Digital asset management or DAM is both a business process and a form of information management technology.
According to TechTarget, DAM is “a business process for organizing, storing and retrieving rich media and managing digital rights and permissions. Rich media assets include photos, music, videos, animations, podcasts and other multimedia content.”(1)
DAM also refers to software and systems (DAMs) that help perform the process. Digital Asset Management News, says these systems “centralize assets and establish a systematic approach to ingesting assets so they can be located more easily and used appropriately.”(2)
What are digital assets?
As the definitions indicate, digital assets often are, or are closely associated with, rich media or multimedia files — graphics, photography, audio recordings, video and other media-based formats. The files tend to be very large. An uncompressed full quality audio recording is estimated to eat up about 17 MB per minute.(3) They also carry some type of intrinsic, extrinsic or transactional value for their holders. For example:
- An advertising agency’s graphic, photographic, textual and video files associated with an ad campaign
- Sony/ATV’s half of The Beatles catalog of music
- Getty Images’ library of images
Digital assets, however, do not always conform to the media category — think of a computer-aided design (CAD) file containing all the blueprints and specifications for a building. In fact, digital assets can hold everything from data collected from Internet of Things (IoT) devices like traffic sensors and cameras to big data collections derived from social media interactions.
How does digital asset management work?
The process of digital asset management begins with creating the digital content either by creating it in a digital format or by encoding it digitally through processes like image or text scanning or digital audio recording.
From there, some type of indexing needs to be done so that the file or asset becomes uniquely identifiable within an asset inventory. This is typically done with metadata tags that offer further information, details or description about the asset. For example, the metadata for The Beatles song “Love Me Do” might be something like: The Beatles, Love Me Do, October 5, 1962, written by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, produced by George Martin, catalog number, etc. The metadata can also capture rights, permissions and pricing for a digital asset. The indexing or affixing of metadata is critical. It makes the asset available, findable, retrievable, usable, sellable, in short, manageable.
Once indexed, a digital asset can be put to work as part of business processes. A graphic designer may call up several images as part of their design process. A museum may agree to sell or license some of the digitized images from its collection. The assets become part of workflows to accomplish business tasks with the DAM system tracking how, when, where and which assets were accessed, changed and applied.
As part of these workflows, assets take on their own lifecycle. For instance, the designer may make alterations to an image to better suit a layout. This is where version control is needed. As the designer makes changes, a new file will need to be created, stored and indexed.
But what if the designer is only a junior designer, and isn’t allowed to alter core catalog images? A DAM system can provide access and editorial controls to help govern the asset’s lifecycle and keep the system free of corruptions and unwanted proliferation or elimination of assets.(4)