5 min read

Let's Talk Digital Signage Podcast by Kitcast: Bradley Chambers, 9to5Mac

Written by
Pavlo Fedykovych
Published on
December 20, 2021
May 29, 2024

In this edition of Let’s Talk Digital Signage Podcast by Kitcast our guest is Bradley Chambers of 9to5Mac. It is a part of a series of interviews with digital signage market players who are sharing their pains, gains and hopes for 2021-2022. It is destined for digital signage professionals, enthusiasts and everyone who’s interested in the current state of the industry.

As COVID-19 remains a huge threat to the ways business is done, we think that it’s important to find ways to thrive during pandemic collectively. That’s why such conversations are a great way to see different perspectives and use them to become stronger. 

The 9to5Mac writer Bradley Chambers is an experienced insider of all things Apple who’s been covering this topic for many years on the highest level. During the podcast, he shared his insights about various aspects of the market as well as the trends for 2022. The conversation touched upon many important issues from operating a screen network during the pandemic to reasons why Apple is the best digital signage solution in the game, from mental health tips to technological advice.

Here are the topics that were discussed during the podcast chronologically: 

  • Bradley’s daily routine to be healthy during a pandemic
  • Positives in the current state of the industry
  • Advantages of Apple TV and the Mac ecosystem from POV of 9to5Mac writer
  • Pros of cloud-based solutions
  • Tips for businesses who would like to go with signage technology
  • Digital signage trends for 2022
  • Misconceptions about the screen technology
  • New exciting propositions on the market

Transcript of the podcast

Artem Risukhin: Hi, everyone, my name is Artem. You're listening to the new podcast series by Kitcast called “Let’s Talk Digital Signage.”

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 COVID-19. While there are positive signals on the market, more than ever, 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 through 2022.

And my guest today is Bradley Chambers, a blogger who covers enterprise technology at 9to5 Mac.

Hi, Bradley.

Bradley Chambers: Hey, welcome. Thanks for having me on the show.

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A: Thanks. Thanks. Thanks for taking part. What is the daily routine that helps you stay in grade mode and maybe get inspired during these challenging times?

B: I think it's not one specific thing. It is the routine. I am very much rigid with my routine. So, I think, for me, there are a few things I'd like to start the day with. I get up early, and I like to have my coffee waiting on me. I do my daily devotion in the Bible. I have a big glass of water I like to drink, and I like to get a good workout whether that be a good run, you know. Lifting weights. You know, just like kind of crossing off all the things I need to do to have an effective day. And I do best when I kind of do those early. I like to get those things done. And you know, one thing you actually just put into place. My wife and I, were out to dinner this weekend, and we were really just talking about the map screens and the average person's life, and I was like this is not… Like I love technology. I work with technology like I love technology. I love what it brings but I think that society as a whole would do well to kind of put it in check a little bit. Like I was at a baseball game yesterday and just like watching around and seeing people just on their phones the entire time, and I even thought like, why are you all even here?

So, one of the things that I'd actually bring into place and like, we were talking about, like, we need like more times without strings like TV off, no phones and going… I'm going back to physical books. Not like Kindle. I'm talking like good, old-fashioned books, and it was great. Here’s a good example of why it is nice in the community: I went to a bookstore. I saw a book that I had been recommended. I picked it up, took it to the counter, cash retro attendant. She said this book is fantastic. She said you won't be able to put it down. Those are conversations you don't have when you are just buying something online. And I even thought like there is sometimes, yeah, buying stuff online, it's easier, more efficient, sometimes it's about the people and like the relationships in the community. So, yeah. So my new thing going forward, to sum up, the answer, is fewer screens and/or try to have more time without screens.

A: Yeah, it’s true just, you know, to get offline and notice some positive things that are always there. Talking about the positive things, which changes might you have noticed and digital signage that had noticeable positive results in 2021 and that businesses should take to 2022?

B: Well, I think digital signage is one of the things I think that really changed. Digital signage in the past 24 months has gotten a lot easier to implement. It used to be a market where there was this high cost to entry not only in the capital but also in like expertise where when you go in, you know, if you go to like a sports event like I said I was at a baseball game, and you see these digital signage tools. They have the very, very advanced ones. Like, you know, the menus and all that but, gosh, some of them are so, so complicated like where you almost have to be a programmer to even use them, to use them well. And I think that's like the big trend I've seen. It has gotten easier to do for businesses of all sizes where you could be a very, very small independent coffee shop, very, very small, independent bookstore and you could have digital signage.

Now, what are the benefits of using digital signage in a small store? And, you know, I would argue that the small stores need, you know, smaller retail stores need digital signage even more than larger ones because things may change quickly, and you may not be able to, you know, adjust the messaging as easily as you could in a big store. So like, you know, again, let's say you are a local coffee shop or let's say, for example, you're out of a popular product because, you know, sometimes right now in this environment the supplies can get tough, well, you can quickly just pull that thing off the menu instead of having to put up a piece of tape: “We’re currently out of stock.” It's very kind of rinky-dink. Well, now you just update the menu, and it's instantly available. And then so it really eliminates that barrier from a human cost. But then from a capital perspective, it's very inexpensive now to deploy digital signage. Again, you can use, you know, Android devices, you can use Apple TV. Apple TV is my favorite one, where you can get $150 Apple TV. Get a digital signage app like Kitcast. I am a big fan of Kitcast. I have been using it for years, and you can have digital signage up and running with something very nice in a matter of almost like minutes. Certainly, within hours, you can have something nice, and there are lots of nice ways you can pull in different feeds, even the weather. You can pull in photos from social media. And again, all this can be done at very, very little upfront costs. And a lot of people say the Apple TV sounds expensive. You hear someone say, have you seen what some of this stuff costs? Like some of these other big solutions, they may cost $15,000 to get it up in a store and running.  You can get an Apple TV, one Apple TV with an HDMI switcher, and you could power two to three TVs off one Apple TV. I mean, it could not be a better time to be in digital signage or be wanting to do that because it's so easy now like it's really, it's just gotten so, so simple and so there's really not a reason that a business shouldn't be looking at it. And really wanted the benefits of the Apple TV too, and I think of like a regional store or a regional gas station. There's plenty of those here in my area.

Well, using Apple TV’s iOS Mobile Device Management APIs, you can set up zero-touch deployment on Apple TV. So, what you can do, you can go to your Apple business executive, buy ten Apple TVs, have them drop-shipped to the ten gas stations, tell the person on-site, like, hey, just plug it up, you know, plug it up, get it on WiFi or plug-in an Ethernet. The Apple TV will auto-configure itself. You can even configure Kitcast to auto-connect it. You can kind of go in there and do your MDM and do some configuration. There are really nice APIs that Kitcast can tie into and it just configures itself. And all this can be done without having to touch, you know, an IT person going inside to touch each one. All you need is someone on-site to just get the Apple TV app up and get it on the internet.

A: Yeah, and the number of screens that you can add is just limitless so you can do that on any scale that you like, on any scale that you need.

B: Well, that's true because, again, because Kitcast is, you know, is a cloud service and people said, oh, I don’t want to pay for something monthly. It's like no, no, you want to be paying this monthly because you don't want to have to maintain the system. Like you don't want a server at one store and all the other stores having to be talked to. Like you want this thing to be in the Cloud because that's the cool thing. You can have stores across the entire country. You can get logged into your Kitcast dashboard, and you can even set back any of your signage to stores that have a Cloud component, and it makes it so easy. You can, let's say, for example, you’ve got to change pricing quickly. Well, if you’ve got physical menus, the time and effort it costs to change physical prices on printed-out signage, it's just countless hours and money of just wasted time. You need to update, you know, add $1 to a food item, it's done in seconds with a digital signage tool especially with those with a Cloud-based component. You don't have to worry about security. It just becomes like a part of your business. I do love the idea of having one place to build your customer messaging around that you kind of don't have to fool with if that makes sense.

A: Exactly. Let’s try to maybe say three tips for those who consider using digital signage for their businesses in this year or the next year as well. What would they be?

B: First thing would be to stop putting so much on a single screen. Like I see this with billboards, you know, especially digital billboards. People will try, you know, if you see those big ones driving the interstate, you see these like massive billboards with these massive amounts of text that no one can possibly read driving seventy miles an hour. The same thing really applies to in-store digital signage as well. Don't try to say too much. Hone your message. So, it's like some sort of marketing message, hone your messaging in. And so, it's like if customers are going to remember one thing, make it the one thing they're going to remember.

Second tip, if you're going to use QR codes on your digital signage, which I think is a very valid thing to do, QR codes can, you know, we all have a love-hate relationship with them like I hate going to the restaurant and they say, scan the QR code. Just give me a paper menu. But there are aspects of like, you know, in-store, it's like nice, like, you know, scan here to sign up for our customer loyalty programs, scan here for X, like scan here for…especially like a restaurant can be, scan to see our nutrition information. Very good. So, if you're going to do that, two things with a QR code. Make that slide stay around a little bit longer. So, if your normal slide, which is around for five seconds, make that one beat for ten seconds because it may take people a second longer to get their phone out.

The second part of that, if you're going to send people to something make sure it's optimized for mobile. To me, like the worst thing is when you go to scan something, again, if you're in the store, you're obviously scanning it with your phone. You scan something it then tries to load up a 45 Meg PDF that you can hardly read. You’ve got to turn your phone sideways; make it mobile optimized. You know you don't need a 45 Meg PDF. A good example that drives me nuts is Dunkin Donuts. I love Dunkin Donuts. Inside their app, they have a button that says nutrition information. When you're looking at the food items, like, oh, I'd love to see that. It sends you to a PDF that has all of their nutrition information for every product they sell. Like you couldn't even, like, you have to scroll in to find the item you want to eat and then like scroll back out and say, okay, I want the carbohydrates. Like there's no way to find what you're looking for on your phone. Clearly, it was just like a checkbox somewhere, link off to nutrition. So, build things with the understanding that people are going to look at them on mobile.

The third tip would be to hire a graphic designer at some point. I think if you're getting started with digital signage, you can use premade templates; that's great, they work great; they’re free. As your business expands, I would recommend maybe hiring somebody to think through what you need to say, like, in terms of your messaging, your fonts, your color choices. Like, it's fine to get started and not think about that but as you begin to standardize on, you know, things related to typography and imagery.

A: As you mentioned about the QR codes, there's another application for using them. It is because of the pandemic which made us more touchless. So, I think that's one of the trends that might continue in 2021. What are the trends for digital signage you see that will dominate this year and next year as well?

B: I think just more of it. I could see more interactive things going forward. I've seen that at restaurants with the use of digital signage for trivia games. I think you'll see kind of more of that in smaller verticals as well. You know, not that you got to entertain people but there are opportunities to use digital signage to, again, create a better environment. Like we were at a restaurant called Dave and Busters here in Chattanooga where I'm from and one of the things they use on some of their TVs was…they had a cool trivia game going, and they had an interactive approach where you could play along and it was pretty neat. So, I think just that more interactivity, I think it will definitely be an exciting trend. I think you'll just continue to see digital…. You know, digital signage is going to stop being a term and it's just going to be signage, and it's going to be all digital and that's probably the big overarching term.

A: And in terms of industries other than let's say retail or food industry, do you see that there is a big shift in usage to less using it or to transforming it into some other ways of conveying a message?

B: Well, you know, you always think of digital menus but then I think you're even seeing things about like, directional support, like getting people…because let's say you have a meeting facility to where you'd normally just print out, you know, Johnson group goes here, Smith group goes here, well, I think all that's kind of moving digital, and you'll even see digital even on a micro-scale. So, it may be just a tablet that's in a kiosk that just has arrows. But again, it's all about the ability to build a consistent message so people know where they need to go but in a way, you're not having to like print out a paper every single time you need to make a change. And I think one of those things too, is you can use digital signage to automate changes. So, you could update, you know, you could update all that signage once for the week, and it automatically shifts based on the time of day to whatever the current kind of trend is.

A: You mentioned the misconception about how complicated digital signage is and how it can also be expensive. What other misconceptions and possibly myths have you encountered about digital signage that should be debunked?

B: Well, I mean, again, the biggest thing is that it is expensive, it requires an IT professional, you know, it'll get out of date quickly. I think that's one and I think that one of the benefits of building around a platform like Apple TV is that, you know, that, hey, if I buy this Apple TV today, I know it's probably going to work for five to six years. Apple's going to continue to update it. So, you know, you have this investment you make upfront, and then you can continue to enhance it with software over time. Because I mean, again, even the Apple TV that came out in 2015 is still pretty powerful enough to run your digital signage store. And I think a lot of that comes from so much of it coming from the Cloud that you're not having to process all this stuff, you know, on-site. The intelligence is happening, you know, on the Cloud side.

A: We also hear a lot about how people don't usually trust the Cloud in terms of security. Is that the misconception that you also encounter?

B: You know, I think there are two schools of thought. There are people who want to do stuff on-prem and there are people that want to do stuff in the Cloud. On-prem, it is actually harder to secure than the Cloud. Because in reality, everything is a Cloud whether it's your own private Cloud or whether it's a public Cloud. And by using a hosted platform, you're not having to worry about the security of it, you're basically paying another company to do that. And I think that's an ideal trend. And we, you know, let's be real, we're all doing that now with so much… I mean, almost no one hosts their own email anymore; you're using Google Workspace, you're using Microsoft 365. You know, we are all using, you know, public Clouds for so much now. It really…it makes sense to let the experts handle it.

A: What are the most exciting new applications for digital signage that you've witnessed this year or possibly last year that really could bring a spark into the industry that excited you?

B: Well, the ability to build kind of self-adapting tools. So, you know, you can envision a world of the future where your digital signage tool maybe connects to your room reservation system. So, if you schedule a room, it automatically kicks off a series of connections through APIs that automatically updates your digital signage. It's really just more of the automation through digital signage. You're connecting your digital signage to, you know, additional things.

A: And do you have a message of cheering for all the digital signage devotees out there?

B: Just keep telling your stories. Keep doing cool stuff. If you have a unique application, share it on social media, start a blog. You know, if you have a success story where you made a customer impact, a system or something, tell, and I think that gives people different ideas. I mean, the great thing about digital signage, you know, people in that industry is, you know, you're not competitive. So the barbecue place in Orlando, Florida, isn't trying to compete with the barbecue place in Dallas, Texas, but they can share expertise amongst digital signage tools to say, hey, this helped us. You know, we changed our menu to this, and we started selling more of our high-priced items so here's a way you can tweak your digital signage menu. You know, just really telling those success stories.

A: Thank you so much, Bradley. My guest was Bradley Chambers, blogger at 9to5 Mac. Thank you for this cheery message and for your wonderful insights. It was a pleasure having you on the show.

B: Thank you.A: Thank you!


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