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Toronto school board goes ahead with screen network; Onestop bites

 
A few months ago there was what seemed like the strangest possible RFP from the Toronto District School Board, looking for a company to install a digital signage network in schools, on its own nickel. The curious part was that ads were not going to be allowed on the screens, which kinda messed up that pesky business model thing for the network people.
 
I wrote about first word of it, and then on some of the detail that started to filter out, including the involvement of Onestop Media Group, which went to the board with the concept. Onestop does the screens in the Toronto subways system, as well as a new network growing in apartment and condo lobbies. They do some fee for service work for retailers like Sporting Life, but they are very much a digital out of home ad network company that pays the bills selling ads.
 
Onestop's involvement means there is a way to ad revenue glory somewhere in this arrangement, because the guys who run the company are NOT knuckleheaded dreamers.
 
A release issued today confirms Onestop bagged the RFP (not sure if anyone else bothered once it appeared pre-cooked as most RFPs are), and that a system is now running in four downtown high schools.
 
The release gives some pretty good detail, but is a masterpiece when it comes to artfully ignoring the elephant in the room - advertising.
 
TORONTO, ONTARIO, MEDIA ADVISORY--(Marketwire - Jan. 26, 2010) - The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and Onestop Media Group (Onestop) have officially launched a pilot project to bring a real-time, digital communications network to students in four downtown high schools; Harbord Collegiate, Central Technical School, Central Commerce Collegiate and Haydon Park Secondary. Using today's digital and interactive technologies, the network showcases a massive portfolio of content segments, from student news reports; to safety and security information; to the announcement of events and student achievements. The TDSB network also enables staff and students to upload videos, images and text to a series of state-of-the-art LCD screens.
 
The TDSB network's goal is to equip the schools with a modern communication platform to allow user-generated content - similar to what the students encounter growing up in the digital age. Content creation for this emerging digital medium may, in the future, be integrated into the school curriculum.
 
Chris Bolton, Vice-Chair of the Board, says: "Today's youth are tech savvy. This project engages them through their own media environment but also challenges them to be involved in their school and community. Learning has become more relevant using the technology and is reflective of their interests and those of their community, which also shares the benefits of this new communication piece in the Toronto District School Board."
 
"This is a generation that was born with the internet. Digital technologies are a part of the way students speak with each other, and we're pleased to provide a way for them to use this technology at school." says, Michael Girgis, CEO and President, Onestop Media Group.
 
Constable Scott Mills, Community Youth Officer, Toronto Crime Stoppers, says: "We are thrilled to see TDSB adopting a Digital Communication Network. The digital infrastructure that supports this Network also allows authorities such as TDSB and Crime Stoppers to deliver messaging in a timely and relevant fashion. Digital Networks like these have proven to be instrumental in helping keep our communities safe, as seen with Onestop's Network in the Toronto Transit Commission."
 
Rodrigo Fuentes, Principal, Harbord CI, adds: "The pilot will run for several more months, and will allow for student, parent and staff feedback on the tools and technology as they become part of daily school life."
 
Media is invited to join the students at Harbord CI for a demonstration of how they create dynamic content, upload and showcase their work real-time on state-of-the-art LCD screens.
 
I couldn't care one way or the other if there are screens in such schools, as there would not be anything going on the screens, in terms of advertising or content, that hasn't been seen 1,000 other worse ways by high school kids on cable, the Web or their phones. Innocent minds, these are not, by 15. If a system pays for the other functionality that comes with the system, cool.
 
But the careful avoidance of the "ad" word in this release speaks to the minefield Onestop is going to have to cross with a hyper-political school board and both educators and parents who will immediately conclude the devil is now broadcasting in Toronto's high school hallways and poisoning minds.
 
Note off to Onestop to ask what's what.  
 

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Dave Haynes is one of the most seasoned professionals in the still young digital signage industry, with deep experience in everything from business development and sales to technical operations, product development and start-up strategy and fundraising. These days he is extensively working on business development and consulting for an industry big on enthusiasm but still a lot short of experience and know-how.

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