Don’t deliver lazy content

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

I received quite a bit of grief for daring to criticise the recent use of a scrolling ticker on a digital screen network – in as it happens a retail window display.

Let me say that I am the first to acknowledge that there should be consideration and tailoring for each unique environment and for the specific target audience needs and requirements – despite all the rules and mandates previously published (by others – just repeated, endorsed and recommended here) common sense should prevail.

All the content people I spoke to said that they could give me a number of reasons why a ticker might be a good idea and an equal number of reasons why it is a bad idea.

Alex Hughes from Amigo Digital said “it’s more advantages and disadvantages than ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ though”

Here’s my take on it.

At this moment in time, if content providers want to provide text based content they automatically assume that the TV solution of scrolling text in a bar at the bottom of the screen is the way to do it.

No-one seems to be challenging the ticker standard which is a big shame because there are plenty of other ways to display text on screen.

The issue I believe lies in the practise of “lets do it because it is a screen that has moving image content on it just like a TV” – obviously the TV news, sports and finance channels are a big (read ‘poor’) influence in this respect.

Let me try and summarise below.

The ticker is a useful device on traditional TV because: –

  • the target audience (the viewer) is directly engaging with the programming
  • It’s a good way of flashing up ‘breaking news’ and has an anticipatory feel to it
  • Has a ‘keying’ aspect to the visuals – i.e. it grounds and underpins the primary moving image content
  • Acts as support to the main TV item – which is why it is usually found in news, finance and sports programming
  • In a lean back environment such as TV it ‘feeds’ you (the viewer) and is a quite effective way of delivering lazy content

However, Digital out of Home, whether it be High Impact, Retail or Captive Audience is definitely not TV and I would suggest that adopting a method from TV that is primarily there to deliver ancillary content such as ‘breaking news’ and / or ‘lazy content’ is not something our industry should universally adopt.

Our audience is fickle at the best of times and I would suggest that the audience: –

  • Is usually in a different mindset than ‘lean-back-entertain- me-please’ TV mode – even in Captive Audience situations I believe this to be true
  • Is sometimes in what I call a ‘purchasing corridor’ mindset
  • Is sometimes in a very receptive zone and sometimes in the totally opposite unreceptive zone
  • Is active rather than passive – both in a physical as well as mental state

What content providers and developers should be doing is challenging the norm and not just simply going along with established practice elsewhere.

Alex Hughes from Amigo Digital agrees with me and says “In our digital out of home world there are occasions where there might be a need for multiple, simultaneous content delivery, however there are other ways to achieve this rather than porting TV methodology such as ticker tape”

Amigo Digital are spending a lot of time looking into this area and experimenting and testing a variety of possible solutions. They are doing some really cool stuff with text on screens with their networks in India – who (the networks) seem to me at least, less averse to listening to good advice, trying something new and incredibly keen to learn.

Let me stress that I am not averse to an information delivery area dedicated to the supply of information in text format.

I do however believe that there are better and more appropriate ways in which we can achieve this (ways which still manage to create content that is compelling, engaging, rewarding etc. and will hopefully illicit a reaction and an action).

Alex Hughes from Amigo Digital also makes a very valid point when he says “It strikes me that adding a ticker to your screen real estate makes your screen look MORE like TV in a non TV environment – which is fundamentally where you don’t want to be”

It’s obvious why of course, as he adds…

“Why? Because your audience is not in a TV receptive place when they are encountering your screens”

In Digital Out of Home all of the ‘Content’ needs to be worked much harder and ‘text’ definitely needs a better method than a ticker to compete with moving or static imagery.

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