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Some have suggested that the term “digital asset management” is inherently confusing or that it is outdated (or both); therefore it should be retired.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