Higher Ed Digital Signage Google Hangout Video 1 (June 24, 2014)

This is the first installment of an upcoming and ongoing series of Google Hangouts sponsored by the Digital Signage Federation specifically aimed at Higher Education Digital Signage Networks for solid “How To” information for network management, content creation, finding the best resources, finding reliable vendors and integrators, hardware, software and Best Practices.  I currently serve on the Digital Signage Federation Board of Directors and am Co-Chair of the Education Committee.  (For more information go to the Digital Signage Federation webpage http://www.digitalsignagefederation.org/?emulatemode=2 )

Watch on YouTube…


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Wayfinding Solutions for your College (Higher Ed Tech Decisions article)


5 Tips to Choosing Wayfinding Digital Signage Solutions for Your College

Follow these suggestions on how to keep your school up and running with wayfinding digital solutions  By Jessica Kennedy

Higher Ed Tech Decisions article… check out the slideshow!  (Click link below…)


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Calling All Screens! (Integrating emergency alert systems with campus signage)


This article appeared in Sound & Communications Magazine in the twice annual IT/AV Report written by contributing editor, Dr. Shonan Noronha.

(Click link below for full article…)


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Creating a Playlist for Digital Signage in Higher Ed

Digital Signage Expo Advisory Board

Question of the Month

April 2014


Spencer W. Graham, II MBA DSCE


                           What is your recommendation for creating a playlist                                for your digital signage audience?

Know your audience and your environment!

Understanding who your intended audience will be is mission critical to the construction of any successful playlist.  Make no mistake; you are in the business of impressing your intended audience!  You are marketing to them.  You are competing for their attention in a world swimming with visual content.  Consider that we are literally bombarded with information as we go about every day when we drive by billboards, pass store fronts, watch television, listen to the radio, view websites, in every store we enter, in every building we enter and a myriad of other visually cluttered environments.  What makes YOUR message standout above the sea of information muddle?  Why will or should they remember your message?  Some questions you may ask during the development phase of the playlist creation process might be used to drill down to the end product.

What are the demographic characteristics of the viewers you want to target?  Are they male or female, or both?  What is the age range that you are wanting to reach with the overall messaging contained within the playlist?  Is the content “appropriate” for young and impressionable children that would be in the viewing environment?  What type of environment will the digital signage be deployed?  Is it a hallway, a bank of elevators where people congregate while waiting, a waiting room, a reception area, a point of sale, a check-out area, etc.  Different environments need special thought as to specific types of content and the duration of each message.

Concise Messages

Stay on message!  Most of your audiences are not going to “camp out” in front of your digital signage unless they are in a waiting room of some sort.  Messages should be “short and sweet” so that the most important information is transferred to the usual pedestrian viewer quickly.  Let the content design tell the story, too!  If you want to dump more intense and in-depth information to them, drive them to a website, a magazine, a brochure or an information desk for the larger amount of information and content.  Your playlist messages should raise awareness that triggers more action on the viewer’s part such as making a mental note, jot down the information or encourage them to seek further information about the message.

Dwell Time

This is pseudo-psychology stuff!  We need to understand the “flow” of the pedestrian traffic within the environment that the playlist will be presented.  Understand the pedestrian dynamic of their movement as they intercept your content in your playlist.  People intercept your creative content as they are moving from Point A to Point B to Point C, etc.  How long do they dwell in front of that particular message?  Are they walking and only getting a glimpse of a few seconds of the intended message, or are they stopped in a line as they wait for an elevator, or in a waiting room, lounge, etc.?  How many messages do you intend for them to consume during that dwell time?  Most static messages should be able to be consumed for a matter of 5-10 seconds in most situations.  With such short dwell time durations your message needs to stay on point!


Grab their attention!  While a picture is worth a thousand words, motion in your content design draws and hold the viewer’s attention longer.  Motion backgrounds can assist in this concept and are readily available to purchase in reasonably priced DVD packages in various formats.  You will need to determine if your content management software supports motion graphics and that your digital signage system video cards have the horse power to leverage motion graphics.  You may want to consider beefing-up your next computer system with a video card that can handle the heavy lifting required for more intricate video content creation.  Don’t get too carried away with BIG and FLASHY motion to the point that it distracts from your intended message.  You can also effectively use subtle background motion graphics to insert your own branding elements for your organization.


Video content is a nice addition to a creative playlist.  Again, you need to understand the dwell time of your audience so that the length of the video is appropriate to support your messaging.  It is NOT television!  Your videos should short in duration and can be used as a transition from one message to another and a great way to break-up the playlist in an attractive way.  Make sure it is a quality video.  Sloppy and choppy video ruins your intended impression with your audience.  Will your content management software support full video?  I suggest you experiment with several types of video types and codecs until you find the best one that works with your software.  You will need to determine what codec best works and what wrapper to use such as a WMV or AVI, etc.  My suggestion is to keep your total run time of each video to 20, 30, 45 or 60 seconds depending upon the message.  The purpose of the video is to tell a short story or support an intended message.  Also, understand that the longer and more intricate a created video is, the larger the video file size will be.  This can create ugly issues if your content management system can’t handle video well or if your computer video cards are not robust enough to play the video in a seamless manner.  Don’t overstay your welcome with your audience when inserting video into a playlist; it should be a concise message that can stand on its own within your playlist.

Video with associated Audio

Does the video HAVE to have audio associated with it to convey the message?  If you creatively design a quality video, it will tell the story by itself.  Laying down an audio track can nicely compliment a video but you must remember that in some environments people don’t want to hear the same audio track multiple times every hour.  Often digital signage is deployed in areas where there are reception desks, classrooms, quiet areas and other offices.  Your creative content should not become a distraction or interrupt that environment more than necessary.  You may want to consider day-parting that type of audio content to specific times of the day such as lunchtime, before or after normal operation hours or evenings and weekends.  Also, the addition of associated audio tracks to a video will add to the overall file size of the video when inserted into the playlist.

The Genre of Content

Your playlist has value!  That value is derived by the impression your playlist makes upon the information-consuming public.  A playlist of twenty-five 30 second static Power Point slides may seem like a good idea but I feel there is more to it than that.  Be strategic in your marketing impressions!  While you are NOT creating a television station, you ARE creating a loop of content to be viewed similarly.  When we watch television there is a flow and transition between the content we watch throughout the viewing session and programming.  Your playlist needs a smooth tempo and flow likewise.  When I go into some of the local stores and see some of the poorly designed (crappy) playlists of content, my IMPRESSION is that their store doesn’t care about their marketing message at all.  That then equates to a waste of money and resources on their part since I now find their digital signage playlist irrelevant to my experience while in their store.

Your playlist ought to flow in a fluid manner with good transitions between types of content.  Pages of content within the playlist can vary in duration.  You could create a playlist that includes a 20 second local weather report, then transition into a 30-60 second current events page that pulls an RSS feed from your organization’s calendar database, then transition into a 30 second video promoting a special program within your company or store, then transition in an announcement poster database that plays a series of posters for 5-10 seconds each, etc.  The key is to break-up your playlist so that it is attractive to the eye and grabs the audience’s attention, and supports your brand.


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Game Changing Tech in Higher Ed Digital Signage for the Future

DSE Advisory Board March 2014 Question of the Month 

Spencer W. Graham, II MBA DSCE


                          What technology will be a game-changer for your                              business in 2014 and beyond? 

While offering my opinion through a Higher Education lens, I feel my observations will echo other vertical markets, as well.  I see the integration of touch-screen technology leveraged with campus wayfinding as something that will be on our “To-Do List” for the foreseeable future.  We launched our first version of campus wayfinding / touch-screen tech about 3 years ago and we are now in a position to vastly improve the experience with new technology and software solutions as the evolution has occurred.  We also target integrating Google Maps with this endeavor, as soon as possible.  With new students and daily campus visitors they often need to “find” a person or an office in a large building or on a different campus.  Also having the ability to text or email directions to their personal cellphone from the wayfinding deployment makes it very convenient

Too, with the advances in touch-screen technology and the content management systems on the market, we are seeing growing demand from the individual colleges within our university for Walls of Honor and Donor Walls.  You can only put so many brass plaques on the limited real estate on a wall before you either run out of room, or they become unsightly.  Additionally, you are limited on the number of words on a brass plaque that tell the grand story of the individuals you seek to honor for their countless contributions to the institution over the years.  Hence, digital signage comes to the rescue!  You can put it ALL on ONE digital sign!  Page after page, if necessary.  You can include their portrait, their biography and their wonderful story of why they assist the way they do. It can also include a video interview of them or and audio that accompanies the visual content.  It remains editable for revisions in the future, too.  The digital signage can be incorporated within the décor of the room so that it becomes a show piece!

I also think that new research and information, along with a deeper dive into the technologies and integration of NFC, QR codes and BLE will become topics of more intense discussion in the mobile realm.


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Challenges Facing a Digital Signage Network in Higher Education (DSE 2014 Handout)

Digital Signage Expo

February 12, 2014

The Sands Expo

Las Vegas, Nevada

Challenges Facing a Digital Signage Network in Higher Education


Protecting the Brand

  • What do you consider “appropriate content” for your public campus?
  • Venue specific based upon demographics of the site
  • Student generated content with administrative approval?
  • Who makes the judgments to protect the brand?
  • Enforce the branding elements at all costs!
    • Logos
    • Trademarks
    • Official graphics
    • Design Guidelines
    • NCAA Constitution Operating Manual & Administrative By-Laws
      • NCAA Division I Manual (Oct. 2013-2014)
      • Section  Prospective Student-Athlete’s Visit
      • “Activities During Official Visit”
      • “No arranged misc. or personalized recruiting aids (video or audio)”
      • Includes special additions to any location prospective student athlete will visit  Activities During Official Visit. 

An institution may not arrange miscellaneous, personalized recruiting aids (e.g., personalized jerseys, personalized audio/video scoreboard presentations) and may not permit a prospective student-athlete to engage in any game-day simulations (e.g., running onto the field with the team during pregame introductions) during an official visit. Personalized recruiting aids include any decorative items and special additions to any location the prospective student-athlete will visit (e.g., hotel room, locker room, coach’s office, conference room, arena) regardless of whether the items include the prospective student-athlete’s name or picture.  (Adopted:  8/5/04, Revised: 5/14/05)

  Centralizing Network Authority

  • Who has the authority for network decisions?
  • Who should have the authority?
  • Control of hardware & software purchases
  • Negotiating better pricing for hardware and software
  • Continuity of content and message
  • Dovetail with total institutional message across all campus media

Editorial Control of Content

  • Who will maintain editorial control of all content?
    • Administrators
    • Your network team
    • The campus client
    • The advertiser (if you permit advertising)
    • What is the definition of “appropriate content”?

 Advertising Options

  • Yes or No ?
  • Are you forced to off-set network operating costs?
  • Revenue Generation vs. Budget Cuts
  • How much advertising will be allotted to total loop of information?
  • Will you allow full-page advertising?
  • What percentage of a content page will be allotted to advertising?
  • Will the school maintain editorial control?
  • Who decides the definition of “appropriate content” for your campuses?
  • What existing contracts are in-place that might limit certain advertising options?
    • Will you allow external logos?
    • Institutional Trademark & Licensing issues?
  • Does your content management system support proof-of-play reporting?
    • How often will ads play each hour and each day?
    • Who will be “the advertising salesperson”?
    • Who will handle the invoicing and collection process?
    • Will it force you to support a sales force layer of administration?
    • What will your charge for advertising “real estate” on your pages?
      • What demographics are you targeting for advertising?
      • Students
      • Faculty
      • Staff
      • Campus visitors
      • What fee will you charge for each ad?
      • What is the going rate per play for local advertising options?
        • Newspapers
        • Radio
        • Television
        • Websites
        • Social media outlets
        • Outdoor Billboards
          • Analog (paper)
          • Digital

Emergency Messaging

  • 24/7/365 ???
  • Fix “dark & busted” monitors yesterday
  • Assume a personal liability attorney is attached to EVERY monitor
  • Warranty on Monitors
    • Consumer Grade  30-90 days
    • Commercial Grade  3-4 years
    • Mean Time To Failure
    • Duty Cycle
    • Back-Up Monitor(s)
    • Who “pushes the button” for an emergency?
      • Office of The President
      • Campus Police
      • News & Information Department
      • Is your emergency messaging coordinated across all media?
      • “All Clear” follow-up message issued post-emergency
      • Quarterly Testing for all involved in responding to campus emergencies
        • Confirmation emergency message has been broadcast to network team
        • End of Test follow-up message
        • Call-down List during real emergencies and during tests (all media)
        • 24/7
        • Table Top Exercise is a great way get everyone to understand the dynamic of emergencies that involve many campus responders
        • Audible tone and message announcement during an emergency event or test

  Americans with Disabilities Act

  • Dimensions for wall mounts
  • Placement
  • Hallways
  • Monitors:  Horizontal vs. Vertical  (54″ to center line for touch interactive deployments)
  • Dimensions for touch-screen buttons on monitors
  • Dimensions for wayfinding
  • Audio
  • Closed captioning

  Budgets in Uncertain Times

  • How is your network funded?
    • Central administration funding?
    • State funding?
    • Client funds their portion of the network?
  • What is your annual budget for the network?
  • What proportion of any funding are you responsible to provide?
  • Are you factoring in eventual replacement costs for future budgets?
    • Mean time to failure (MTF) approximately 5-7 years on commercial monitors
    • Computers might last 3 years
    • Equipment power supplies (Have some spares on hand!)
    • Keep a spare monitor and computer on hand if you have an Emergency Messaging feature.  Assume a “dark and busted” deployment has a personal injury attorney attached to it if someone gets hurt during a crisis and you didn’t have that monitor in working order!


Spencer W. Graham II MBA DSCE

Manager of Operations, WVU Information Stations

West Virginia University

As a Digital Signage Certified Expert (and digital signage evangelist), Spencer Graham has been integral to the creation of a very large, high-tech digital signage network at West Virginia University that spans four campuses with more than 100 digital signs, four video walls, wayfinding deployments and a 24/7/365 emergency alert feature in addition to standard WVU messaging and marketing on the WVU Information Stations network.

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Digital Signage Start to Finish… Easy Steps!

Ask the DSE Advisory Board Question of the Month

January 2014


Spencer W. Graham, II MBA  DSCE

West Virginia University


What are the steps someone can take to learn more about digital signage from start to finish?

Being tasked to begin working on any digital signage project can be daunting, however it can be greatly aided by understanding where to first look for answers to the numerous questions that naturally arise.  You will be pleasantly surprised at how many resources are available to you!


1.)    Go to the Digital Signage Federation (DSF) website!  http://www.digitalsignagefederation.org/  You will find tons of valuable information there.  There are links to resources, education, white papers, webinars, and specific vertical markets you may be interested in.  If you still need information you are not finding, contact the DSF Executive Director (Brian Gorg) at:  admin@digitalsignagefederation.org or telephone 540-551-5500.  The DSF staff are eager to point you in the right direction!  Join the DSF and attend one of the regional networking events in your area.

2.)    Attend the Digital Signage Expo!  Every year tens of thousands of people network with each other at this conference where you can speak directly to industry vendors about their products, put your hands on the latest technologies, attend powerful educational and certification programs and meet face-to-face with people who can answer any questions you have.  This conference will pay many dividends to your digital signage effort and is a “Must Attend” event for serious digital signage operators.  Going to this convention will shortcut you research and development by months and save you thousands of dollars in the long run!  http://www.digitalsignageexpo.net/

3.)    Jump on your internet search engine and search some of the following words:

  1. Digital signage
  2. Digital signage network
  3. Digital signage content
  4. Digital signage software
  5. Digital signage hardware
  6. Digital signage monitors
  7. Digital signage displays
  8. Digital signage mounts
  9. Wayfinding
  10. Outdoor digital signage
  11. Digital signage kiosks
  12. Digital signage social media integration
  13. Digital signage blog
  14. Digital signage reviews
  15. Digital signage RSS

4.)    Become a digital signage certified expert!  The Digital Signage Experts Group (DSEG) saying is, “All journeys begin with the first step.”  http://www.dseg.org/  The easy to understand courses are presented in a unique way that provides solid fundamental knowledge over every aspect of digital signage.  Their certification offerings include:

  1. Digital Signage Certified Expert
  2. Digital Signage Network Expert
  3. Digital Signage Display Expert

5.)    Digital signage is everywhere!  When you see a digital sign in a local store or business ask the manager about how they handle their digital signage.  Often they will let you know who to contact in your local area for more information.

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