The Tampa Bay Times is experimenting with newspaper racks with flat-screen monitors, following similar billboard video advertising pushes from the Richmond Times-Dispatch and a seminal effort from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The 24-inch monitors play news content, including realtime and breaking news, and ads in a seven-minute loop.The paper has more than 60 racks up and has recently closed deals with businesses that will double that figure throughout theTampa Bay region, according to Joshua Gillin, senior digital editor for emerging platforms, who’s in charge of a newsroom team that creates video for the monitors.

The racks represent an initiative calledTimesVision and are placed in retail outlets such as Kahwa Coffee. In addition to news, the content includes daily weather, things to do and quizzes.

A TimesVision rack from the Tampa Bay Times, featuring a flat-screen monitor.

“Our aim is to have hundreds of stores participating in the next few years throughout theTampa Bay market,” Conan Gallaty,Times’ executive vice president and chief digital officer, told the paper. “TimesVision promotes the stores that sell newspapers, so there’s a great benefit to our retailers.”

The Times says it’s the first Florida newsroom to place the monitors in retail outlets.

Sensors in the monitors

San Diego-based PhoenixVision provided the racks and monitors, plus the CMS the paper uses to organize campaigns and upload videos.

The monitors have an optical sensor that detects when a person walks by or is facing the monitor.The monitors track the time people watch the videos and attempt to figure out people’s gender and age.The monitors try to discern if a person is happy, angry or indifferent.The monitors don’t take photos or video that can be stored at all, the paper says.

The effort has had newsroom benefits, according to Gillin.

The paper has been able to “use the video creation workflow in our newsroom to our advantage, to help train staffers in production software and to populate our social media feeds.The workflow has proven to have multiple uses on the editorial side beyond how advertising uses the racks,” he says.

Gillin says the paper’s ad reps have begun selling a few campaigns, although now the monitors are primarily vehicles for the hosting businesses to show off specials and to promoteTampa BayTimes content. “We are still in the early stages of the medium in this market,” he said. “PhoenixVision and other outlets that use the racks have noted it takes a few months to familiarize potential advertisers with the technology.”

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