Use Digital Signage Content Feeds for Higher Engagement

EPISODE 127 | Guest: Fanette Ronjat, professional services consultant for Visix

Digital signage content feeds are a fast and easy way to get content up on your screens. They look good, save you time and money, and are always up-to-date and relevant. Even if you have in-house designers, using content feeds can supplement your branded content, freeing up your folks to do more targeted messaging and campaigns. And the variety of content feeds is huge.

In this episode, we cover the basics of content feeds – what’s available, why you want them, how to set them up and how they can increase audience engagement.

  • Learn how content feeds save time and money, and increase engagement
  • Hear the pros and (very few) cons of using content feeds
  • Explore the most popular content feed subscriptions
  • Discover how easy it is to schedule auto-updating feeds
  • Understand how to choose the best attractors for your audience

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Get more content tips with our Masterclass 3: Digital Signage Content Guide


Derek DeWitt: With so many content options out there, what do you put on your screens? Well, as we always stress, it depends on your audience’s interests. That’s the first and primary thing. But even if you don’t have the time or bandwidth to survey your audience, you can be pretty sure that they’ll care about things like weather, breaking news and other sort of timely topics.

One easy way to get these things up on screens is by using digital signage content feeds or content subscriptions. And to talk about that with me today, I am here with Fanette Ronjat, professional services consultant for Visix. Hi, Fanette. How are you?

Fanette Ronjat: Hi, Derek. I’m great, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Derek DeWitt: Thank you for coming on. And of course, thank you everybody out there for listening to this episode of Digital Signage Done Right. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to the podcast, and you can follow along with a full transcript of the conversation we’re about to have on the Visix website under resources and podcasts, plus lots of helpful links there as well. And if you’re a big fan of the podcast, you might pop over to IMDb and look up our entry there and give us a review or a rating.

Okay, so just to start off with the basics, what are digital signage content feeds, or as Visix calls them, content subscriptions? What is this?

Fanette Ronjat: Great question. So, basically those are feeds of ready-made content that someone else has made for you. So, they already follow all the best practices for text, images, sizing for screens. And instead of you having to create messages with this information, you just schedule the feed, and it updates automatically.

Derek DeWitt: Okay. That sounds really easy. But okay, you say schedule the feed; what does that mean?

Fanette Ronjat: So, you basically treat the feed as a regular message; you schedule it into the rotation in your playlist. Each feed is just a simple URL that you point to. You just make sure you’re choosing the one with the aspect ratio that fits your layout or your message zone. Because it’s coming from an outside source, you don’t have to update anything. As the feed publishes new content, it automatically shows up on your screens.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, okay. So, it’s basically like an RSS feed or a social media feed that you might show on a webpage or an intranet. As soon as there’s an update with new information, bam, it grabs only the new information and throws that up.

Fanette Ronjat: Absolutely. It’s magical! And actually, you’re talking about social media and social medias are one of our most popular subscriptions. But there is just one little caveat to those in that you have to also input your account credentials, so that it can connect your feed.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Sure, that makes sense. So, which digital signage content feeds, apart from social media, are the most popular?

Fanette Ronjat: So, we have news-in-pictures. It’s probably our most popular one. It takes current headlines and pairs them with a big photo. It’s a bit more eye-catching for your audience than just a text or a ticker. You can choose to just show the news, or you can include sports and entertainment. Also, you don’t have to worry about inappropriate content going up on the screens, because it’s all filtered with public displays in mind. So, no worries there.

Derek DeWitt: Right. No racy ads are gonna show up suddenly for the church digital signage.

Fanette Ronjat: Yes, exactly. And we also have the financial market graphics. Those are very popular because we have a lot of corporate clients who want to stay updated on stocks and market fluctuations. And also, our safety messages for manufacturing clients, those are super popular. They’ve really taken off in the last couple of years actually.

Derek DeWitt: That’s interesting. So, safety messages can be subscription feeds as well.

Fanette Ronjat: Yes.

Derek DeWitt: I suppose that makes sense since, you know, it’s, yes, you may have specific things to your particular environment, but you know, safety’s safety: don’t put your hand in the bandsaw, you know? Right?

Fanette Ronjat: Thanks for the tip!

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, right, exactly. News-in-pictures, financial market graphics and safety messages. Those are the top three. But Visix has a bunch of other digital signage content feeds as well, I think.

Fanette Ronjat: Yes. Yeah, we have community calendars. They pull events like concerts, festivals in your area. We also have local traffic. I’m in the L.A. zone, so you really wanna know about the traffic.

Derek DeWitt: That’s for sure.

Fanette Ronjat: It shows you traffic conditions for your zip code.

Derek DeWitt: Is my commute gonna be 30 minutes or three hours? Yeah, right.

Fanette Ronjat: Or three hours, yeah. And flight boards. Those are pretty cool. They show arrivals and departures for an airport based on the airport code that you enter. So very, very easy to set up.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Especially for, like, hotels. I should think that’s probably pretty useful.

Fanette Ronjat: Yes.

Derek DeWitt: Maybe, maybe not for a warehouse.

Fanette Ronjat: Probably not, but you never know. And so yeah, we have a whole bundle of wellness feeds as well, like health tips, current air quality, pollen levels. We have RSS feeds that you can use to pull in the top headlines, world news if you prefer, that in a ticker format. We also have feeds with inspirational quotes, trivia, safety tips, sports scores and many more.

Derek DeWitt: Wow. That’s a lot to choose from. I’ve thought this before, kinda looking at this stuff in the past, like you could conceivably just run an entire digital signage system just showing feeds and still kind of entertain and engage the audience and give them something that they find useful.

Fanette Ronjat: Oh, you could. Absolutely, you could. Although probably that’s not why you invested in digital signage. You know, obviously kind of wanna show your own messages as well. But our content subscriptions are a good way to get content on screens right away when you are launching, and then you can start adding your own messages as you fine-tune your content strategy and designs. But I mean, even after you get your own content set up, content feeds can add a lot of value.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. I’ve always thought that was a quite valid argument. You know, look, we’re just starting out; we don’t have a bunch of messages pre-made. Get people kind of hooked on the digital signs. Oh, I get a lot of useful information. And then, you know, over that first week or two, and now there’s stuff that’s specific to this organization in there as well. But they’re already hooked ’cause they want to find out, you know, what Beyoncé wore to the party or, or…

Fanette Ronjat: Who doesn’t?

Derek DeWitt: …what the sports score… Right, who doesn’t? Everybody wants to know. I bet it was clothes.

Fanette Ronjat: Oh, really? Do you? Something…

Derek DeWitt: I bet it was something resembling clothes. So, what’s the advantage of using content subscriptions for an organization that has invested in digital signage software? Like we said, obviously you can get people kind of hooked, and it keeps them entertained, but I mean, there is a cost involved; it’s not just free.

Fanette Ronjat: True. There is, I mean they do cost money. But I mean, most of our feeds are only little over a hundred dollars per year per player. So, it’s really affordable. And one advantage of content subscription is that they give you a predictable budget, which is especially helpful if you’re having to go outside for content design help. And even if you’re creating content in-house, mind you, there’s a cost associated with that.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, of course. You gotta pay people salaries and their office space and their computers and electricity and all that stuff. Sure, okay. All right, so money makes sense. I assume there’s kind of a little bit more intangible benefits as well to using content feeds.

Fanette Ronjat: Right. So, like we already mentioned, there’s getting content up quickly when you first get the system. It’s cost effective. And another big benefit of content subscriptions is that you can get good quality content for the basics, like news, social media, and then put your own designers on custom content that are specific to your brand or your organization.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Or if you don’t have a designer in-house, these digital signage content feeds really do have professionally designed visuals and animations. And you know, if you’ve got a small organization or you know, maybe you’ve got a designer, and that designer just started out or is tasked with a whole bunch of other things that they have to do as well, maybe they don’t have the time or the bandwidth to do that kind of high-quality stuff. This stuff’s already high quality.

Fanette Ronjat: Yeah. And also, as I mentioned, they automatically update. So, there’s always gonna be something fresh, engaging on your screens, and that’s really what you want to engage your audience. And also, like we talked before in another podcast [episode], automating as much of your content as possible is a huge time saver for digital signage managers.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, for sure. So, okay, so we decided the title of this episode is gonna be Digital Signage Content Feeds for Higher Engagement. How do they increase engagement?

Fanette Ronjat: Well, the best way to increase engagement is to show something new and relevant to your audience. If it’s always the same old, then people are gonna get bored and they won’t be engaged anymore.

Derek DeWitt: Right. As I always say, they’ve got the entire internet available on their phone, so…

Fanette Ronjat: Right, so why look up?

Derek DeWitt: Right. Your stuff needs to be more interesting or relevant or better looking than what they can just access by walking down the corridor on their phone and, you know, bumping into people.

Fanette Ronjat: Right. And you’re mentioning phones, so they know what they’re interested in. So, the second point is gonna be the topic of your subscriptions. You wanna make sure that you’re matching what your people are most interested in. So, is it gonna be news, traffic, social media, health tips? You know your audience.

Derek DeWitt: I hope.

Fanette Ronjat: I would hope. And also, you can use all of these as attractors to draw more eyes to your screens.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, I think that’s a very, very important point because like we said, people get used to it or there’s a nice professional picture and they go, ooh, what’s that? And there’s a decent chance that they’re gonna see the next message in the playlist. And that happens to be about hey, HR benefits. Oh, right! So, you know, I glanced over because hey, it’s four o’clock and I know I’m gonna have to commute home, what’s the traffic? Oh, good thing I looked at that digital sign because now I am also reminded that I have to get on the stick and walk down to HR and sign that form.

Fanette Ronjat: Exactly. I mean, unfortunately a lot of our clients are struggling with adding new content on a regular basis, and I can’t blame them, especially if there’s no in-house creative team. So, a lot of them have a current event schedule, but the rest of the messages may run for weeks or months and that is gonna lose viewers. So, content subscriptions are always updating, you’re drawing in more viewers and hopefully increasing engagement with all of your messages.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, we always say this, and I know some of you listening out there, clients, are guilty of this: people leaving up stale stuff. It’s just, even if it’s still relevant, it’s like, no seriously, here’s what your benefits package includes or here are safety messages; you know, don’t put your hand in the bandsaw is always going to be relevant. And yet simply just changing up the look of it sometimes is enough to make people go, oh yeah, that’s right. Because we get used to things really easily and things just fade into the background. I think especially these days because we have our phones, and we’re just kind of bathed in this information rich environment. So, you know, novelty is everything for us nowadays.

Fanette Ronjat: Mm-hmm.

Derek DeWitt: Okay, so I’ve been given a budget for a bunch of these feeds. What should I be thinking about when I’m selecting my content subscriptions?

Fanette Ronjat: Well, like we already mentioned, all of our content should be tied to audience engagement. So first thing, you gotta figure out what your viewers need and start there. And I think the content variety is important, like we’ve all also been mentioning a lot. So, you want a good mix of topics, but you don’t wanna barrage your audience with 20 content feeds – an event schedule, 10 of your own messages each day, all day. Our recommendation is to have seven to 10 things showing in rotation on screens at one time.

Derek DeWitt: Right. That makes sense. I mean, you can have 20 or 30 things, but you should be dayparting them to parcel them out to different times of the day or different days of the week and so on. So yeah, in a week you’re getting all 30 things out. But yeah, it’s a big mistake to have a 60-item playlist that plays over and over every single day. It’s a pain in the neck and you know, like we say, like stick a message up, probably seven seconds is the average amount of time that a message goes up, whether it’s in-house content or it’s a content subscription feed. Nonetheless, oh, I just caught the end of that and there are 60 things in there, times that by seven seconds, I’m not gonna be standing in front of that sign waiting for that to come back around, you know?

Fanette Ronjat: Right. No, exactly. You wanna think of your audience experience. They’re not gonna wait another 20 minutes to get back to that QR code so that they can register for the party or something. So, once you have your content subscription, it’s pretty much just plug and play.

Derek DeWitt: Wow. What a bunch of benefits!

Fanette Ronjat: I know!

Derek DeWitt: Come on. Everything has some kind of a downside or a challenge, right? So, what are some of those challenges, let’s say, to using content feeds?

Fanette Ronjat: So, obviously one of the challenges is that the content feeds are generic. So, they look amazing, they look really good, but they’re not going to match your branding or your décor. Although for the social media option, you do get the option to match your branding. So, that’s a big perk of the social media. But it’s really important for you to know that, and your content feeds might not be your thing if you want to match perfectly your branding at all times.

Derek DeWitt: Right. And for most places I think it’s not gonna be a big deal, but, you know, you’re a five-star hotel, you probably don’t want unbranded content up on the screens. Or maybe you do, I don’t know.

Fanette Ronjat: Yeah, maybe you don’t want it on all the screens, but maybe you might wanna have a flight board on one of your screens. You know, you do have the option for different layouts and different colors.

Derek DeWitt: The last thing I would imagine some organizations, like I’m thinking a five-star hotel, you know, everybody’s worried about online web security, and this is an outside web source. Are there security concerns?

Fanette Ronjat: Well, not really. ‘Cause you aren’t outputting anything to the feed provider. You’re really just showing a webpage on your screens using their URL, so they aren’t getting into your network access or anything.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, okay. Well, so, there you go. So, I think we can say that digital signage content feeds come in a variety of topics. Some of them can be tweaked to a certain extent on colors and layout. They automatically update on screens, so you always have something relevant and engaging to show your audience. And yeah, there’s some money involved, but it’s pretty affordable, especially once you factor in things like design time and all this that you would have to expend if you were doing it all on your own.

It’s just a subscription model. It’s simple. More and more, we’re seeing more and more people getting used to Subscription as a Service business models, and it’s just outrageously simple. Like you said, you just point to a URL, which you set up once, and then that’s it, and it just runs.

Fanette Ronjat: Absolutely!

Derek DeWitt: So, there you go. Short and sweet. Just like setting up digital signage content feeds for your digital signage. You can, of course, go to the Visix website and check out some of the things on offer there to get an idea of the rather vast world of content feeds available to you.

I’d like to thank all of you for listening to this episode of the podcast and of course, I’d like to thank Fanette Ronjat, professional Services consultant for Visix, for chatting with me today about digital signage content feeds. Thanks, Fanette. Always great to talk to you.

Fanette Ronjat: Always great talking to you too, Derek.

Derek DeWitt: All right. Be careful in those commutes. L.A. traffic can age a person.

Fanette Ronjat: Deadly.

Derek DeWitt: Yes, deadly, that’s exactly right. And as I mentioned at the top, please everybody, don’t forget that you can read a full transcript of the conversation we just had on the Visix website under podcasts and, yeah, this episode.