. In short, CaaS simplifies life

4. Content in digital signage is a niche, presently untapped because growth still remains.

In one of the many blogs I follow, an interesting thing was stated last week:

It could be due to an underlying change in the market, or a section of the market you hadn’t previously noticed is now revealing itself. Many people remain blind to such opportunities, even when, like Macys, it is staring them in the face.

We must always be on the lookout for these unexpected successes on the periphery of what we do.

The original IBM computers were scientific instruments meant for arcane academic research purposes. However, businesses started to buy computers for more mundane, everyday functions, like payroll. IBM reoriented their company around business machines, and the rest is history. Had IBM not tuned into what was working, rather than what their business plan said should be working, they probably wouldn’t be here today.

The same thing happened with search. Search wasn’t working as a business, even after Google was underway, until Google saw the massive opportunity presented by that much maligned, preposterous idea – pay per click – devised by Pay-per-click was working, in a business sense, in that it was a search function that delivered revenue. Google thought they were building a search engine. Remember the search appliance? Google reoriented and built the ultimate marketing machine instead.

Tapping the heretofore “blind opportunities” is what content creators can find in digital signage. At present it’s a seemingly blue ocean of love and glory.

Who Provides CaaS?

We get fairly regular phone calls from content creation companies looking to partner and provide content on displays. There is a veritable litany of providers of all types of content including Flash, video, and stills which can be dynamic and even interactive with use on a touchscreen.

Asking “who provides content?” is like asking “where is the nearest Subway?” Just look around, you’ll find more than you need. In fact, some years ago I needed two things: A salesman and a content creator. And, even in the days when craigslist was not as prevalent as it is today, I still used it to search out some employees. When I posted a “help wanted” ad for a salesman, I received one response in one week. When I posted a help wanted ad for some content creation, guess what? I received no less than 15 responses within the first several hours. I was literally overwhelmed.

I could just picture 20 or so graphic designers huddled around their MacBook Pros clicking “Ctrl+R” and waiting for a new post to appear. While that may be a bit far from the truth, it’s not too far off. Having been a bit harsh of our right-brained allies, I must say something constructive: really, really good content artists are NOT a dime a dozen. While many claim to have content expertise and claim to be good at it, there are what I would call the elitist creators whose work has “pop,” pazzaz,” and “the bling factor.” I hold fast to my business friendships with such talent. You never know when you are going to need some nice design.

As you find such an one, getting a contractual obligation with them for regular content is a good idea, especially if your network needs regular refreshment. For instance, you may contract for CaaS in such a way: I will pay you $1100/month for six months for two regular two-minute Flash graphics every other week (the pricing here is not important and is most likely incorrect, but you get the main idea). Cotent contracts for content creation. It’s that simple.

When NOT CaaS?

In some instances CaaS man not be necessary. The most readily obvious instance is when a screen’s content never changes. Digital menu boards are a perfect example. Unless the menu changes (the only instance I could think of this happening is if the restaurant changed from Mexican to Chinese ownership), the content should remain the same. The menu schedule itself will not change.

Providing digital sign content-as-a-service will continue to garner support within this growing sector. However, there are niches we’ve not even addressed. Those are for another day…

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