5 min read

Let’s Talk Digital Signage Podcast by Kitcast: Stephen Glancey, Screenfeed

Written by
Pavlo Fedykovych
Published on
January 4, 2022
May 29, 2024

This episode of Let’s Talk Digital Signage Podcast by Kitcast takes you to our conversation with Stephen Glancey, Vice President and Business Development at Screenfeed. It is a part of a series of interviews with digital signage market leaders who are sharing their pains, gains and hopes for 2021-2022. It will be interesting for digital signage professionals, enthusiasts and everyone who’d like to know more about the current state of the industry. As there are many challenges that the businesses are facing due to COVID-19, the importance of a constructive dialogue inside the industry is essential. It allows us to broaden our view, give new ways of thinking, exchange ideas and go through difficulties together.

Stephen Glancey is a veteran of the industry and has been at Screenfeed for more than a decade. He knows the market from the inside and the experience he can share is extremely important. As a leading company in interactive engagement solutions, Screenfeed has its own recipes for going through the current crisis inflicted by the pandemic. Stephen discussed the trends, misconceptions, new technologies and shared his views on the directions the industry is heading to. Here are the topics that were discussed during the podcast chronologically: 

  • Screenfeed’s 2020 and 2021: challenges and positive outcomes
  • The winning strategies for going through the pandemic
  • 3 main tips for those considering digital signage for their business in 2021 and 2022
  • Main digital signage trends in 2021 and 2022
  • Touchless digital signage discussion
  • Misconceptions about digital signage
  • Why are people reluctant to turn to digital signage?
  • Exciting new products

Transcript of the podcast

Artem Risukhin: Hi, my name is Artem. You're listening to the new podcast series by Kitcast called “Let's Talk Digital Signage.” And digital signage is not the only market hit by the pandemic, but it's one of those that will see a great transformation during and after the COVID-19. While there are positive signals on the market more than ever do, we need consolidation, transparency, and support. For these reasons, we're launching a series of interviews with digital signage market players, who will share their pains, gains, and hopes for 2021-2022.

And my guest today is Steve Clancy, vice-president of business development at Screenfeed.

Hi, Steve.

Stephen Glancey: Hi.

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A: So how are you doing?

S: Doing well. Yeah, it's definitely an exciting year and a lot has happened in the last year for sure since COVID. So yeah, it's exciting to be here. Thanks for having me.

A: How are things in Montana?

S: Well, great, you know. Every part of the country here in the US, you know, different states have kind of, are handling things a little different. We've all been affected in different ways, you know, as it relates to the shutdowns and COVID and reopenings, and everything that's been happening. But Montana is a fairly open state, so we're pretty free to move around at this point.

A: That's good to know. So, coming to the topic of today's interview, what changes in your digital signage projects have given you the most noticeable positive results in 2020 and in 2021 as well?

S: Yeah. So I mean, every company can respond to difficulty in different ways, right? You can kind of, you know, cut some of your losses, you can downsize. At Screenfeed, we've always had the method that when things are difficult that's the time where you can really outpace competitors and other people in the market. That might be, you know, trying to offer some similar services. So, we've actually kind of doubled down on, you know, what does it look like to offer digital signage content to networks in the industry and so we probably quadrupled our R&D budget, as far as, you know, investing into our product and our services based on feedback that we've heard in the last year and a half. So, well, you know, as far as growth, as far as new sales, we've been fairly consistent. So, any of our growth, you know, some of the companies out there where it's a digital out-of-home space, where people were told they had to stay home. So, it's a challenging industry if you look at it the last year and a half. And so with that additional time, you know, we're super thankful, we were able to kind of ride things out fairly even; up before that, we were growing at a pretty steady clip. So, it kind of gave us some time to say, okay, if we're not growing right now, how can we set ourselves up well to grow in the future.

And so that's how we've approached this season, knowing that things will eventually open up and people will be back out of home, and we've already started to see that this year. I think everyone has some questions about this whole Delta variant and, you know, is that gonna close things down again or…? And we're still gonna stick to our same game plan, and we’ve been very thankful to our customers in the meantime, and we are here to support them. You know, if they've gone through some tough times. So, it's been a good season in that sense.

A: So, you plan to stick to the same strategy, and let's hope for the best?

S: Yeah, well, the same strategy but like I said, we've doubled down our R&D and that does mean that we plan on where our additional opportunities in the content space. You know, historically, we've always focused on infotainment, so our three value propositions have been we licensed content for digital signage. You can't just go on CNN, take a media RSS URL, and plug it in if you're going to put it into a commercial space. So, we license it for digital signage use; we design it for digital signage use. I know Kitcast has some of those design features. And then, we deliver specifically for digital signage services. So, whether that be via an HTML, URL, or media RSS, we kind of plug into digital signage solutions. So that's been our historical offering. We're actually looking at… There are a lot more content options that are out there, and infotainment solves a particular need in the industry. It helps keep your screens fresh and keeps people engaged to see, you know, local sports scores or your local traffic or, you know, weather, news or trivia or whatever you want on the screens depending on your strategy; that's what we offer, that's what we've historically offered. But there's, how do you efficiently create custom content and messages in a way that, you know, someone is just focusing on that? And, you know, there are certainly opportunities to, you know, evolve the industry and how people are doing that to make it more and more efficient and that's what we've been focusing on the last year and a half. So, we are trying to not just stay still, we are looking to press on and press ahead.

A: What are three main tips for those considering digital signage for their business in 2021 and 2022?

S: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think the industry and newcomers in the industry, so I've been in the industry for ten years now, you know. People are getting smarter and smarter. They're hearing it more and more often, hey, it's not just about throwing a screen up, you’ve got to have a strategy for what you're going to put on those screens. You know, digital signage itself needs to be solution-driven. The business behind and the purpose behind the screen is way more important than what screen you choose or which software you choose; no offense, Kitcast, I mean, you guys want to provide solutions for the customer, and your software is a tool. Your display is a tool, you know, how that content connects, and all that is a tool. What actually matters is how is…. the content itself is a tool but it has to be the content that drives the solution, the effectiveness for the business, for the organization. So, you know, if you just want to put something up there because you think it looks cool, well, that ‘cool’ better have some sort of, you know, objective tied to it. So, you have to make sure that the solution that you're looking to solve is a genuine problem for your organization. So right from the get-go, what is your strategy? That would be the tip. And then how is your content going to support that strategy?

So, you're thinking strategy; you're thinking how your content is going to help you get there not only on day one. What is your content strategy, but, you know, day 90, day 180, day 360, because the beauty of digital signage is that it can be fresh and it can be updated but it's also the biggest pain because the content is expensive from a manpower standpoint, from a talent perspective unless you have really effective and efficient ways and a good strategy from the get-go to hit your solution. So, make sure you have a great strategy from the beginning, make sure you have a great content strategy and the budget set aside for those variable costs not just your upfront fixed costs for getting the network off the ground. I think those two tips in and of themselves are going to solve a lot of digital signage black screens that no one cares about, you know, six months later.

A: Yeah, thank you. Yeah, it really makes sense because first, we regard digital signage as just a medium. So, in itself, it's nothing. It needs content, it needs an audience, it needs a clear understanding of what you want, how you want to communicate, what you want to communicate, and when. So yeah, it totally makes sense.

S: Exactly, great.

A: Thanks a lot. And so, coming to another question, what are the main digital signage trends that will dominate this year and next year? How do you see that?

S: Yeah, I think some people were calling it before COVID started but just in general, I think COVID might have accelerated it all the more. Because any businesses that were, you know, all funded, be it investors, you know, they're accountable to their investors and they’ve got to be churning out that growth strategy otherwise they're struggling. So, you have different types of companies that popped up at different times. You have the legacy software that are, you know, super mature but at the same time their technology stack is getting older, right? And so now they're reinvesting in their product but they also have the cash flow to reinvest. So, in some sense, they have that health factor there assuming they are reinvesting and updating, and swapping up their systems but then they have to migrate all their customers. One of our partners, you know, is in the process of migrating, you know, literally twenty  years of digital signage customers onto this new platform, and that in of itself is a ton of work and it isn't necessarily growing their business, it's just maintaining what they're currently doing. But then you have newcomers, like I think, Kitcast, how old are you guys? You guys are fairly new, right? I mean, you guys came in and are kind of saying hey, how do we solve, you know, the content scheduling and playlist stuff like with technology that exists today, you know, rather than having to replace and migrate and support thousands of features that have been developed so you guys could kind of disrupt the market over here. And I think there's this new incoming kind of disruptors that are saying I'm gonna solve this particular niche and these particular problems and if you focus like that, you can beat these legacy systems that are trying to say yes to everyone and have said yes to everyone. In order to keep the business of everyone, they have to continue to support that and update it and that's just a bigger ship that you’ve got to steer.

And so, you have all these things happening and then you had COVID come in and, you know, depending on the niche that you were looking to serve, if your niche is hospitality, if your niche is, you know, transportation, I mean, you are really hurting this last year. And so, some of those companies, their cash flow, their businesses had to kind of pivot and shift and try to start going after different niches and weight things out, you know. And so, then you also see some consolidation happening in the industry where, you know, a healthier company over here goes and acquires and people are looking to check out or retire and you have people that have been in the industry for twenty years and they're looking to retire but they have a good customer base, and it's an attractive acquisition. I mean, we had some big, not only on the software side but big acquisitions or mergers, I guess, you could say sharp on the more residential TV side merging with NEC. I mean that was a big display manufacturer merger that certainly affects the industry as far as reach.

You have certain kinds of big names in the industry, like, you know, Rich Ventura, you know, swapping sides. So, different moving and shaking happening in the industry, you know, consolidation happening. You have adjacent complementary businesses merging and acquiring each other or starting to offer what might be outside of their services kind of branching into other things and you also have some companies going out of business. I mean, DSE itself, the tradeshow of the industry, went under but then it was also acquired. So, that's potentially really great news for the industry in that, you know, a much larger, proven successful… I love the folks at DSE. We're really close with them, and we sponsored the event many times but it was ready for a shake-up. And so that could be really great. I'm really excited to see what happens in March, you know, at that tradeshow, you know, what's going to happen there.

So, there's more and more improved technology on the display side. Content creation, tools, disruption happening, you know, with outdated technology needing to be replaced and new people coming in. So, there's a lot happening, I think, beneath the surface and, you know, but everything still kind of calm and maybe on the surface. I was talking with a customer today. They're a large, you know, Fortune 500 company, and they're still not back at the office, and they're not exactly sure what's going to happen in the next, you know, four months. Like is this Delta thing going to take off?  Does anyone know when we are going to return? And so, you have a corporate communications network that really hasn't been running for the last year and a half and so it's hard for the industry to keep pressing on and keep moving forward when you have these, you know, acts of God type scenarios outside of everyone's control. But things are happening for sure, and I’m excited to see, you know, once that factor goes away, how the industry continues to evolve.

A: COVID-19 changed a lot in terms of the interaction between users and digital signage because now it's more going into touchless. I mean it was going to but now the pace is just increased. So, do you also see that?

S: Yeah, I mean, historically, we haven't touched touch content. You know, it's basically a very custom-specific application and our business model is, hey, we want to build a platform or tool or a resource that anyone can use or pretty much most networks could use. So, we haven't ourselves, we have braked into the touch-based content and you know, resources, again, that gets down to the application, can your solution that you're trying to solve a particular problem, can that be solved in a different way? You know, a lot of people would rather touch their own mobile device. And can you do a QR code? And you know, a lot of people with menus rather than touching their menus did the QR code and pull up a web page. So, it's like, well, people want their own personal device but then you have your own digital signage devices to help support the messaging in a particular space. You know, I guess, for me, when it comes to touch, I would say even a lot of the touch applications that existed before were there for hype or something cool to do. How much did they actually improve the business itself? I think McDonald's in their kiosks, in some sense, you know, their purchasing kiosk, obviously, then you have less employees or you don't have…. you can turn out more orders and of course, that affects the bottom line but then you have, you know, alternative issues of, you know, the gross miss factor and COVID happened. And so, you know, so it’s the press of that more valuable than this? And do they have the KPIs on there and to kind of make that decision? But again, so it comes down to the solution, is the solution really solving the problem, and is that the most effective way to solve the problem? And I think it's going to change from business to business and solution or problem-to-problem. So, to say, hey, touch is going away altogether, I would disagree. I think there are still very many applications that make a lot of sense. But I would say more and more businesses, if they can find a safe hygienic way, you know, there's going to be tons of pressure from people to not want to touch things. And so, people will probably try to solve those problems in different ways.

A: In terms of all the issues that come with touchless, there are still some misconceptions about digital signage. I mean like myths. What are the misconceptions that you disagree with? Like the ones that come to mind instantly.

S: Misconceptions about digital signage.

A: Like, the thing that I hear all the time which is absolutely not true is that digital signage is expensive and complicated.

S: Yeah, that's a great one and it can be. You can choose to make it….

A: Yes, sure. Some are but, in general, you know, it's evolving.

S: Yeah, absolutely. You know, and again, it kind of comes down to the solution you're looking to do, you know. If you just want to upload some images and video, people know how to do that from their computer and so now you're scheduling it onto, you know, remote displays rather than popping it up in your own browse. You’re kind of setting up a playlist and just like you would from your computer and, you know, setting up a playlist on YouTube or like you would in Spotify. So, this can be as simple as that or if you're trying to plug into a complex database and drive dynamic pricing based on triggers and stuff like that, you know, you can make it extremely complicated. It could also be extremely valuable if that's the solution you're trying to drive. And, you know, Kitcast is solving, you know, the latter type of people who are seeking to, hey, I have this need to push this messaging, and I don't want to have to keep on printing that messaging, you know, every week, every month. I'm just gonna, you know, design the message and push it. And, you know, there's certainly a place in the market for that and a lot of people, that's really all they need, is that. I know the more robust systems like the Scala, you know, or the Stratacash, you know, or some other options that exist in the market, you know. They are built to handle those more complex solutions and you can make it as complicated as you want. But I know, I've tried Kitcast. I know that there's some very nice, easy kind of intuitive tools there, so.

A: Yeah, yeah, that's exactly the point. We're trying to make the technology simple and just easy because it should be. People have enough problems and obstacles in their businesses to worry about how to install and how to actually adjust the digital signage.

S: Yeah, yeah, a lot of people have a hard time justifying a full-time position or a whole team of people to be managing a digital signage network. I mean you need to have a lot of screens to justify that and there has to be a deep business purpose for doing that. But if you're hoping to just create another medium of communication, another way to get the word out there or entertain people while they wait to decrease the perceived wait time, you know, that is something that hopefully you can get away with someone doing it as a part-time job. And your ability to create effective, efficient, you know, content solutions and have that be easy enough for someone to learn pretty quickly, maintain it relatively easy for the average network, you know, kind of makes a lot of sense.

A: What are the most outrageous examples of reasons why people were reluctant to use digital signage that you've heard?

S: I mean, I think people become reluctant. Like a lot of people, they'll start this, and it'd be really cool to do. You know, so if you're in it just for the novelty, you know, I know, in the Middle East they love the novelty of digital signage. It is basically like, I want to build the biggest display, you know, or I want to do, you know, whatever and so they do that out there because that's just a part of their culture, and they want to do the craziest things, or I'm going to use robots with digital signage on it even though it really doesn't have all that much value. It's that innovation is tied to my company and that's tied to my name, you know, so they care about that. But for the practical business, you know, if you're coming in saying, hey, I think it’d just be cool to put them up on the screen, then you're gonna hit some roadblocks and you're gonna be like, why am I doing this? Why? I have other things that I need to do. But if you have a why, then, you know, whatever objections come up, if your why is bigger than that, you're going to solve those problems. You're going to make sure the budget’s there. You're going to make sure that the time is needed and the content, you know, that's needed and the content is going to keep on getting updated. So, I think the biggest objections are just that people start out, and their why isn't really there and the purpose isn't really there, and they'll quickly lose interest because, you know, it does take a little bit of effort. I think it's naive to say, you know, I can throw it up, and I'm going to spend an afternoon on it, and then it's going to be what I think it is in my head. I mean, you gotta keep on building messages and go back into… Even Kitcast, you can make it super simple, but someone still has to go in there and update the messaging, you know. They still have to go in there and change things out otherwise, why don't you just print something? You know, just print the poster.  

A: Like I said, you have to need to have the strategy, still need to understand what content you're going to put out there. It's not about the screens only, not about the software. It's about the messaging. So, if you're not sure about it, if you don't have enough of this understanding of why you're doing this, then yeah.

And what are the… The last question: What are the most exciting new applications for digital signage that in the past year, that you've seen, that brought like a spark into the industry or probably inspired you?

S: Yeah, to be honest, couple that come to mind, I'm under NDA, I can't share. Right, because I mean, true innovation is, you know, people are gonna come in, and they're gonna try to try to steal some of those ideas. But categorically, if you're looking to try to figure out what would be a really great idea or how can I leverage digital signage? The opportunities that I love just as a businessperson, I love reading business books. The way that people use digital signage best is when they can tie it to a group of things, solutions that need to be solved in a way that it's a win, win, win, win, win, and together are, you know, one point of value equals up to be, you know, between the five of us, ten points of value and now we all win because it's a combination.

I think you know, just to go back like a little bit, it's argued, you know, was it the right solution? Like if you look at the kiosks in downtown New York, right, I think everyone’s familiar with that but people just entering the industry, might not be as aware of that. It was a combination of multiple industries and problems being solved at once. And so, this is just a good category of trying to think of an idea or solution. And if you're internal in a business, you could say, well, how can HR win? How can the executive team win? How can you know the safety department win? How can the IT department win? You know, how can everyone win with the solution you're putting together? And in the case of the New York kiosk, we have these old telephone booths that the police have, you know, identified as, you know, they’re a hotspot for bad activity so we need to get rid of them. Well, we all felt we have to provide that service to our community. So, how do we provide that service? Okay. Well, there's a problem that needs to be solved. Like, okay, well, if we run… We want to be the hotspot for people anywhere they go so we'd like to provide WiFi because we think that it'll increase commerce and business, different things that happen. So we're gonna provide WiFi. Well, if we do WiFi, then we can do, you know, voice. Okay, now, but what do we put in that place because we're gonna have these empty spaces? Well, and you have to ask the question, who's going to pay for this? Is it going to be taxes? Like, no, if we put up screens and the bid came in that if they put up screens and it was ad-driven, then we're going to be able to produce like, I don’t know, it was crazy, it was like $200 million over the course of the next ten years to sell or for sponsorship. So, we not only replaced those things, have the entire solution covered in costs but we also get to gain revenue for the city, you know. And so that business gets to make money. That business is employing more people in the city. The city gets paid. You know so, I can keep on going with all these options and these all, you know, five different companies work together. Police were involved, and they got a little perk of it. I don't want to say how they got a little perk as well. But if you can look at any sort of digital signage solution, look at all the decision-makers and try to make it a win for anyone who's got to approve it in the budget or is going to be maintaining it in a way that solves a problem for them. Digital signage can be an amazing piece of that puzzle. And those are the truly innovative solutions, again. Few of them I can't really talk about but they have those types. They have that same kind of category of salt which is what they're putting together.

A: Yeah, it's really inspiring. I mean, we're all after the win for everyone. So yeah, I think that's a great note to end this interview. And thank you very much. It was, “Let's Talk Digital Signage by Kitcast.” My name is Artem, and today's guest was Steve Clancy, vice-president of business development at Screenfeed. Thank you, Steve. Thanks for being our guest.

S: Thank you for having me.


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