What publishers need to know about digital asset management (DAM)?

Digital asset management (DAM) as a term has been having a bit of a moment, especially in publishing. Publishers being in the business of material distribution makes them especially reliant on good digital asset management.

DAM is a term that many publishers will be very familiar with, though actually defining digital asset management can lead to confusion. Everyone agrees DAM is important, but it’s also hard to pin down. What is good digital asset management, and how do publishers benefit? Is it a software, a platform, practices, a strategy – or a bit of everything?

We are here to help you demystify DAM, plus show you some key ways in which your organisation can benefit from DAM that you may have not thought of yet!

What is digital asset management?

The clue is in the name. DAM is all about how an organisation stores, organises, and manages its digital assets. Digital asset management is about more than just smart storage, it is also about material retrieval and distribution.

And what is a digital asset exactly? It is anything that an organisation stores digitally – this could be text, images, graphics, metadata, video etc. There are no limits to what a DAM can and can’t contain.

Examining your digital asset management practices as a publisher means embracing a more strategic way of managing your assets.

What are digital asset management platforms?

There are many different types of software solutions and platforms that can be classified as digital asset management platforms.

The complexity in classifying DAM software lies in two areas:

  1. Organisations tend to store digital assets in ways that are not necessarily DAM-friendly (e.g. assets living outside software that is suitable for managing digital assets)
  2. DAM software can also include other features that have nothing to do with DAM.

Whether a software is marketed as DAM or not, it can still function as your digital asset management platform. (For example, our Time 3.0 product include a module known as TimeBase that is a publisher focused database and DAM solution, yet we often use other terms to describe it too).

For publishers, any DAM system you choose needs to be configurable and resolutely multi-channel. If you are not sure what DAM platform to adopt, we recommend that you begin with scoping out the needs and features that you need. Start with your own specification and requirements to help find a (DAM) good match.

Remember: it could be that what works best for you is a hybrid approach, a custom integration, or software that is not actually traditionally known for DAM. These are all legitimate ways to solve for DAM.

Adopting a DAM mindset is key to succeeding

A digital asset management plan or strategy is not just about selecting the right technology, it is also about adopting the right mindset.

  • You need to have a plan and strategy in place before you do any data organising or migrating. Start with the “why” before you move into the “how”. You can’t just buy an off-the-shelf system and assume everything will work – you need to invest time into creating proper processes around it.
  • DAM exists at the intersection of many processes – creative, editorial, marketing, PR, production etc. So, to embrace this strategy, you will also need to invest in good collaborative practices.
  • Training is essential, especially when new people join your organisation. Create the right culture around your digital asset strategy. An example would be including DAM as part of your information and cyber security induction, highlighting its centrality. You should also ask staff for regular feedback on your systems.

All-informed systems make for better publishers

How can managing your digital assets make you a better publisher? What features should you be prioritising?

Here are some key things to consider:

  • Automation is a great way to speed up your content tagging and publishing system. We advocate for automation where it makes sense and it’s a key DAM feature for publishers to make the most of.
  • A good DAM system should help you with material tagging and storage, enabling you to easily include all the different elements that need to be attached to material e.g. authors, edits, approval, copyright, usage, version control. AI can help you with auto-tagging so that you can have a good asset taxonomy and library.
  • Duplication and the copying over of metadata – this might seem like a small feature, but the ability to duplicate is a key DAM selling point.
  • Synced assets and no down-time are essential to a good DAM system, enabling rapid and easy collaboration.
  • A good search engine should really be at the heart of your DAM and information retrieval. (We created a powerful Finnish-language search engine for publishers called TimeSearch for this very reason).

Integrate for a better software experience

Integrations are key to good content management systems – it is unrealistic to assume you will find one software solution to do absolutely everything in publishing.

In fact, publishing is especially susceptible to and reliant on software integrations. And, integrations means you can make the most of software features, so embrace the hybridity and integrate where possible. Maybe your image and text files need to be stored in slightly different ways and are managed by different teams? Perhaps marketing needs its own separate DAM system? You may end up with “micro-DAMs” as part of the bigger content landscape.

Sometimes you will need to take your assets out of the DAM system to edit, approve, or create them. (For example, we have an asset approval software Netcomment.net that some of our clients use in tandem with their own asset storage systems). Have a clear process when it comes to other platforms intersecting with your DAM platform.

Performance is one of the cornerstones of digital asset management

One of the cornerstones of a good DAM system is that it speeds up asset retrieval, approval etc. It essentially helps your teams work faster as they will spend less time locating and tagging assets.

But you should also choose a DAM system that works fast in and of itself. You want a speedy and intuitive system that balances performance with user experience.

Tip: consider your content supply chain in the same way you might view logistics – how can you optimise for performance and budget?

Brand consistency and team collaboration as key DAM benefits

Having a good asset management process leads to better brand management. Having your assets in order leads to brand consistency, but it also helps customer service and account management teams by making stakeholder (freelancers, authors, editors etc) collaboration easier.

Making your team’s lives a lot easier creates a better atmosphere around your brand. Having good workflows and good systems will encourage people to use them and follow processes too. People work better with systems that they like and can trust. Especially with publishing teams that are working globally and remotely, a good DAM system will help them collaborate and scale.

Commercial benefits of good digital asset management

So, what commercial justifications can you use when it comes to adopting a digital asset management strategy, or improving your own asset processes?

  • Being more efficient leads to better utilisation rates and brings down production time.
  • Collaborative projects can be expensive – DAM cuts down on liaison time and cuts out ambiguity.
  • A safe system keeps you from any embarrassing data or IT leaks that can be costly on many levels!
  • This is also your chance to streamline and say goodbye to inefficient data storage. Even the cloud has its limits…
  • Centralisation is a great DAM asset – this will make it easier for you to create systems elsewhere.
  • You will need less people to manage a good system.

Publisher tips for better digital asset management

Struggling to get going with your own DAM strategy? Here is some of our advice to get you going:

  • Audit where you are right now to ensure you create an accurate specification for your operations. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in DAM.
  • As a publisher, you need to take responsibility for your own data. A good storage solution cannot make up for all your data storage sins, so be prepared to invest time into managing this.
  • Integrations are an efficient way to create great systems, so don’t except to just invest in one one-off software.
  • Make sure the methods match the material – what works for images and video, may not work for text. Consider the processes around certain publishing material too – some elements might need to come in and out of your systems more frequently, impacting how they should be stored.
  • Think about retrieval and security, especially on the more collaborative end. Shared links, folders, timed access – just some of the ways you can be collaborative and secure.
  • Embrace automation, it will honestly save you a lot of time. But don’t automate before you have a clear idea yourself of the content landscape and how it should work. Smart automation = good specification.
  • Keep evolving. Technology is constantly on the move, so expect frequent upgrades and updates.
  • A digital asset management strategy is not just an IT procurement question – this is about processes, training, even company culture.

Looking for a better digital asset management experience? We are happy to talk you through some options if you are stuck!

Contact us at: info@timehouse.fi or call +358 207 491 449.

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