DAM vs. WCM: Understanding the Differences

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Co-authors of the CMS Watch Digital & Media Asset Management Report, Theresa Regli and Kas Thomas, recently provided a great article to AIIM (The Enterprise Content Management Association) Infonomics, which helps technology professionals and business leaders alike understand the main differences between digital asset management (DAM) and web content management (WCM) systems. Additionally, the article defines several use cases for needing a DAM system. 

Here’s a summary of the article. 

Some confusion between DAM / WCM stems from WCM and enterprise content management (ECM) vendors promoting their products as DAM tools.  The truth is that most WCM vendors only offer a generic repository for binary files.  For those dealing with large amounts of rich media (images, audio/video, etc.), DAM tools are much more specialized to fit. 

In DAM, a piece of content becomes an asset when it’s been classified, indexed, versioned, secured, stored, reformatted, etc.  Digital assets are only valuable if they can be found and reused.  The key to search-ability is metadata.  Metadata is either automatically extracted (XMP, for example) or manually associated to assets. 

Established DAM vendors tend to be older than most WCM vendors.  Plus, DAM vendors have a broader understanding of the demands for scalability, storage and bandwidth in managing content.  DAM systems store files in a file system and the associated metadata is stored in a relational database.  Most WCM solutions (and light weight ECM tools, like SharePoint) store all content in a database, which generally doesn’t work for large rich media files.  According to the CMS Watch findings, metadata matters most in DAM more than any other content management technology.  Another unique feature offered by digital asset solutions not found in WCM solutions includes transforming and transcoding.  For example, converting a Windows Media File to a QuickTime or Flash Video file on the fly.  (The same goes for images.)  Other key features to DAM solutions include versioning, access controls via roles and permissions, navigation/search, review/collaboration and defining relationships between assets. 

Adopters of DAM systems include companies in manufacturing, retail, hospitality, consumer products, national/global brands, ad agencies and broadcasting. 

A few of the DAM system use cases listed in the article include:

  • DAM Library or Photo Archive
  • Brand Management
  • Marketing Asset Production and Distribution
  • Ad Production
  • Catalog Production
  • Short Form Video Production
  • Broadcast Video Production

A complete list of common scenarios can be found in the CMS Watch Digital & Media Asset Management Report

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