A DAM Industry: “What Should We Call This Damn Industry?”

A DAM Industry

This post is about a digital asset management (DAM) industry. (Note that I wrote “a” DAM industry instead  of “the” DAM industry.)

DAM (as I learned it) is the acronym/adjective that professionals in one DAM industry have used to describe their skills, their software platforms, their processes, etc.

In that space  “DAM” means something along these lines:

Digital Asset Management (DAM) is a collective term applied to the process of storing, cataloguing, searching and delivering computer files (or ‘digital assets’). These may take the form of video, audio, images, print marketing collateral, office documents, fonts or 3D models. Digital Asset Management
(DAM) systems centralise assets and establish a systematic approach to ingesting assets so they can be located more easily and used appropriately.

(Source: The DAM Glossary)

In this particular DAM industry, there is some recurring controversy about whether “digital asset management” is a still a viable term (if it ever was)  for this particular group of professionals, their products, and their services.

Some have suggested that the term “digital asset management” is inherently confusing or that it is outdated (or both); therefore it should be retired.  I agree with this.

There are other professionals, who feel that this DAM party is just getting started, and their  DAM acronym  is getting more buzz in corporate conversations than ever. Thus, it should be preserved. I agree with this, too.

I’ll touch on these philosophies soon enough, though do need to take care of one bit of business.

The Elephant in the DAM Room

Right now, I  implore you  to make a DAM joke.

It doesn’t matter what the term  “digital asset management” means to you, but let’s just agree that DAM jokes are pretty damn hilarious.

Beavis and Butthead at Washington Monument. Caption: "Heh heh heh, You Said DAM"

You Said ‘DAM’
(source: ImgFlip)

Just succumb to your urge and crack wisely – about this DAM blog post, about this DAM industry, or somebody else’s DAM industry.

Don’t hold it back; that’s not healthy.

Here’s a primer, to get you in the DAM spirit:


(Hoover Dam  Scene from National Lampoon Vacation)


Feels good to get that out of your damn system, eh?

My DAM Journey

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my first encounter with some DAM software  was when I worked for a Chicago ad agency in the previous millennium.

In the spring of 1993, my company purchased a copy of Aldus Fetch (an ancestor of Extensis Portfolio). We referred to it as the “art catalogue” software.

I don’t know if the term “DAM” had even been coined yet.

(Demo Video of Aldus Fetch Software)

I didn’t hear the term digital asset management until several years later. Though it didn’t matter much. Not nearly as much as the problems it solved, with its scant-few features.

First, I could actually SEE what an image, or illustration, looked like –without having to open its source application! It wasn’t that long ago when it might take several minutes to launch Photoshop to open a file. The file preview was a huge timesaver.

Also, the keywords feature allowed users to  add descriptors so that we might actually FIND files –within a few seconds – without clicking through a cumbersome, and inaccurate folder structure on a server.

Since I didn’t know what the technology was called, and didn’t really give a damn.

I encountered the term “digital asset management” in about 1997. By then, I had  actually several years of (on and off)  experience in the DAM field.

Digital Asset Management didn’t seem like a good term to me then. When my colleague first mentioned it, I thought he was talking about money. It was an ill-fitting description of what the solutions actually provided.

However,  I didn’t have a better term to offer. So, I  ran with DAM. If nothing else, it was an attention-grabbing, giggle-inducing, acronym I used when trying  to sell corner-office decision makers on the idea of enterprise-wide solutions.

However it  seemed that I had to spend a lot of calories, explaining what the hell “DAM” meant. Even then, I was still  met with a lot of polite nodding or vacant stares. “DAM” was a pain in my damn neck.

With the advent of the Dot-com bubble, there were suddenly a lot of companies that professed to provide solutions that managed content in some way or another. Soon  “digital asset” management, “enterprise content” management systems were all rather meaningless.

The terms were subjective and rather elastic. They might be working with different types of content, and in different ways, but they were all managing content.

In my opinion, the terms and the associated acronyms (DAM,  DM, ECM…) were pretty much  useless.

Every damn one them.

Follow The DAM Money

Digital asset management (Content) has never been a good term. It offers more confusion than clarity.  I found myself using  it less and less when discussing content management solutions, focusing more on what my employers and clients hoped to accomplish.

A few years ago, an impassioned DAM  discussion, that began on a Linkedin group, spilled out into the streets (actually a public-facing web site). Professions offered compelling reasons  to drop, and to keep,  the damn “DAM.”

One key point: there was a new DAM in town. The financial sector was beginning to the use the  terms “digital asset” and “digital asset management” to describe their offerings in  Bitcoin and other crypto currencies.

DAM (Content) Guru David Diamond, who wrote a “DAM” book and a “Content Management” book  wrote on Linkedin:

“Major players in the Financial sector are using “digital assets” to describe Bitcoin and related “digital” financial resources. They’re calling the tools used to manage those resources “digital asset management” systems. I say that, as an industry, we abandon this term before companies like Fidelity take over all the Google search results that matter to us.”

Quite a cogent point and with a clear call to action for the industry to change its damn name.

Companies like Fidelity, Morgan Stanley were (and still are)  tightening their embrace of “digital asset management” and  the DAM (Money) industry would always have the ability to outspend  the DAM (Content)  industry in the search-engine-optimization wars.

Essentially, this brand-damn-new DAM (Money)  industry would  eventually get all the DAM traffic search results because they have more damn money to spend to buy loyalty from the likes of Google, BING, etc.

I thought this assessment was on the money (No apologies here. My puns are intentional).

Though I also agreed  with the contingent that held that DAM (Content) was  starting to gain traction as a term and that we should think thrice before abandoning it now. True, this DAM (Content) industry  was becoming a  fairly hot area. It’s interesting that, after 25+ years in existence that our DAM (Content) industry  had achieved “overnight” success.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact, that  DAM was never (in my opinion) a good term for the management for  content files. DAM (Content) is 1/4 century (or more) into its lifespan and it’s still  (again my opinion)   a fairly small speck  in corporate discussions.

The End is Damn Nigh

I’ve been seeing DAM (Money) creeping into my DAM (Content) web search results for a few years. Though today, for the first time, I tried searching for “digital asset” and “digital asset management” on Linkedin.

When I used the “People” filter,  nearly all of the results are for DAM (Content) practitioners.  That makes sense because my network is loaded with people in that space.

Then, I did the same searches with the “Content”  filter. I surprised  that the DAM (Money)  articles and posts far outnumbered those of DAM (Content) by a large margin. “Well, I’ll be damned,” I thought.

This suggests  that people are: writing posts about, commenting on, and  linking to, content that is about DAM (Money) more than they are about DAM (Content). Not what I’d expected, given the makeup of my network.

This helped solidify my opinion is that we’re nearing the end of DAM (Content) road.

As I’ve said, I have been in a slow-moving breakup with the term “DAM”  (Content) for several years, so I will have no difficulty in eventually letting it go altogether.  It’s been a good run.

A DAM good run.

(For related  reading: please see my posts: The Laswellian Definition of Content Management and  The Digital Liability. )

 

 

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“Digital” Productivity Tool

Yesterday, I got a robo-call about something I had to act on this morning.

The task was low-effort, but an irregular one, thus had a high risk of  slipping my mind.

I considered all my reminder aids:

  • Whiteboard
  • A planner full of paper
  • Phone and laptop software (‘apps’ as the kids are saying today)
  • An array of online tools from…(well just about everybody offers tools like this)

Then I remembered an organizational technique – perhaps the most effective ever developed – that was often employed  by my  former company’s Executive Creative Director many years ago.

Then I  grabbed a pen (not a mouse, a stylus, or a dry-erase marker) and I wrote  “Call  attendance office,” along my thumb (technically this IS  a “digital” solution).

Man's thumb, with "Call Attendance Office"

Thumb’s Up To Productivity

Well, as you can see, I actually wrote “Call  ‘attendace’ office.” The single downside to this technique is that there is no spell-check. Though the spelling was good enough to jog my memory.

Though I suppose if you’re particular about spelling, then a proofreader’s mark calling for the ‘n’ to be inserted is an option if you have a red Sharpie nearby.

After a few moments at my desk this morning, I looked down at my keyboard and saw the not-so-subtle reminder that I needed to make a call. I grabbed my phone and 90 seconds later: tardy excused.

Mission accomplished.

What are some of your 20th century productivity hacks?

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Time Has Come Today

Please Don’t Make Me Shop

Frequently,  before Christmas or my birthday, people (my wife, my sisters, etc) tell me that I’m hard to buy for.

My response is always “I am not. I don’t want anybody to  buy me ANYTHING.”

I don’t like people spending money on things for me because I don’t like things in general.

I don’t like being on the hook to return an item–if it’s the wrong size, a non-flattering cut, or a hideous color–because I really hate being in stores. Then if I am successful in returning the item, I’m in a position where I’m expected to actually….SHOP.

Other than a few trips for groceries per week, I go to great lengths to avoid stores. Just being in a big box store is exhausting for me. The lighting bothers me, I hate weaving through crowds, the noise if it’s busy. 

I hate spending money. I hate contributing to clutter to  my house.

If I shop at all, I shop at smaller, or at least, less-busy stores. If I need hardware, light fixtures or tools, I prefer the store that is within walking distance. If they don’t have what I need, I’ll grit my teeth and drive to one of the national chains, that have a larger inventory.

Every few decades, I am forced to shop for clothes. Usually, I don’t mind a few holes in my shirts, or socks, though I worry about the threadbare jeans. Because eventually somebody might  shout:

“I see London, I see France, I see Scott Smith’s underpants!”

“Don’t Ruin Ruin It For Him”

Last spring, a few weeks before my birthday, my wife told me that our teenage son was pretty excited about his gift idea. I was then placed under orders to “not ruin it for him.” by groaning about how much money was spent, or if it was something that I wasn’t interested in.

“Oh….kay…” I meekly replied.

It turned out it was a pretty cool gift.

Wrist watch on Mans Arm

Wrist watch on Man’s Arm

It was a watch. And a Timex watch at that. Not a digital, internet-connected, steps-counting watch, with a minuscule movie screen. It was an analogue watch, with big numbers and a needle-width  hand that rotated around the entire watch face.

When I put it on, I happily sang the refrain from the psychedelic rock song Time Has Come Today. 

In my childhood, I was fascinated by watches. Neither of my parents wore one.  Though I can remember staring at the wristwatches worn by my older cousins and brothers-in-law, my neighbors, and strangers that I’d see in the grocery store. 

A wristwatch become one of the items on my “When I Grow Up, I’m Gonna….” list.

TV commercials from my early youth, featuring John Cameron Swayze trying to torture a Timex watch, helped to cultivate  a brand loyalty in me (though I couldn’t name any other brands):


Video: Timex Watch Commercial Featuring John Cameron Swayze


The watch my son bought me is not a single-use device, either. Not only can I tell time anytime, anywhere, but I can also check the date (Full disclosure: I have to reset the date each time the month has fewer than 31 days). 

Furthermore, it has a light switch, so I can tell time in the dark. It has the added value of providing enough light that I can find my phone during a power failure, and the phone has an app that provides enough illumination that I can find a flashlight  in the utility closet.

So, my watch can do at least three things.

I hadn’t worn a watch in years. My previous watch met its end after I already had a mobile phone, which had a clock on it. “Who needs a watch?” I thought.

Productivity Hacker

Eventually, I realized that by living without a watch I was losing time (as always my pun was intended).

A common  fidget behavior for modern humans, and certainly me, is to check the time. With a wristwatch, it was quick, easy and provided immediate gratification. In that respect,  a watch is pretty much a pacifier to me, except I don’t have to remove it from my mouth to eat or speak. 

It took me time to acknowledge that relying on a phone as a clock (or for fidgeting)  was cumbersome. It wasn’t always convenient to pull it out of my pocket.

Furthermore, it was rare that when I looked at the clock, that I limited my interaction to just a  time check.

Often, I checked e-mail (and sometimes responded to email,)  looked at news, occasionally social media….Checking the time, sure was time-consuming.

When I periodically said  that I was considering buying a watch, people  would say things like “Those are handy for tracking your steps checking messages and updating your social media…” Or “You should try the Apple Store.”

Uh..those are things I DIDN’T want to do with a watch.  I just wanted to the tell time.  A traditional wristwatch would help to seal my productivity leaks.

The fact that I got a watch without having to shop for a watch is gravy. 

I don’t know if my son ever heard me discuss my longing for a traditional wristwatch  or not. Perhaps he did. He knows I’m not big on shopping.  

In any case, I’m glad that he got it for me.

Because he gets me. 

Video: Time Has Come Today (by The Chambers Brothers)

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The Closer

Talking Baseball

Last Saturday, a neighbor and I were discussing baseball at a block party, when he brought up modern-day managerial strategy for relief pitchers. 

I don’t follow baseball to anywhere the extent that I did as a kid. I’m confident that I can name more players from the 1975 World Series, than I can name current players in all of Major League Baseball:

(Carton Fisk Homers, Invents The Wave)

Still, I find it interesting that there are pitchers that might enter the game for a very short time. “Setup Relievers” may pitch for an inning, or less, prior to the when the managers calls for “The Closer.” to finish a game by preserving a lead.

There are even some contexts in which a relief pitcher might be sent in to pitch to one batter. One freaking, batter! The outcome of that matchup might determine who the next reliever is.

Under current market conditions, some relievers make over $10 million per year.

Popeye Takes The Mound (via GIPHY)

Where’s MY Closer?

I said to the neighbor, “It would be cool if we had similar role players in other professions. Imagine if an editor sent a reporter, working on an investigative article, to the bench, so that a closer could write the concluding paragraph. Or if a software architect benched a programmer before project completion, just so a closer could compile and debug the code.”

That made me think of a recurring source of pain, some unfinished tasks. To myself, I said, “I wish that I could hire a closer to finish my blog posts.”

It’s now Thursday and since Saturday I’ve been been thinking about all those blog post (dozens of them) sitting in a “Draft” state. Sometimes, I think I hear them whimpering about having been ignored for so long.

Having a bunch of blog posts in an unfinished state is nothing new, though as the problem seems to grows larger, so does my anxiety about not completing, or publishing, them.

Though having to face them that day, I felt like it weighed a little heavier. Perhaps it was the realization that no closer was going to finish, or delete them, for me.

After some Major League-caliber fretting, I decided to practice what I’ve long pitched (pun intended) to clients, and employers. I did a content inventory, and then, content audit on myself.

Practicing What I Pitch

I had nearly 40 posts that were in a draft state and developed a quick cleanup framework:

First of all, drafts that were about “current” events were axed if they had no relevance to today’s reality. I had one that contained the phrase “A few days ago…” It was from 2012. It no longer sparked joy.

Next, if I didn’t recognize the topic of the post from the working title, it got a new, meaningful, working title. I can change it to something clever, and meaningful, when I publish it.

Then, if I felt a previous attempt at a topic was overly wordy and reading it evoked memories of tedium and frustration, I axed most of it, except for a few key phrases, or all of it some cases.

Finally, I allowed myself 45 minutes to complete this task to avoid being seduced by Parkinson’s Law – the principle that the amount of time required to complete a task grows in accordance with the amount of time that is available to complete it.

Well, before the bell went off, I had reduced my inventory to about a dozen drafts.

Today (Thursday), a scant 20 hours later, I don’t know what effect my cleanup efforts will have long term.

But hell, I felt leaner and motivated enough to write this post; and have renewed enthusiasm about the topics (Apollo 13, obscure DC Superheroes, my first puppy…) lingering in some of my unfinished work.

At long last, it feels good, rather than painful to be sitting at about my keyboard.

I will be my own setup reliever and my own closer, and save over $10-30 million/year.

Several drafts, representing multiple genres are in queue, and I’m ready to face them.

Batter up!

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