What Does It Mean For Public Space to Go Digital?

Over on Genuine VC, David Beisel has written a thought-provoking piece entitled What Does It Mean For Public Space to Go Digital? about the future of advertising in public spaces. Here are some of the tidbits he includes:

  • figures on the growth of the outdoor ad market from PQ Media ($1.69 billion in 2006, 27% growth)
  • “Is there a day in the future when property owners with public space, like shopping malls, become media companies focusing on selling not just physical store inventory but also ad inventory? ” (Simon Property group is already talking about this as “very promising” in their annual report.)
  • “Next time you walk outside in public, consider the fact that there’s visual real estate inventory available wherever you look.”
  • Judith Perrolle, a professor of sociology at Northeastern Univ., has called coined the phrase ‘solid state spam’ to label unwanted and unwelcome messages appearing in a public area”
  • “As outdoor digital signage continues to proliferate, we’re going to need some public discourse to reach a consensus about what is acceptable public real estate for these media.”

When you put together all the possibilities for the future of advertising, you realize how little we’ve seen yet as digital life truly spreads beyond the computer and becomes pervasive. As digital display surfaces proliferate, so too will portable sensors (and your cell phone is becoming one of those) and controllers (your cell phone is becoming one of those as well). As David warns, we’re going to need some public discourse about how much is enough. But there are also going to be huge opportunities for companies to do what Google did with its early, uncompromising stand on relevant contextual advertising rather than blaring display ads, and to find ways to use those new digital environments in a way that is consumer-friendly and ultimately empowering. David mentions one of those in his piece:

On Thursday, the Taxi and Limousine Commission of New York approved a plan to install touch-screen monitors in their entire fleet of taxis. These screens will allow riders to pay by credit card, check on news stories, map out where the cab is going and find information about eateries and bars. To me, this example use of a public space for digital screen media seems more than appropriate – it delivers contextually relevant content to people who need it at that moment, and the advertising messages which follow are (presumably) relevant.

Never mind a genuine VC. Those are also words of wisdom from a relevant one!

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