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Every year, according to market research firm Gistics Inc ., companies jeopardize $300 billion worth of their brand-related digital content such as video, packaging, print and audio because it is either lost, misplaced or duplicated. An average of $8,200 per person per year is spent on file management activities, like searching, organizing, backup, and

security; the average user in a media enterprise looks for a media file 83 times a week and 35% of the time the item in not found. This is the problem digital-asset-management systems address.

Digital Asset Management is a general term to loosely describe the process of creating and managing a centralized repository for all the digital contents of a company. In today’s corporate environment, the production and management of new text, audio, and video material are increasingly digital, and new medias like the Web are constantly raising the question of whether existing assets should be digitized. This is especially true for companies whose first business is communication, such as entertainment companies, networks, and publishers, as well as any business with a growing need to communicate with customers, employees, and other partners. This is where the need for a Digital Asset Management system begins. Till lately often companies threw away huge sums of money simply because digital assets were lost, or not found at the moment of need. A company could spend 6 figure dollars for a photo shoot and due to improper storage fail to find it at a later point. This directly affects the company sales, marketing, public relations, and investor relations. It can even cut directly to issues like the length of the sales cycle and the ability of the company to promote shareholder value. A digital Asset Management is the answer to this nightmare


Digital Asset Management is often discussed under a number of sub headings. These groupings are often largely technical and in theory serve very similar functions.

Most of them are variations of a centralized repository for any and all of your digital content. Short descriptions or thumbnails of your digital content, known as metadata, are stored in a database for easy searching and management. This metadata is linked to the actual image, file or video clip, normally stored on a server. When you’ve found the description of the media you’re looking for, you can quickly retrieve them. And you don’t necessarily have to be in the office—a good digital asset manager will let you retrieve clips over the Internet.

Knowledge Management, DAM - Digital Asset Management, MAM – Media Asset Management, DAW – Digital Asset Warehousing, Content Management…

These are a few of the acronyms hanging around and while there are lines of distinction between them they all answer to the growing need for digital asset management

Knowledge management encompasses all of what an organization generates, uses, and promulgates to the world and to itself. This would include all of its reports, databases, Power Point presentations, phone logs, visitor logs, transportation and shipping manifests, photos, videos, and more.

Next in line is content management. It is on a lower level than knowledge management as it need not include reports, logs, or other informal kinds of information transfer in a company. For our purposes, content management covers the creation, storage, and printing or delivering of audio, video, or JPEG images, Power Point slides and slide shows, scripts, brochures, or other printed ephemera.

Further under the skin of the onion is the Media Asset Management sphere. The MAM sphere is a subset of content management as it is focused on the audio and visual media generated within a company

Finally, the Digital Asset Management sphere represents the smallest of the spheres in the knowledge/content onion. DAM systems focus on the repurposing and resale of digital assets-audio, video, slides, and the like. As such, it may not cover all the media content generated for a firm, as some assets would remain internal or for one-time external use.

There may be some argument regarding what is digital asset and that may determine if DAM is a sub group under MAM or not and varying opinions exist on that front.


To understand why or how DAM is useful to a company let us for a moment look at the flow of data in the process of content generation, retention, and distribution with and without DAM. This content can be any media–digital or analog–as well as any sub-type, such as JPEGs, MPEGs, Word documents, Power Point presentations, or spreadsheets. Typically, this process consists of four stages, as follows:

Without DAM

Creation: In this first stage, an artist, writer, editor, or filmmaker creates new content using existing material as a basis or by generating entirely new content.

Storage: Next, the new content is stored on a file server on the network or on a tape of some sort.

Delivery: In a few limited formats

Lost and forgotten: Sadly, the disposition of most content is to be relegated to a hard drive and forgotten. When the content's creator leaves the firm or is promoted, the content often becomes abandoned and ultimately lost.

With DAM

Creation - as before

Storage - For us, this content would typically directed for storage on a hard drive on a RAID device, with an archive on tape, or preferably on an optical jukebox.

Delivery - In this stage, the client (either internal or external) will receive the requested content in the appropriate form factor. This may require generating a CD, DVD, or VHS tape in many cases. It can also easily be a streaming video using MPEG-1 or 2, RealVideo, or another motion video format

Indexing: As content is generated and stored, it is indexed according to various possible criteria called "metadata." Metadata does not merely describe by whom, when, and how a piece of content was created; it can also be used to interpret and catalog the content itself. One common example of metadata used in a digital asset management implementation would be a storyboard of key frames from a streaming MPEG-2 video.

Resale: Following indexing, an online user may access the developer's content catalog to select existing images or videos.

Rights Management: At this stage, a new module, handling rights to the content, now will filter or restrict the use of the content by the purchaser/end-user. Rights management is not simply for external use, however. It may be needed to restrict access or use internally as well. This might occur, for example, with corporate information or licensed images from a third party incorporated into the content.

Reuse: With a viable rights management structure for digital media in place, the internal content developer can now research and select appropriate content for reuse in new content. This represents significant savings potential for users. It can also be a significant "hassle"-reducer as well. Consider a corporate executive needing a Power Point presentation. Rather than have to regenerate slide after slide, an executive can now peruse the company catalog for video, animation, or simply text content–all without having to regenerate the content.

Review: A final benefit of an online catalog with a DAM system is the ability to review older content more easily. Outdated materials can then either be archived off-line or otherwise removed from the system. Needless to say, an optical library such as a CD or DVD jukebox would provide a tailor-made integration with a DAM solution.



The North American Media Producer Industry employs 4.1 million media producers and incorporates 207,000 media producing firms.  The Media Asset Management (MAM) market reached $654 million in 1998 and will to grow to $3.2 billion by the year 2002. Enterprises that have already shifted to a interactive mode of digital asset management have begun to manifest huge cost savings, increased customer satisfaction, and expanded productivity by incorporating a systematic reuse of their preexisting media assets. – this is a direct statement from the GISTICS Media Asset Management Market Report, one of the few in depth research reports available on this topic

The largest strength of the DAM market is that this technology directly affects the bottom line figures. It reduces the per project overhead costs, creates faster product cycles, reduces labor costs on complex projects, opens up the possibility of additional licensing revenue streams, has been seen to increase profit per employee and can increase company valuation 5 – 15 times. It is no surprise that in spite of the high costs of DAM solution major companies have begun to invest in this area with a long-term focus on growth.

Digital asset management (DAM) solutions have become essential products as a federal mandate for conversion to digital format, revolutionizes this market and propels product sales in coming years.  At the moment the media and the entertainment industry are the largest clients for DAM. As for the other industries the challenge for DAM vendors is to convince customers to purchase their products now rather than waiting until they comply with the FCC mandate.


When we look at the weaknesses of DAM industry we can very easily break them up into the following sub groups

·        Marketing challenges

·        Development challenges

·        Maintenance challenges

The DAM vendor's scenario is very volatile at this point. There are mergers and alliances and partnerships all around which is a direct by product of the complexity of the solution.  The need to interface with a number of distribution channels requires the add-on features and functionality of a number of 3rd party products. Very often in the IT world of specialization one single vendor does not have the know-how to address this myriad of issues. For example how to provide delivering content to literally hundreds of types of devices that are popping up, like cell phones, Palm Pilots, ATMs, satellites, broadcast cable, even video screens can be a challenge on its own

This poses a marketing challenge.  In such a scenario alliances and partners become the norm. If we look at the major vendors – it seems for every complete solution that they have implemented there is more than one vendor involved. Whether it be on large a scale as CNN's implementation or a relatively small print shop. Sony almost always leaned towards piggybacking with some other vendor when it comes to providing asset management solution.

Artesia's TEAMS is however a relatively complete solution but then again there is the issue of customization needs. Unless a DAM product is customizable it is strongly handicapped. This brings in the issues of maintenance, and the costs of maintenance contracts and so forth.

As for the development challenges, the questions really are how much?, how soon?, and how?

As the overview will reveal this is an extremely complex solution and developing a package solution, will pose a question as to which modules are absolutely necessary. Certain customizations will of course be necessary and will widely vary from client to client – however what should the basic functionalities be?

For a new vendor the question becomes one of choosing a niche. It should be clear that an all encompassing solution is beyond the scope of a start up vendor so what to include, what not to include and the time frame of development are questions that need to be answered.

The next problem for the developers is the distribution problem – the sheer number of the interfaces, which need to be able to use the solution, will naturally be a growing one. A company may start with a basic desktop and web retrieval system and then over time require other modes of distribution as well. Therefore the boundaries need to be clearly defined.  Not so much as what can do with but more of what we can do without.

Another area that may pose a challenge is the intensive client interaction that is needed in the first phase of development to do the needs analysis  - thus posing a problem for plans of off site development.

As for maintenance challenges – this is hardly a solution that is sold in a box and walked away from. Maintenance contracts will almost always be necessary thus increasing the scope and time line of the project and the undertaking as a whole.


The icing to this piece of cake for any new vendor is that there are plenty of areas untouched at this point. Hence the possibility of finding a niche in this market and focusing on that area may be a very good strategy. For example the small – mid sized business arena is almost untouched by this industry. It is not that they do not need the technology but that there are no existing solutions that quite meet their budget and their needs. Available products are upwards of $50,000 if not more and that is the plain vanilla type without any maintenance contracts or customizations.  There are some individual graphic file management systems around but nothing that would in anyway resemble a DAM solution. Hence there is the golden opportunity to create a code product and develop separate modules and sell them as add on functionalities.

Therefore the scope of DAM solution, which maybe seen as a weakness can also be seen as an opportunity.

The other point to note is that the general consensus about digital asset management industry is that it is a growing market. Researchers estimate that the paid digital content market will grow to $5.7 billion by 2005*. As a result of the explosive growth of digital content, companies need to create, store, manage and distribute their assets through multiple channels, while ensuring appropriate levels of rights protection. This means the industry is still riding the crest and is not at the top as yet – this makes it an ideal point of entry for the new vendors as the industry still can accommodate new entries without losing market share.


The complexity involved in developing, marketing and maintaining a DAM solution brings in the requirement of adequate technological know how. In order to handle distribution effectively vendors often sense the need for alliances with other vendors. However this may cause a loss of control over product as well as lowered profits.

The DAM industry is relatively young and companies like Microsoft have not yet targeted small industries and embarked on creating an out of the box product for them.

However that does not mean that they will not do that in future. Large companies can come out with products far quicker than small vendors. Naturally any new vendor product needs to have a quick turn around time which means that the development time period has to be an intense short period. However this is uncharted territory – a lot of manpower, research and planning may be necessary before embarking on a project.


The general consensus is that DAM is the need of the day, however it is not a $19.95 solution. Although the smaller businesses need it the truth is it cannot often fit in their budget. There is definite scope for new products in the arena but as most DAM solutions go to show the development process can be a complex and ever expanding sphere. This requires careful planning and clear cut boundaries for any new vendors who seek to enter with their own product.

This being so, the question now is – what should a DAM solution consist of at the minimum. Artesia’ has given a fairly acceptable list: “import/ingest, index, search, modify, link, export/distribute”. Along with these features another important feature is the ability to customize. Since the asset management needs vary significantly from client to client it is extremely important that the product be customizable. (A look at Attachment 2 will give you the existing features offered by Artesia’s TEAMS product – one of the few good end to end solutions offered in the market.)

So the mood is one of cautious optimism. There is much growth in this industry and the right product, placed properly could definitely serve both client and vendor needs.