Screens, Screens, Screens

5 07 2008

Gas Station ScreensStop me if I’ve mentioned this before, but I think that filmmakers who think that the only way to reach people is on the big screen (film theatres) or small screen (television) are so 20th century.

Uh, okay, so I have said it before. Often. Very often. And again and again. But you can’t stop me now.

In any case, at the recent WCA conference panel that I hosted, we ended up talking about thinking of distribution as a multi-faceted hydra and woe to the filmmaker who ignores that fact. I forget if it was Ken Rutkowski or I who said this, but someone said that it’s all about screens, and there are a multitude of new ones out there — try waiting in line at your local chain supermarket, or drive into a gas station. Some phenomenal percentage of South Korean users of cel phones actually watch media on their phones (I think Ken said it was 85%, if I’m not mistaken).

Now, in the latest issue (July/August) of FAST COMPANY, there’s an article called “Can’t-Escape TV” and it outlines five places where these new screens are becoming even more ubiquitous. They talk about five places:

  1. Big-box stores. Places like Costco and Best Buy. They have tons of screens on display, but obviously can’t take the chance of showing regular programming where ads for their competitors might show up. So they contract with various programmers (big player – PRN) to provide content into which are slipped very specific commercials. Which, of course, they can get paid for. Genius. The content, however, is mostly reculed from cable networks.
  2. Gas stations. Gasstation.tv reports that 84% of all people who pumped said they’d view or listen to GSTV on their next fill ‘er up. Frankly, I find the content unbelievably bland, created by CBS-TV in 4-1/2 minute blocks.
  3. Grocery stores. You got your basic captive audience here — a tedious wait for the person in front of you to count out all of his/her pennies, right before they run back to the deli counter for that order that they forgot to get (“Could you please hold my place for a minute?”). Once again, CBS seems to dominate this market (a division called “CBS Outerreach” — which is actually a pretty cool name). The article notes that screens at the deli and meat counter lines can be used to promote store items before the customers get to the checkout. Hopefully the content starts to get better than the bland E! type stuff I’ve seen so far.
  4. Doctors’ offices. Wow, speaking of captive audiences. As the health care system degenerates even further, the waits get longer and longer. CNN and others design programming for us poor schmucks who don’t want to read last year’s copy of Family Circle Magazine. I haven’t seen this yet (I really must get to the doctor soon!)
  5. The proverbial “third place”. This includes places like Borders, Jack in the Box, Coffee Bean, et al. The content, which is a live feed created by companies such as Ripple, consists (according to the article, I haven’t witnessed this yet) of Retuers, E! Entertainment (ho-hum), New York Times, Yahoo, CBS (again!!) and Clear Channel. Coolest of all, though, is that customers can buy — for a buck — “ShoutOuts” which will be broadcast in the store with content of their own choosing. Presumably we will soon see marriage proposals in Borders soon. [Preferred to the Jack.]

So, for content creators, here’s the $64,000 question. Just what do you notice all four of these sites have in common.

I’ll let you think about this for a minute. And… the … answer … is … crappy, unimaginative, repurposed content (with the exception of the ShoutOuts, which are pretty cool).

If you are smart content creator/filmmaker/digital artist, I think you’d do yourself some good if you’d hang out in front of these screens for a while and figure out just what  you can do that will fit onto these screens and more. You are all creative people. Why not give these captive audiences something more for their time, something that they’d like to see.

Once again, those of you who see the big screen and the be-all, had better start sharpening your burger-flipping skills.

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6 responses to “Screens, Screens, Screens”

5 07 2008
The Editor (19:39:29) :

Thanks for the comment. I’m flattered someone who actually teaches editing would read my simple thoughts.

Speaking of places for content – I was watching a band play two weekends ago and they had a ‘video collage’ going behind them. It was pretty trippy. A combination of crazy Japanese TV and music videos cut together at rapid pace. If you just need something for people to look at when they’re waiting in line, why not that? Heck, why not something really beautiful like Baraka or Koyaanisqatsi? I’d rather hear some Phillip Glass and see beautiful vistas while I pump gas then listen to a news anchor blather.

5 07 2008
Norman (20:44:22) :

EXACTLY right. There is so much content which is so much better than what I’m seeing. Much of this content has to work without sound — gas stations are so noisy — but that makes it even MORE important to have interesting visual content.

6 07 2008
Frank Reynolds (16:39:32) :

It’s interesting, I first noticed TV screens in gas stations in Cape Town, South Africa, when I was working there about five years ago. In fact, the film I was working on there, CAPE OF GOOD HOPE, actually has a scene in it where poor people from the townships actually go to the gas station to watch the TV screen there as their entertainment! The content there was mostly commercials (which weren’t bad) and some African music videos.

I’m a New Yorker and don’t own a car, so the appearance of screens at gas stations here in the US passed me by.

23 07 2008
Theatrical-Release Feature-Film is Irrelevent… « IFSS Production (20:43:56) :

[...] contributor to Film Industry Bloggers has many times explored this idea. And this article called Screens Screens Screens puts an articulate and forceful motivation on the bigger picture of [...]

3 01 2009
HOLLYN-wood (Norman, that is) » Why Kvetching About Small Screens Makes You Look Stupid (22:14:44) :

[...] I’ve said it before, now I’ll rephrase it. “It’s all about the screens baby.” There are many different types of content. Why shouldn’t there be many different ways to absorb it? [...]

3 02 2009
HOLLYN-wood (Norman, that is) » Cell phone bills and media makers (01:19:49) :

[...] me, this is great news for those of us who make media. As I told a class today, for those of us who love the idea of making media for screens above and beyond the television and the Big Silver, we’ve got a great expanse of wild and wooliness out [...]

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