Another DAM Podcast

Audio about Digital Asset Management

Another DAM Podcast interview with Jack Van Antwerp on Digital Asset Management

Jack Van Antwerp discusses Digital Asset Management

Here are the questions asked:

  • How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
  • How do you achieve increasing user adoption of the DAM within your organization?
  • What advice would you like to share with DAM Professionals or people aspiring to be DAM Professionals?


Henrik de Gyor: [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, we’re speaking with Jack Van Antwerp.
Jack [0:08] How are you?
Jack Van Antwerp: [0:08] I’m doing very well. How are you doing, Henrik?
Henrik: [0:10] Good. Jack, how are you involved with Digital Asset
Jack: [0:15] I’m the Director of Photography at The Wall Street Journal and my
involvement was to bring a Digital Asset Management system to our workflow.
Photography is a new thing for the Journal. It required us, from the ground up,
starting a system that would allow the paper and online and other future things
to find, sort and deliver mostly photography for right now. We’re also moving
into some video and other kinds of things.
Henrik: [0:49] Awesome. Jack, how have you increased user adoption of the
DAM within your organization?
Jack: [0:59] In one respect, it’s been self-activating because we had nothing
and the previous method was pretty much going out hunting and pecking for
photographs on dozens of different websites and photo services. When we had
the model turned upside down and these photo services were pushing to us
the photos and we were bringing them into the system, it was such a leap forward
in the ability to get things fast and to have them easily searchable really
just became very fast. [1:44] There were a few resisters. Some people enjoyed
their own work flow, but it was quite surprising that even just a few months
afterwards…There were areas where we had a few generic logons that we’d had
going for some people and these logons got spread around.
[2:06] When we were going from our test box to our final box, there was some
planned outage. I told the people that needed to know but I didn’t realize that
the greater organization had really taken upon using this thing in other parts of
the world, actually.
[2:22] We started getting these hysterical emails like, “What’s going on with the
system?” Then we realized how wide it had been adopted and how fast it had
been adopted.
Henrik: [2:30] It was a positive, “What’s going on?” rather than a, “What’s going
on? Why did you change my system?”
Jack: [2:36] Absolutely. We had yanked the candy bar out of the baby’s hand
and people were quite upset. Just us saying, “Hey, you’re going to have to go
back to the old way for just a very short amount of time,” I don’t even think it
was a full day, people were very unhappy. [2:56] We’ve been able to implement,
I think, some workflows that really capitalize on the metadata that come from
the different agencies, that have made finding and sorting pictures in a very
real-time way, with breaking news, even easier. We’ve tried to conform just in
some simple ways things like the word “United States.”
[3:22] If you’ve got eight different agencies, each one of them does it a different
way. One says “US,” one says “USA,” one has the dots, one doesn’t, so we conformed
all that to just the word “domestic,” and just for the ability to then only
look at domestic pictures has been a huge leap forward.
[3:41] The ability to sort out sports photos, the ability to sort out entertainment
photos, whittles down from what our thousands of thousands of pictures that
one might have to wade through to get at that picture they’re looking for, especially
when you’re just going through the wires to just try to find those best
shots of the day.
[4:01] You can go from thousands and thousands of pictures to maybe only
1,500 or 2,000 that are relevant to you, to the domestic photo editor, or to the
international photo editor, or to the sports photo editor. You can then get to
that a lot quicker, especially when you’re having to browse, where you don’t
know what you’re looking for. There’s no search criteria that says, “Good photo
of the day.” That’s up to the editor’s discretion.
Henrik: [4:23] Just to clarify a point that you made earlier, when you meant you
get “pushed photos”, you’re talking about a stream of photography that comes
from different wire services and other agencies. Is that correct?
Jack: [4:34] Exactly. They send in to FTP, and our asset management system
picks it up, conforms metadata, puts it into the system, categorizes the high
res, etc. We have two interfaces. We have a thin client and we have a web
application. The thin client is fine when you’re within a state or two of the server,
but in our remote locations, like London and Hong Kong, it just isn’t reactive fast
enough, and they use the web interface. That’s been a great option to have.
Henrik: [5:15] Nice. It’s used globally and adopted globally as well?
Jack: [5:19] Yes, very much so.
Henrik: [5:22] Excellent.
Jack: [5:24] We use a system called SCC and they have a great feature where
you are logons and you can create user groups, etc. which has been instrumental
for us because rights for photographs are very much dependent on where
you are in the world. [5:42] A certain agency might be subsold through a special
agency in Japan that has only those rights. Even though we’re buying directly
from the mother ship, that part of the world has its specific problem.
[5:56] We’re able to have people, for instance, in Tokyo have their own logon
group, which would exclude certain libraries or certain wire services that we
don’t have the right to publish in those countries. That’s been a huge help
with just saving money and also not creating problems with misuse of pictures,
so to speak.
Henrik: [6:21] That’s a great example of rights management and use of groups
and permissioning that you just described.
Jack: [6:27] Yeah, except when one of those users moves from one region to
the other and doesn’t tell us. [laughs] We do need the feedback from the users
to find out where they are in the world. As long as we’ve got that, we can work
better with them.
Henrik: [6:42] That makes sense.
Jack: [6:43] In the context, also, of figuring out if you don’t have a system already,
what kind of system do you need? I feel that they kind of fall into two
categories, a black box, which is out of turnkey, out of the box. It’s ready to
go. Those are great because you can be up and running and working fast. The
downside is, you work the way the system is made. [7:11] A platform based
asset management system is certainly more complex. It takes a lot longer to get
going, but once you have it going the way you want it, you can continually make
tweaks and make changes that work for you.
[7:27] Neither, I would say, is the right way. It really depends on the resources
you have and how much skill you have or how much time you’re willing to put
into making the asset management system will work the way you want it to work
or whether you are able or willing to just conform to the workflow it has built in.
Henrik: [7:46] There is no one DAM fits all solution out there.
Jack: [7:51] Yeah, absolutely not. I think of the one we have and how it has
worked for us, which has been good, but there are instances where I see other
one that do certain things in a certain way that would be fantastic. There are a
lot of
features and a lot of different systems that are going to be right for whatever
somebody’s trying to do, video, photos, text…A lot of different questions
one has to ask.
Henrik: [8:16] Yes, exactly. As described to me in the past, an onion with many
layers that are interlinked and related.
Jack: [8:24] Exactly. [laughs]
Henrik: [8:26] Jack, what advice would you like to share with Digital Asset
Management professionals or people aspiring to be DAM professionals?
Jack: [8:36] I have become kind of a DAM professional, if I am one, by
Henrik: [8:43] That’s pretty common. [laughs]
Jack: [8:47] It was really something into the driver seat because didn’t know
had their hands on the wheels. I guess my advice would be to really think what
I would kind of say, backwards. Think from the usage and the user, the editor
whatever’s happening in your organization the person who’s touching the asset
last. Then build and conceive your workflows from that place backwards. [9:19]
I think, a lot of times, we are immediately thinking of, “Here are the wire service.
We’re worried about the intake of how it comes in”, as opposed to, “OK ,
let’s start with the editor. What do they need and then how can we affect that
through what we’re getting in?”
[9:41] Just the few things we’ve been able to do with massaging data and
making it click for editors to find exactly what they need have made it fast
adoption and deep adoption. You just do not take this away from you. It’s now
become a core part of our workflow.
[10:00] Really think about the user. I find it interesting that a lot of times, people
will be like, “We’ve got 10 million assets or a billion assets or whatever.” It’s certainly
important that a system is able to handle infinite amount of records. You
don’t want to have it limited. But how many records you have is a little bit inconsequential
to finding the one record you need.
[10:29] It’s hard to stand up and wave a flag with excitement for 1 record, as opposed
to having a 100 million records. But really thinking about how can somebody
find that one piece of information they’re looking for. Not, “Oh, we have a
bazillion pieces of information.”
[10:53] Thinking about what can we do to the metadata? How are people looking
for things? What are they actually trying to find and what can we do then
within our keywording or our indexing or whatnot, to make that really efficient
for people?
Henrik: [11:09] That makes sense.
Jack: [11:10] That would be my advice.
Henrik: [11:12] Excellent. Thank you, Jack. [11:14] For more on Digital Asset
Management, log onto Thanks again

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Author: Henrik de Gyor

Consultant. Podcaster. Writer.

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