Is this dynamic medium the next horizon for print service providers? Here are four print shops that have experienced varying degrees of success with electronic digital signage and display work.
That’s certainly not what Albaugh expected more than five years ago, when he convinced his brother and partner, Chad Albaugh, NuArt’s president, that they should establish a presence in the burgeoning digital signage arena. “I was trying to be very forward thinking, and get ahead of the curve,” he recalls.
“It seemed a brilliant idea to be able to go from static signage to animation and video. We were debating at the time if hard signage had much of a future.” In fact they placed an informal bet about if, and when, digital signage would dominate.
Five years on, their bet is still open. Although the prices for the varied components required to build a system have come down, he says the equipment and underlying technology has become more sophisticated as vendor population has grown. “It’s hard enough for most print-shop owners to keep up with digital printing technology,” Albaugh notes. “This stuff can get truly overwhelming.”
And because there is so much involved in the way of computers, video hardware, and software, he’s seen clients who could benefit from digital systems look first to other distribution channels. “These systems are so technical, people don’t necessarily know it’s something a company like ours can do for them,” he observes.
The airlines – one of his core client groups – would seem a natural for these systems, with their need to continually update flight arrival and departure information. But they’ve given their business to digital specialists: “The people who have been doing those large installations are the big boys, the tech specialists able to integrate these systems in multiple layers in multiple locations.”
Among many smaller accounts, awareness of the systems’ possibilities, and how to take advantage of them, still lags. “People who don’t understand how to use them also don’t understand why these systems cost so much,” he says.
They also seem to overlook the amount of work involved in developing, updating, and managing the content. “In that way, it’s very similar to Web-design services,” he continues. “People don’t understand all that’s involved, so they undervalue it and aren’t willing to make that investment.” At least not yet.