Since I seldom use this space to openly discuss RDM’s product or specific strategies, I think it is appropriate to provide a disclaimer up front when I do. Today we sent out a product-related press release, and this post is meant to provide a bit more detail on why we thought it was important to do so.  So be forewarned and read on or choose to click away. Here we go.

In the aforementioned press release, we were pleased to note that we had worked cooperatively and quickly with the team at rVue to provide integration between the NEOCAST Media Server application and the rVue Media Planner, an emerging Demand Side Platform (a/k/a DSP… a great discussion of DSPs, which first popped up on the web, is here) for DOOH networks. On the surface, we have enabled NEOCAST-powered networks who choose to sign up with rVue to exchange their data between NEOCAST and rVue seamlessly.  In one direction, additions, deletions and changes to locations are securely fed to the rVue platform directly from the NEOCAST server. Additionally, playout and compliance data is also fed to rVue for presentation to buyers. In the other direction, ad media files uploaded to rVue by ad buyers are sent to the appropriate location on the NEOCAST server for network processing and distribution. From a technical perspective, this is not a miraculous feat, at least for us.  What it is, however, is a strategic effort and a first step toward a DOOH ecosystem that adds value for all participants.

We consider the core digital signage functions to include content management and distribution, campaign management, player and network management, user administration and reporting.  They are represented in blue above.  We start with the assumption that the content is coming from somewhere.  As such, it is the lonely yellow oval in the diagram. Detailed analysis of results often contemplates the marriage of digital signage network data with data from another system, such as POS in retail, or CRM from multi-channel campaigns.  That type of analysis, represented in purple above, often happens through data warehouse applications in big companies, or through the use of a third party tool such as DS-IQ. In ad-supported networks, there is the requirement to invoice advertisers and provide them with proof of performance affidavits. That is generally done from a billing or financial application (shown in orange above), supported by reporting from the digital signage application. Finally, in ad-supported networks, it is not uncommon to see an inside sales force as well as alignment with one (and to the chagrin of everyone, sometimes more than one) DOOH aggregator, as well as some set of tools for managing the planning, selling and trafficking of the ads themselves.  Those functions are in green above, and it is here that the integration efforts were focused.

rVue is not an aggregator of networks, and does not actively “sell” networks to agencies and advertisers. As such, they are not direct competitors with either the aggregators or the inside sales forces. Instead, they have provided an effective tool for planning a buy, making a buy (or bidding for one), and executing the transaction. The tool is provided for free to buyers and sellers, with rVue extracting a piece of the flow through the system, more like eBay than an agency. In short, they have taken a shot at becoming the common interface for DOOH planning and execution. This represents a fairly bold step in removing barriers that exist today that make selling (and buying) DOOH ads more difficult than anyone wants it to be.  For buyers, a powerful web-based tool lets them buy across multiple properties at the network level, the network demography level, the national level or even the zip code level, all the while keeping track of rates, total spend, potential impressions and DMA coverage. For the sellers a central repository of network data, rate card, media kit and more allows changes to be propagated quickly, and just once instead of many times.

In our internal discussions in the past, we have talked a lot about the notion of a SaaS ecosystem, whereby focused, best-of-breed SaaS application providers linked to provide a complete infrastructure to users. Sinclair Schuller posted a very nice article on the topic back in 2007. He points out:

A SaaS ecosystem’s value is very much defined by the size of its network, which is composed of three types of members: vendors, applications, and users.

In this case, rVue is not a SaaS provider. Neither are most of the content providers. Analytics may come from a SaaS application, or from an internal tool.  In any case, the point is that the notion of a SaaS ecosystem is too constricting. What we see is a DOOH ecosystem, where the value proposition is based on linkages and can still be measured in the manner Schuller suggests: by the size and scope of the network of vendors, applications and users created by those linkages. Back in 2007, Schuller took a stab at predicting the evolution of ecosystems which seems fairly prescient three years later:

Right now, we’re very early in terms of the SaaS platform and ecosystem space, so I’ll be brave and attempt to be an oracle. In these early stages, value focus will not be on the value of the ecosystem; participants will choose platforms that offer the most immediate value in terms of technical merit, application offerings, etc. As the participant numbers of the early platforms and ecosystems grow, value focus will shift to the network value of each ecosystem. A market shake-out will most likely follow due to the rapid growth of some ecosystems, leaving that golden handful as clear leaders and many, many participants that can benefit from the huge amount of value that these networks can provide them.

Applied to DOOH, this thinking seems right on.  In the past three years, users have focused not on the ecosystem itself, but on the immediate value proposition of the pieces they needed at the time. As platforms and networks have grown, the need to extract additional value by expanding the size of the network (through linkages) has become obvious. Understanding this, our eagerness to integrate with rVue should be readily apparent. To be sure, there are and will be other planning platforms for us to consider, and rVue will integrate with many other digital signage providers, as they must. The guiding principle for us is that the size of the ecosystem, even when it includes networks powered by competitors, is what provides value to all participants. We think this is the first attempt to create critical parts of a DOOH ecosystem where everyone can benefit, a step that excites us and should excite our customers. That ecosystem can expand well beyond the diagram above to include mobile applications, web tools and more. Customers will demand it, and it will happen. Me? I can’t wait.