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Another DAM Podcast interview with Abby Covert on Digital Asset Management and Information Architecture

Listen to Another DAM Podcast interview with Abby Covert on Digital Asset Management and Information Architecture

Full Transcript:

Henrik de Gyor:  [0:02] This is Another DAM Podcast of Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Abby Covert. Abby, how are you?

Abby Covert:  [0:09] Great. Thanks so much for having me.

Henrik:  [0:11] Abby, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?

Abby:  [0:14] Well, I am a professional Information Architect. My involvement with Digital Asset Management, is really in helping organizations to understand the impact of language, and structure on their effectiveness towards whatever their goals might be, and that can be across many mediums, which I think is similar to the challenges that Digital Asset Managers face as well.

[0:35] They’re looking at the scaffolding that then initiates a lot of processes within an organization. So, my job is pretty similar in that regard I would say.

Henrik:  [0:44] As an Information Architect, you recently authored a book titled How to Make Sense of Any Mess. Tell us more about what we can learn from this book since many DAM professionals need to do the same.

Abby:  [0:55] My main premise in writing a book with such a broad title How to Make Sense of Any Mess, and I thought very hard on the word “Any”, was that I really felt as a practicing information architect after 10 years, that a lot of the messes that I was helping my clients to make sense of were actually really based in information and people, more than they were specific to the technologies, or the mediums that we were actually executing in.

[1:21] I would say that anybody who has been working in technology for more than 10 years, has seen some sort of current of change that all of a sudden we have mobile, all of a sudden we have social, how does that change what we do?

[1:33] What I actually found was that it doesn’t change a lot when you look at that information and people part, that it really comes down to a basic understanding of leading and facilitating people, through a process of identifying what is not making sense to their consumers or to their coworkers.

[1:51] Then working through the delicate steps that one needs to take to really adjust the mental models of themselves, and maybe the people that they’re working with, in order to reach whatever intent people are trying to get to. I guess after spending a lot of time making sense of other people’s messes, I wanted to know if I could write a book that would help people make sense of their own.

[2:14] I think so far, based on the feedback, yeah, I think that you really can. You can self‑serve this stuff which is great.

Henrik:  [2:21] What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?

Abby:  [2:25] I definitely think that scalability is one of the biggest issues that organizations face in general. Whether that be scaling up to meet the needs of digital, or scaling up to meet the needs of a growing business, those two things have become synonymous. I don’t run into a lot of companies that are scaling up their business that doesn’t mean they need to scale up the digital side of their business.

[2:49] Also, the cross‑channel nature of things. The decision to invest or not invest in certain channels, and the impact of doing so. Taking the time to start a new social channel that just got announced, instead of taking the time away from doing something else. So I think in terms of Digital Asset Management, I think that it’s difficult to stay on the edge of that while also maintaining what you have and not letting the things that you have get unkempt.

[3:21] I would definitely say scalability, and keeping up with the wave of change would be the biggest challenges. Successes, I would say, anyone that can pay close attention to context of use, and not use metadata as a way of checking the box on like, “Yes, we’ve collected metadata,” but really thinking about how that metadata is going to apply to a use case, that might be realistic to that organization, and how they’re going to use that content at a swift pace.

[3:52] Then, also the cadence they’re going to need it at. I think that anybody who is doing that level of deep research organizationally, around the way that they’re organizing their internal assets, is probably seeing a lot more success than those who are in their cubicles alone, just applying data schema that make sense in their head. Because it’s easy to do that from the common sense place, but it turns out that common sense is pretty unreliable in a lot of cases.

Henrik:  [4:20] Good points. What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals, and people who are aspiring to be DAM professionals?

Abby:  [4:25] I am going to go and continue my thread of “Get out from your cubicle, or your office, or even from your desk and go work with other people.” I think that the idea of doing the work versus concepting your way through how the work will be done, is a dangerous place to be by yourself, especially in a field that is so dependent on making sense of the things for other people to use for their jobs.

[4:55] I feel like if you can take that soft skill part and use that, and give equal attention to that, then also your tools, I would say that that would be my number one piece of advice.

Henrik:  [5:07] Have a conversation with as many people as necessary who will be using this?

Abby:  [5:12] Yeah. Also, don’t scare them away with your language and your tools. That’s for you to figure out later. But get out a marker and some post‑it notes and a white board, or whatever you got to do to make them feel comfortable and get through the anxiety of… Digital Asset Management is like a big mouthy term, and I’m sure that there’s some marketers that are hearing it for the first time in some cases when people are working with them on it.

[5:37] Making sure that that’s not getting in the way, and just remembering that technology is a monster in many people’s minds. So, we’re all going through this transition organizationally. Most organizations are going through a transition. I would say that those that haven’t been born into digital, even those are going through lots of transitions with the increased cross‑channel nature of our businesses and our design mediums.

[5:59] But I feel like if you can educate people in a way that they understand that you’re making decisions that are going to help them along the way, and that you’re collaborating on those, and that you’re just the filter, you’re just the person that’s going to go to the tool at the end of the day, and enter it into the way that you guys agreed it’s going to be. But you’re not a dictator of the way that digital assets should be managed.

Henrik:  [6:22] Well, thanks Abby. For this, and other Digital Asset Management topics, log onto For this podcast and a 150 other podcast episodes, including transcripts of every interview, go to If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to to email me at And Abby where can we find out more information from you?

Abby:  [6:45] At, or you find me on Twitter @Abby _the_IA.

Henrik:  [6:49] Thanks again.


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Another DAM podcast interview with Rob Schuman on Digital Asset Management

Listen to Another DAM podcast interview with Rob Schuman on Digital Asset Management

Full Transcript:
Henrik de Gyor: [0:01] This is Another DAM podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor.
Today, I’m speaking with Rob Schuman.
Rob, how are you?

Rob Schuman: [0:10] Great.

Henrik: [0:11] Rob, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?

Rob: [0:14] Well, I got involved about 12 years ago, which was early for Digital Asset Management. Right now, I’m a general consultant. I help people organize, choose vendors, and help them implement the big change management that comes along with any DAM system. Also, advise people on technical issues of how to set up a DAM system that works well for everyone.

[0:39] Back when I was at Sesame Workshop, which was then called Children’s Television Workshop, the Sesame Street producers asked me if there was any way they could view their library without having to go up to the library and pull cassettes and cue up cassettes and all of that. The executive producers had a problem that they were reusing the same clips over and over and over again because those were the ones that people knew in their heads, while clips that were just as good were sitting in the library idle because no one wanted to take the time to go and find them.

[1:13] We said we’d do what we could, and about a year later, we developed one of the first DAM systems for video and television. It was very early in the DAM marketplace, and we believed it was the first or one of the first video Digital Asset Management systems. It was completely homegrown. We had any number of metadata fields and attached them to both proxy video and broadcast-quality video.

[1:41] We also were one of the first to include DAM as part of their workflow. It made producing the show so much easier, got them to do segments, have the segments approved by the producer, then get them right down into the edit room to complete them. I worked for Merck, the drug manufacturing company, and right now, I’m at the New York City Ballet. I call myself “content agnostic” because ultimately every company has their content professionals.

[2:11] They don’t need me to produce content for them. They need me to organize that content and make sure everybody has access to it and make sure that their workflows are automated. They don’t really need another person on content. Really, assets are assets, whether they’re talking about drugs, dance, or Sesame Street. I laugh that I worked for Sesame Street and Dow Jones, and the work is basically the same.

Henrik: [2:45] Organizing information?

Rob: [2:46] Yup, and making sure they can find it.

Henrik: [2:49] Yeah, very key. How does an organization focused on ballet use Digital Asset Management?

Rob: [2:56] Unlike music where there’s a score, dance is really a visual medium. Back in the mid 1980s, somebody had the idea of taking a VHS camcorder and sticking it up on the front of the balcony and taping the ballets. That stayed on VHS for a very long time, updated a little bit when camcorders became digital. They have a library of about 2, 500 or more performances.

[3:26] They have some rehearsals. It’s all on VHS tape. They got a grant from a government group called “Saving America’s Treasures” to try to rescue these. The New York City Ballet has this school so that the students could study choreographers like Balanchine or Jerome Robbins. What they’ve done is built their own Digital Asset Management in just stations.

[3:53] Right now, the theater has been redone with high-definition control room and high-definition cameras. All of the ballets or most of them are recorded as files, which we then add a whole lot of metadata to and put into their asset management system for anyone to find. You can look by choreographer by, of course, the date, and the musical piece.

[4:20] You can look at, “Let’s see all the variations of ‘The Nutcracker'” or “Let’s compare this choreographer’s version to that choreographer’s version.” They’re just starting to get to the launch of this. They want to put a computer and monitor in every dance studio that they’ve got. They have, I think, nine of them, including the ones from the school, so that they can work with the students and show them exactly how it’s done. Video is the only way to capture a live performance, and that’s what they do.

Henrik: [4:50] That’s great. Rob, what are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?

Rob: [4:57] The biggest challenge is the one that almost everybody faces. People think it’s choosing a DAM system or the technology you use or the metadata schema that you use, but really, it’s making sure that your customers are happy that there’s an acceptance of workflow changes. I’ve worked at places with both.

[5:18] At Sesame Street, we never really launched the DAM system, because by the time it came for the date to launch it, everybody had it. People saw it in beta and said, “I need this. I don’t care that it’s not ready. I don’t care, I’ll report bugs, but I want to use this.” That was a big success.

[5:37] At a big company like Merck, management came down and said, “We’re going to use this Digital Asset Management system,” and there was so much resistance. People were just tossing assets in there. There was a lot of metadata management that had to go followed up and a lot of wasted time, effort and energy that if you start with getting the folks enthusiastic, and if you get as close to their current workflows as possible and come in with the attitude that this is not something that management is demanding.

[6:12] This is something that will make your work easier and make you more productive. One example of that, again going back to Sesame Street, one day a woman came into my office in tears because she realized that the DAM system would be down over the weekend for some maintenance. She needed to get something done by Monday or her boss was going to be very angry with her, and she was just so afraid of that.

[6:39] I told her I would talk to her boss and smooth things out, but we still needed to maintain the system. But later, it occurred to me that that’s exactly how a successful DAM should be working. You should be upset if you can’t use it or if the system goes down, because it’s so critical to your work.

[6:58] Some more successfully than others tried to get across that being enthusiastic about the DAM and getting people on your side early in the game is the most important thing. The usual challenge, which is getting people on board and making sure that everything works, technology is changing so rapidly. One of the biggest challenges in DAM right now is the user interfaces.

[7:28] A lot of the systems that I’ve seen are really great on the back end, but forget that there are people on the front end who really need to be coaxed along, just throwing up a series of fields for them to fill in this form. It doesn’t help unless there’s a counteraction of, well, instead of having to write this on paper, or I can find stuff later if I put metadata on it now. Of course, there’s always the ‘metadata policeman’ who has to go in and look at everything going into the system.

Henrik: [8:01] We’re all familiar with those [laughs] , since we do those tasks regularly or we have in the past.

Rob: [8:08] One thing I did at Merck was I put a sign on my cubicle there that said, I thought “DAM” was too violent a word, even though we all like using it. I said this was “Marketing Operations Management,” and I thought “MOM”. Let’s call it the “MOM” system.

Henrik: [8:28] Rob, what advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?

Rob: [8:33] Basically, the only real advice I can give is to go for it. It’s a young and growing area of computer and personal information and marketing information. I’d say study what you can. Ask questions. Learn about metadata. Learn from others. Go to the DAM meet-up to meet people and find out what they’re doing. Then, if you can, get the exposure to a DAM system.

[9:04] You don’t really need to go back to school for a full library degree to understand basic metadata. There’s a need for entry-level people to actually be the ‘metadata policemen’ and enter things into the DAM system. Generally, the person who is in charge of it doesn’t really have the time, particularly for the large systems, to go over what’s going in, to be the ‘metadata police’, so to speak, and make sure that the DAM system is loaded with all of the proper information.

[9:35] I used to advise television people, “Just go and get the exposure to it and show that you’re interested. Volunteer to do some stuff. Sure enough, when they need somebody, they’re going to turn to you, or somebody else is going to need somebody, they’re going to turn to you and get you started at a career.”

Henrik: [9:54] Well, thanks Rob.

Rob: [9:55] Rob: You’re welcome.

Henrik: [9:56] For more on this and other Digital Asset Management topics, go to Another DAM is available on AudioBoom and iTunes.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at Thanks again.

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Another DAM podcast interview with Emily Kolvitz on Digital Asset Management

Listen to Another DAM podcast interview with Emily Kolvitz on Digital Asset Management

Full Transcript:

Henrik de Gyor:  [0:02] This is Another DAM podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, I’m speaking with Emily Klovitz. Emily, how are you?

Emily Klovitz:  [0:12] I’m doing great. How are you?

Henrik:  [0:13] Great. Emily, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?

Emily:  [0:18] I’m involved in Digital Asset Management as both student and practitioner. I’m finishing my MLIS at the University of Oklahoma, and also working full time in the field. I currently am a digital asset manager for JCPenney at the home office. I’ve also worked on digital projects outside of a formal DAM environment, in archives and also a museum.

[0:48] Recently, I have become very involved in the DAM education and DAM community. Part of that is a desire to contribute to the field. Another part of that is just me segueing into the next phase of my life.

Henrik:  [1:05] Emily, how does the national retail chain use Digital Asset Management?

Emily:  [1:10] My company uses Digital Asset Management for a variety of reasons ‑‑ works in progress, distribution, and also brand management. In my specific area, we use Digital Asset Management for works in progress, and also on final, finished photography for marketing assets. The DAM is fairly new, only a couple of years old, and it’s really only been hard‑launched since last November [2013].

[1:39] There’s a lot of building going on right now. Basically, it’s such a large organization, there’re actually multiple DAM environments. We are positioning ours as the enterprise DAM, but we still have a long road ahead of us. In terms of other DAM systems, there are that some that makes sense, in terms of what kind of content is kept and described, and also the perks of that specific system.

[2:07] Then, the different challenges of the type of content we’re talking about. As time has passed, the various DAM managers have crossed paths, and it’s been very rewarding to speak to these people, and find out what we have in common, and where we can help each other out.

[2:25] There have also been systems that didn’t really provide value for the organization and were duplications of content. I worked very hard to get rid of those systems. They’ve been shut down, and that’s because we have been lucky to have very strong senior leadership and buy‑in behind our DAM.

[2:43] What’s really interesting about my organization, or any large organization trying to wrangle their content, is just the sheer number of assets you’re actually talking about. Also, the number of DAM systems actually used by the organization, because many times it’s often multiple DAM systems.

Henrik:  [3:02] What are the biggest challenges and successes with Digital Asset Management?

Emily:  [3:05] The biggest challenge to Digital Asset Management is change management. Everything else is a problem that can be solved logically. People are more tricky than that.

[3:16] The second biggest challenge is probably that DAM does not happen in a vacuum. There are more than likely other digital initiatives in your organization, and sometimes being able to see a bigger picture, even bigger than Digital Asset Management, can help an organization implement control over information chaos. This means information governance should be part of the Digital Asset Management strategy, or perhaps the DAM strategy is a facet of an overall digital strategy or information management strategy.

[3:53] It’s been very difficult for me to stay in my DAM bubble, so to speak, in the corporate world. As an information specialist, it is so glaringly obvious all the areas that could benefit from information governance. Yet there’s only one of you, and a DAM manager has many hats to wear. That’s what I feel are the biggest challenges to Digital Asset Management.

[4:20] Successes? I guess getting buy‑in feels really good. Growing your user adoption, that’s very rewarding. Any time you have even a slight increase in user adoption, that’s a big success, and you should take the time to celebrate it. Speaking of that, with your successes in Digital Asset Management, it’s OK to brag a little. It’s part of the advocating for your DAM, so usage reports and celebrating that kind of thing is good for DAM managers to do.

Henrik:  [4:57] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?

Emily:  [5:03] Read everything you can get your hands on and don’t get married to a system. There are many sources for education pertaining to Digital Asset Management. Many of them are community‑, vendor‑ or organization‑based, not necessarily subjected to the rigor of scholarly publication and peer review, which we talked about previously.

[5:26] It’s important to be skeptical, I think. Verify the facts for yourself. Inspect methodologies, and don’t get sucked into buying something because of someone putting the weight of authority behind it. I also think that you should trust your gut, because you can usually tell when information is info‑fluff, versus substantial information that adds to your understanding.

[5:54] The part about the DAM system, we’re usually the ones enacting the change and we’re not the ones who have to deal with it, because we’re starting the change. But you have to be cognizant of this may not be the best solution long term, and you can’t marry a system. It’s not about the technology. Digital Asset Management is so much more than that. You need to constantly be benchmarking your DAM, inspecting your practices, and getting better and better so you can grow as a digital asset manager.

Henrik:  [6:29] Great. Well thanks, Emily.

Emily:  [6:31] Thanks for having me.

Henrik:  [6:32] For more on Digital Asset Management topics, log on to Another DAM podcast is available on AudioBoo and iTunes. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at Thanks again.


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