I am often asked “What is metadata?” and explaining this was one of the reasons I started this blog. There are several other blogs and websites which explain the DAM basics. I have listed some them on the right column of this blog under “Blogroll.”
The question reminds me of when I was a college professor. When teaching, it is important to make sure the audience has the basic foundations to understand what will be discussed before diving into the complexities. DAM can be quite complex. As discussed in a earlier blog post, some DAM solutions are very limited in what they can do while others are highly configurable and customizable. Most of my blog posts refer to the highly configurable and customizable DAM solutions for business purposes, but the principles are the same because you still need metadata. Why do you need metadata?
Most businesses in the 21st century have many digital assets whether they are audio, graphics, photographs, text and/or video. The number of digital assets will grow in the coming years, according to Gartner. A DAM can not only archive these assets, but also make them searchable and ease the workflow around using them.
A common misconception is to run out, get a DAM and expect it to automagically:
- Help them find any asset they dump into the DAM without metadata
- Sort the junk from the valued assets for them without metadata
- Make them money by allowing people to somehow find what they are looking for without metadata
Many people need to realize that metadata is a key driver of a DAM. Metadata can be a double-edged sword if it is:
- Not properly applied to the asset (If the metadata is not readable by the DAM or a user)
- Not particularly relevant to the asset (Who is going to refer to this information? What purpose of the metadata aside from finding it?)
- Not applied as soon as the asset is available in the DAM (Don’t paint yourself any illusions that the metadata fairy will come visit your assets in the DAM and add the metadata for you weeks/months later.)
Metadata is any information about the asset and its content. Metadata can make assets searchable because that is what you are often using to search beyond the file name. The most common error in digital asset management is applying little or no metadata to assets! A DAM is only as good as the metadata associated to the assets, its ability to facilitate the searching and move assets into a workflow. Without metadata, a DAM has very limited search capabilities and the problem will only get worse as more assets get added over time.
Consider this: If you had to find one asset out of a million assets in one minute, which of these options would you pick? Google ain’t there to save you.
- Search using metadata
- Visually search for that one asset
Most people would pick the metadata option as long as:
- They are aware of metadata and what it can do for them
- They know how to use metadata
- Proper metadata is applied to assets
I discussed in an earlier blog post that most people don’t like to create metadata and there are some ways around doing it yourself in some cases.
Like with many investments, you get what you put into it and with some effort, you can get significant gains from this too. Those gains are often seen as time savings in searching and workflow as well as the ability to find, use, reuse and re-purpose assets you already have in the DAM.
Sadly, many organizations don’t consider reusing or re-purposing assets they already have created because they simply don’t even know what they have created over the past years. As soon as an asset is created and reviewed by one or more employees, it should be archived in order for a wider audience within the organization will know about it for the future. How will they find it? Add metadata when adding (import/upload) the asset to the DAM so they may find it in the future. Metadata is not simply meant to be used by the creator of the asset, but for others to find it and know something about the asset too.
There are many types of metadata and it often depends on the file type of the asset. Some metadata may embedded into the asset and/or some may be associated to the asset in the DAM. In a future blog post, I will discuss the various types of metadata, their advantages, disadvantages and how metadata can be applied to assets.