Finding effective digital signage content on a budget

Low-cost and no-cost ways to provide content for your signage system
By: | Issue: February, 2016
February 18, 2016

Digital signage has come a long way in the last decade, and is increasingly utilized in higher education. Universities are an ideal place for digital signage, offering a variety of different venues for unique content including dining facilities; faculty and staff offices; faculty, staff, and student lounges; health clinics; gymnasiums or sporting arenas; theaters; classrooms; and student residence halls. With all of these different ways signage can be used, one might expect a crack team of digital signage experts will be hired in short order once a university approves a digital signage deployment. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case, and the crack digital signage team is often a single person wearing multiple hats in addition to their already expansive regular duties. With tight budgets and minimal staffing, what can be done to create and sustain a useful, attractive digital signage system on your campus? Fortunately, as digital signage has grown over the years, so have the support industries surrounding it.

Ideally, you already have some content in mind, and a plan for maintaining and updating your content before you hang your first screen. This is not always possible, depending on available funding and staffing resources. Whether starting under ideal conditions or not, you can find inspiration in a lot of the content already being created by your university. Look at the various departments around campus, and see what messaging is already being produced that may be adapted, or even better served by digital signage. Theater productions; campus radio and television studios; academic conferences; communications, marketing, or graphic design students; campus newsletters, blogs, or websites; service organizations; and student activities and events are great places to start looking. These internal sources are already producing content, and often have an interest in getting this content out to a wider audience. Both purposes may be served using the same work. In addition to these internal sources, there are also a number of external sources available.

Many digital signage software solutions include subscriptions to news or content resources like weather updates or the Associated Press. These resources can provide quick, timely information to your audience, without requiring a lot of time or effort. Other organizations specialize in providing access to canned content or news sources, so you can choose from a cafeteria-style list of content options. In addition, some services offer Application Programming Interface (API) access that you can use, including social sites like Twitter or Facebook. These APIs range from simple to complex, which you’ll want to consider depending on your staffing or your technical expertise. With a limited budget, a few well-placed API or subscription services can really go a long way in maintaining a steady stream of current information.

In addition to textual content, there are resources that can help with video or graphic design. Royalty-free, reusable stock video and images can be purchased a la carte, or you can find all-you-can-use plans for a low, annual fee. Other organizations offer a full package, with background images, text, design layouts, and more. There are also communities on social platforms like Google+, which can help you find and access low-cost resources for your screens. This is a great way to get high-quality, attractive content to use for your screens.

Digital signage can be daunting to a higher education staff with limited resources. You don’t have to be constrained by a lack of resources, however. Limited resources provide opportunities for enhanced creativity. With a creative blend of available internal content, APIs, and graphic design tools, these limited resources may be transformed into an attractive, functional digital signage system on your campus. You might even inspire your administration to make additional investments in your system.

Author Jared Padgett will present “Nuts & Bolts of Managing Content: Tips & Tricks for Effective Digital Signs with Minimal Resources,” at DSE 2016 on Wednesday, March 16 from 9:00-10:00am at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For more information on this or any educational program offered at DSE 2016 or to learn more about digital signage go to

Jared Padgett is associate director of communications at Pepperdine University School of Law, and manages web development and digital signage projects on behalf of the law school communications department. Padgett helps departmental and organizational leaders by developing and managing projects to facilitate organizational requirements.