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The Difference Between YouTube and a DAM System

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What’s the difference between YouTube and a digital asset management (DAM) system, and which one should I use? These questions are often asked by Widen customers who want to expand their use of the Widen Collective® to manage video assets, and by potential buyers who need a better way to manage their video assets on YouTube. 

DAM software is a content management system with publishing capabilities. YouTube, on the other hand, is a publishing platform and a search engine. So they are actually quite different, and shouldn’t be thought of as “one or the other.” We suggest you use both and have some tips for maximizing the value of each.

The benefits of YouTube

Most people know that YouTube provides a simple way to store and share videos online. It’s also a search engine that allows people to find how-to videos, reviews, product demonstrations, and much (much) more. Good metadata makes it easy for users to find your YouTube content, either through a keyword search or by becoming “suggested content” after similar videos. It’s user-friendly, optimized for many different types of devices, and widely used — there are approximately two billion users every month!

However, there are limited settings to control who has access to your content, so all of your files need to be edited and fit for public viewing. And there are ample opportunities for users to be distracted by videos on other channels. This is by design — they want people to remain on their platform as long as possible to boost their ad revenue. But even though it’s difficult to keep YouTube viewers engaged, it’s very important to have a presence on this platform. With billions of users, YouTube is simply too powerful to ignore — you just need to make sure you’re deliberate when using it as part of your video marketing strategy.

The benefits of DAM software

DAM systems that store videos alongside other assets like images and documents allow you to manage the entire video lifecycle — from creation to archive. It serves as the central source of truth for all content and allows you to repurpose final files to other platforms, like Youtube, to be consumed. 

Digital asset management provides a range of other benefits, like increased brand control, improved productivity when finding and sharing content, and an accelerated time to market. This article explores five core concepts that help businesses maximize the value of a DAM system. 

Which platform is better for video management?

When it comes to video management, there are three key areas of difference between YouTube and DAM systems.

  1. Audience segmentation. It’s nearly impossible to make certain videos visible to one group of YouTube viewers, but not others. Your only options are to make the video public, private, or unlisted. Public videos can be seen by everyone, private videos can only be seen by the administrator, and unlisted videos aren’t findable via search and can only be seen if you have the direct URL. This is why YouTube is really only appropriate for sharing public videos.

    DAM systems offer much more granularity around user permissions and access. By organizing your content into asset groups, and your users into user groups, you are able to control the files each user is able to see, download, and share.


  2. Download capabilities. Although there are websites in the dark corners of the internet that allow you to download videos from YouTube, make no mistake about it — they are illegal. If you need a platform to share videos with your sales teams, for example, YouTube is not the right solution.

    DAM systems, on the other hand, offer a range of download options. They store videos in their highest resolution and convert downloaded files to the format needed, on the fly. Video editors can download high-resolution editing formats like Apple ProRes, and Avid DNx, while salespeople can download smaller compressed MPEG-4 files if desired. Access to use each of these conversion formats can also be controlled via the user roles and asset group permissions discussed above.


  3. Versioning capabilities. Many products and services entail continual updates. We are constantly enhancing our DAM software, the Widen Collective, and any video about specific features can quickly become outdated. Because YouTube does not allow you to upload a new version of a video, you must delete the old file and upload a new one. And when the original file is deleted, so is any work you’ve done to build up views or optimize the file for certain keywords.

    DAM systems offer robust versioning features. This is especially valuable when video content is embedded on multiple websites. Take for instance a product video for a bicycle that is embedded on hundreds of different retailers' websites. If the video is updated and uploaded to the DAM system as a version, the old file will automatically be replaced on all the different websites where it is embedded.

What about video publishing?

While the differences outlined above are clear, there is one gray area. When you publish videos on your website, should you embed videos from YouTube or a DAM system? 

There are pros and cons to each of these options, many of which are discussed in-depth and in detail all over the internet. Because YouTube is owned by Google, embedding YouTube videos brings some search engine optimization (SEO) benefits to your webpages in Google searches. But those embedded videos will have YouTube branding, and links to the YouTube website may pull viewers away from your content. 

While embedding videos from a DAM site doesn’t include YouTube branding or distractions, it lacks the baked-in SEO benefits. If you consider those a wash, there is one thing we feel tips the scales towards non-YouTube embeds, and that is the perception of your brand’s credibility. Our research suggests that when businesses publish videos without YouTube branding, they look and feel more credible. 

YouTube optimization tips

YouTube can be a very effective tool for creating brand awareness if used correctly. Here are three tips for amplifying the impact of your YouTube strategy:

  1. Create robust metadata. If you’re a Collective user, you probably already understand the importance of metadata. It’s no different on YouTube. Although it’s tempting to upload a video without complete metadata, it really is worth the effort. After all, YouTube is a search engine, and people won’t be able to find your video if your metadata doesn’t align with their search. Think about what words your target audience might use to find your content, and then make sure these terms are in your YouTube metadata. 

    It’s also important to know that there isn’t a limit on the amount of text you can place in the metadata fields. So if there is a blog post that accompanies your video, you can copy and paste the entire text into the description field on YouTube. Search engines can’t extrapolate meaning and context from a video file, so supplying this information via metadata will increase your searchability and give you an advantage over your competitors.   

    Also, make sure you upload captions to your video. You can upload your own captions manually, or use admin tools to edit captions that Youtube generates upon upload. Editing the captions actually improves your search ranking, as it tells Youtube you took time to make them more accurate. Make sure you fill out a beefy description of your entire channel, too.


  2. Brand your channel landing page and thumbnails. This tip, as well as the third item on this list, are only relevant if you are a YouTube partner — which we’d highly recommend doing. It unlocks a number of advanced features without requiring you to allow ads on your videos. 

    One of these advanced features is the ability to place links in the video and to drive traffic to your website. And the second important feature is the ability to upload your own thumbnail instead of selecting from their stock options. A custom thumbnail is a powerful branding tool that gives your videos a consistent look and feel. It lets your viewers recognize your content with just a quick glance, and know that it’s from a trusted source. This feature — along with the branding the design of your Youtube channel landing page — helps your organization look more professional.

  1. Make annotations and links. After you become a Youtube partner, you’re able to put annotations on your videos that contain links to your web pages, to drive traffic from Youtube. 


Recent research from Hubspot found that 93% of marketers who use video say that it's an important part of their marketing strategy — an increase from 92% in 2020, making this the highest percentage of any year since 2015. So having an efficient and sustainable video management strategy has never been more important. 

If you are interested in learning more about the video management capabilities of the Widen Collective, talk to a Widen advisor today.

Note: This article was originally written in December 2015 and has been refreshed with updated content.

Topics: Marketing, Video

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