Ed. note: We often focus on the evolution of technology platforms, industry trends and advertising models in this space.  A blog-based discussion among content and creative experts took place this week, and caught our eye.  It is important to understand the differences between the internet-based, targeted world of digital signage and the broadcast world of television from a content perspective.  Audiences, engagement, measurement and technology are not the only areas of significant difference. This post first appeared on the author’s blog site, DorseyOnDigital.  It is republished here with permission.

Earlier this week, Niel Kielar posted an article on his blog, Agency Babylon entitled, Content the King is Dead; Make Way for Content as a Commodity. Go have a read. He makes the point that as content is becoming a commodity that perhaps it is no longer king. As in, “Content is King”, the mantra too often recited in the DOOH industry. He notes that “value” may be the new king. I agree that value measured in terms of customer engagement, loyalty, etc. are important elements but in the end, I believe content is what brings value to any digital media platform.

With that in mind, I focused my contribution to his discussion on how the DOOH industry could navigate a world where content and creativity are becoming commodities. I was happy to see Niel’s post as I have seen very little editorial commentary on the business aspects of content in the DOOH industry. Here are my thoughts:

Content is still the key. Regardless of the technology platform, the goal of digital media distribution is to communicate or engage with someone, somewhere, for some reason. We now live in a world where the quality of the content experience is a must, not an option. Add creativity, and you give yourself a better chance to connect with your chosen audience. So how do you feed the machine with creative, quality content in a world where everything is a commodity… even creativity?

My team and I have been on this path for a while now and part of the answer is to leverage advanced technology to semi-automate the creative process. This is only part of the equation. The other is to find like-minded creative professionals who have also seen the writing on the wall. There is no use in holding on to a broken model (refer to the music industry) and hope for the best.

We’ve taken steps to find the balance between lowering the cost of creative production while respecting the talents of creative professionals we work with. This will be an on-going juggling act as price pressures continue to affect the creative industry but so far it’s working for us. Again, the music industry provides somewhat of a road map. We are in the new world of $0.99 songs versus the old world of $15 albums. Produce and sell me what I want versus selling me what you want me to need.

Creative designers/producers all over the world are looking to maximize their production capacity to ensure a steady flow of revenue while balancing their creative desires to work on interesting/impactful projects. Many are looking to do so as independent producers who choose where they work, how they work, and remain flexible to ever changing pricing models. The new media economy enables this reality given the right production, workflow, and communication set-up. Traditional ad agencies (again, think big music companies) are finding it difficult to adapt to this nimble creative/business model. For them, it’s like herding cats.

On the one hand, agencies need to promote the fact that their creative professionals are worth (in terms of talent) the same if they produce a $1 millon dollar TV ad or a 15 second digital signage spot costing $3K. From a creative standpoint I believe they can easily make the case on talent, but its clear that from an economic standpoint this model doesn’t work for the DOOH industry. Can an agency bill $400/hr for creative to produce a 15 second digital signage spot for use on a digital signage network? It’s clear that the majority of DOOH deployments do not have the revenue base to support such expensive ad agency production fees. If TV production type revenues are not available in the DOOH industry, how will agencies that venture into this space support their traditional business models?

It will be interesting to see how agencies and independent production studios adapt to the new “commodity” reality in the DOOH industry and beyond. What we need are creative business models that will allow all stakeholders to extract value from producing, reselling, distributing, and consuming content. I expect we’re not the only creative people on this track of thinking.

Stephen Dorsey is the CEO of Toronto-based Dorsey Digital Media, Inc., a digital media services provider specializing in DOOH solutions for business.