What is a digital asset?

As my yoga instructors often say, it's always a good practice to go back to the basics on a regular basis. It's the "simple" poses like plank and downward dog that build up your strength over time, enabling you to do an arm balance or a handstand later. I often find myself telling Real Story Group subscribers the same sort of thing: you need to focus on DAM fundamentals, and revisit your foundations on a regular basis.

The Basics

What is an asset? What makes it valuable to your organization? And what are you doing every day to make your DAM a stronger force in your organization?

I'm reminded of a section of my book, Digital and Marketing Asset Management, which I'll except here. You may wish to use this for instructional purposes with your colleagues, but you might also think of it as the downward dog of DAM: reminding ourselves of the purpose of digital assets is a good way to keep centered in your daily DAM practice.

People often ask, “What are digital assets? And how do we identify ours?” As a starting point, consider the general notion or concept of an asset: something that has intrinsic or acquired value. Your house, a building, a coin, a postage stamp, a DVD, a recording, a book, and your skills or abilities are all assets. Consider an asset conceptually rather than as a physical thing; this may help you understand DAM and its potential usefulness.

In theory, a digital asset is something represented in a digital form that has an intrinsic or acquired value. This initial definition is intentionally general. It could correspond to almost anything or any piece of media in a digital form, such as a photo, website, or email message. As a practical matter, however, DAM has evolved to support the management of digital media assets almost exclusively. This includes images, video, audio, and related artifacts (such as brochures and compound publications). You would typically use different types of technology to manage email, Word documents, relational data records, and web pages. Even some image “assets” don’t fall under the domain of DAM technology as it is known today. Scanned paper or forms that end up as TIFF or PDF files do not constitute media assets that originate through some creative process.

This distinction between rich media and other electronic assets is important because sometimes DAM consultants or vendors will suggest that DAM tools are suitable for managing all of your electronic assets, when in fact, they are not. While this is less common than in the earlier days of DAM, be on guard against this false assertion. Therefore, we refine our working definition a bit: A digital asset corresponds to a media file or files that have an intrinsic or acquired value.

For example, a movie, television show, magazine, or book has an implicit intrinsic value that today is increasingly produced digitally. These types of assets tend to be easier to understand, since they are both digital assets and “the products” being manufactured for sale. They have (in a manner of speaking) “shareholder” value. By contrast, a brochure, white paper, or banner advertisement may also have brand equity and marketing value, but no value as a direct income-generating asset. An asset’s value may fluctuate over time.

The key factors for DAM are that the asset has some value throughout its lifetime and that someone wants to use or reuse the asset.

Looking to learn more about the fundamentals of DAM? You can buy the book here.  Looking to compare DAM vendors head to head?  Try out RSG's "RealTime" vendor comparison tool.


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