We’re talking PowerPoint this week, the presentation software that has usually been regarded with abject horror by people who’ve been around the digital signage industry for years.
My recording engineer was moving this past week and was/is slammed by other things. He ran out of time to get this week's podcast episode together for my deadline. And I'm traveling.
This week I’m speaking with David Levin, the co-founder and a bunch of other titles at Four Winds Interactive, a content management software and services company based in Denver.
David and I sat down for a chat last week in the Four Winds' offices, a day before his company’s second annual Forward conference, which attracts a lot of hardcore customers and prospects. The event was polished, and there was a good-sized crowd of customers, prospects and suppliers.
We had a pretty wide-ranging, open discussion about his company. Levin talks about the roots of Four Winds, doing interactive music sampling stations. We go into the early days, when the company was offsetting operating costs by renting out the old mansion they used as offices as a wedding venue on weekends, hauling equipment into the basement and taking other gear home.
We also go into the company’s current headcount, which is about 10X the size of most of their competitors. Where most competing companies have a sales team that could maybe field a softball team, Four Winds has about 90 people in some sort of sales or sales support function.
Levin talks about how the company is doing financially, and in a broader sense about where his company, and this industry, is going.
I forgot (duh) to get David to shut off his phone or get it the heck away from the mike, so the master recording picked up a lot of electronic noise from calls and notifications. We've applied noise reduction and cleared most of that out, but if the recording sounds a bit tinny, that's why.
This week, it’s all about advertising. I’m talking to Ken Sahlin, the CEO of DOmedia, a Columbus, Ohio company that’s in the business of putting together media buyers and sellers using software.
Ken talks about how the company has developed a set of cloud-based applications that make media planners aware of out of home media they can use, and then takes a lot of the pain out of the buying and execution process through slick tools.
We talk about DOmedia's roots, the reason it went into stealth mode for a few years, and how last year the company saw 450 per cent growth.
If your digital signage business touches on ad dollars, you’ll want to have a listen.
This week, I’m speaking with Luka Birsa, the CTO and co-founder of Visionect, a Slovenian tech company focused on solutions that use Electronic Ink.
If you’ve got a Kindle or Kobo e-reader, think of that display but used instead for updated bus schedules at stops, or for telling people whether a meeting room is booked or free. Or on the back of an 18-wheeler.
In our chat, we talk about the origins of the company, and what e-paper is all about. We also answer a big question - Where’s Slovenia?
Luka will fill you in on why end-users would choose e-ink displays over LCDs or other tech, and where it’s a fit and where it’s not. He also talks about what’s coming for the technology - like larger, full color displays that could happily run just off solar power.
This week, I’m talking to a digital signage evangelist - Wayne Rasor, who runs the digital signage side of the business for FASTSIGNS, a traditional printing company that’s helping its 600-plus franchisees around the world stay competitive by going digital.
Based in Dallas, Wayne has a busy gig educating his own company and its franchisees on how to get into and operate what is a very different line of business for pretty much all of them. In our talk, he concedes its not always easy, but there are traditional sign shops who’ve made the jump and made digital signage a big part of their day to day businesses.
Wayne is Director of Digital for FASTSIGNS - a longtime print guy but also an unabashed nerd who loves trying to stay on top of this business and pass what he's learned along. He talks about how it all works for FASTSIGNS, and about his experience working with one of the company's main partners, Google.
Jim Nista and I have had lotsa long, interesting talks over trade show cocktails in Las Vegas or Orlando about the state of the industry and what needs to happen, particularly as it relates to content. Unfortunately ... or perhaps fortunately, when I really think about it (hic) ... they were not recorded.
But the other day we got together virtually, and the CEO of Long Beach, CA-based content production shop Insteo chatted with me for a little more than 30 minutes about what Insteo is up to, and how it got there.
Nista has had, like many small companies in this sector, a few twists and turns and bumps on the journey, but things have started to straighten and smooth out pretty nicely in the last year - as he's got the company focused on a variation of a business model that's worked for other companies. Insteo does subscription content - but not the news, weather, sports and entertainment feeds that have been well established by other companies, notably podcast sponsor Screenfeed.
Insteo's content store doesn't offer that stuff - instead focusing on dynamic HTML5-driven templates and update tools that allow small businesses to get screens in their business places that are running contextually relevant content. That may be project status notices for an engineering company, or it might be product menus for a marijuana dispensary.
Jim has been around web services since the days when he had to explain to customers why they'd want a website. He's one of the most knowledgeable guys in the business when it comes to the future of content, and well worth a listen.
Every so often I bump into a company that's stayed well out of the spotlight, kept its collective heads down, and built up a thriving business - while competitors were unaware the company even exists.
Consider Revel Media Group, which is based in the greater Salt Lake City area. Revel is a digital signage solutions provider that leads with content, and since starting up about six years ago, has seen triple digit growth, year after year.
The company was started by Brian Fitzpatrick and a business partner, with Brian having cashed out of a business he built installing and managing very high-end home theatre and home automation systems for stinking rich people.
What Revel does is, effectively, creative and content management as a service. Customers pay a set fee, and get as much creative as they need, turned around as fast as 24-hours. It's not for major brands. But for retailers who have a lot to say and sell, it's a cost and timing model that resonates for them.
We spoke at Seneca's partner conference outside Syracuse, NY earlier in August.
If you're looking for concrete evidence that the digital signage business is now doing some serious volume, consider the word on this latest Sixteen:Nine podcast from Jeff Hastings, the CEO of BrightSign. His shipping department is packing and moving roughly 1,000 units a day.
Let me repeat that ... a day.
BrightSign designs, builds and markets little purple boxes used by a LOT of network operators as media players. In our chat, Hastings talks about BrightSign’s direct ties to another purple box company in Silicon Valley, Roku, and how that relationship has evolved.
One of the really sharp guys in this industry, Hastings talks about why the company is moving so much product this year, and how it will soon have more than 1 million units deployed. He also talks about where the company and industry are headed.
This was a Skype chat, so you'll hear the odd network hiccup and scratchiness. But it is 99% solid sound.