Anthony Allen discusses Digital Asset Management
Here are the questions asked:
- How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
- Why does a training and development organization use a DAM?
- What advice would you like to give to DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Henrik de Gyor: [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Anthony Allen.
Anthony, how are you?
Anthony Allen: [0:10] I’m doing great. Thank you very much for
having me today.
Henrik: [0:13] Not a problem. Anthony, how are you involved with Digital Asset
Anthony: [0:18] I’m the Director of Digital Media for The American Society for
Training and Development. It always helps to explain a company or an audience
before diving into the finer points of Digital Asset Management. ASTD is an
association for trainers. We train trainers. [0:43] We’ve been in business for about
60 years. We have about 45,000 members. We are a nonprofit, a mission driven
publisher, but still very much care about the bottom line. We consider ourselves
a small publisher. We publish books, magazines, pamphlets, smaller 28 or 30
[1:11] We also have a very heavy practice for video. The video and media production
is specifically geared to our conferences. We have a small 1500 person
conference in January and a large 8000 person conference in June.
[1:30] We record most of the material there, so we produce hundreds and hundreds
of hours of conference content every year as well, so there are thousands
of assets in our digital library for PowerPoints sent to audio and live, full frame
video production for the conferences.
[1:55] I was brought on to ASTD, that’s how I refer to the company, about three
years ago to basically take care of the content management, Digital Asset
Management, tagging, XML. I’ve delved full force into that realm.
[2:15] When I came to ASTD there was really quite a shock. I had come from
the video world, and I was a producer at Discovery Channel. Video, they were
making TV basically the same way for decades. The taxonomy and the metadata
based publishing search within libraries for video assets are actually quite
mature. Lucky me.
[2:46] I had actually then moved on to ASTD, and I came to a publishing house
in an industry that had no taxonomy. The content is also highly contextual,
meaning that search is very, very difficult with training content. The reason is
because it’s the exact opposite of medical content. If you search for basal cell
carcinoma in a medical directory, you’re going to get information about basal
[3:17] Training content, on the other hand, is very contextual, and trainers
argue about the definitions. I was at a shock, at a loss for where to start, when
I started my job as a content manager. With ASTD over the past three years,
what we’ve done is we’ve developed a taxonomy for the training industry that
I’m now going out into other content production houses for training content and
trying to get them to adopt the training taxonomy.
[3:53] It’s a very, very large initiative for us. I’ve also made some large technology
purchases for the content management benefit of all of the content production
departments within ASTD. We have an XML based content management
system, an XML based metadata workflow publishing engine. We also have a
part of ASTD that goes and takes our content, which is at the very, very end of
the print cycle, PDFs, and then converts that content into XML.
[4:36] Then it is tagged according to our taxonomy. It is tagged according to the
DITA XML standard, and then it is put into a repository. Afterwards, we have,
basically, what I call a workflow expansion framework that allows us to build new
workflows to get new formats out into the publishing world, make money with
ePub, make money with other formats as well.
[5:07] That gives us a scope of how I’m involved with Digital Asset Management.
It really was from zero to now I would say that we have a lot of our internal production
workflow practices matured. Now we’re squarely looking at the future
as far as getting this content out and creating new and exciting applications that
leverage the metadata. The word of the day and the phrase for the future is
really metadata based publishing for ASTD.
Henrik: [5:43] Why does a training and development organization use a DAM
specifically? What is the end goal?
Anthony: [5:50] There are two things here, there’s ASTD, the small publisher,
but then there’s also ASTD, the representative and quasi governing body for
training and development organizations, of which our members are trainers
within organizations. They are independent consultants who are brought in to
large companies like IBM, to give sexual harassment training, leadership training,
and so on. [6:23] We also represent the vendors in this space. Those vendors
can include other small publishers of training content. It can include technology
companies that produce learning management systems, and it can also
be other companies that create training content. A hot topic right now is education
modules, education component, so smaller building blocks of content.
[6:50] I’ll tackle the first part first, ASTD as the publisher of content. We don’t
really do anything different than any other small publishing house does. Tongue
in cheek I say, “We look at what the big boys are doing and we try to mimic it.”
[7:10] There are a couple of things that are going on here. Companies like
O’Reilly, very hot in the digital publishing space, are setting the expectation of
digital formats. When you buy an EPUB or an eBook from O’Reilly you actually
get .apk, .mobi, EPUB, and now even DAISY , which is…
Henrik: [7:36] You get multiple formats. You get multiple formats, right? You get
to choose or all of the above?
Anthony: [7:42] Yes, it allows you to really feel confident that you are going to
be able to use this on your devices, which is, on the TV side, TV anywhere was
something that kind of happened a while ago. Then the digital rights locker,
which NeuStar is trying to get off the ground, is another one of those, “Let’s get
to the promise land of, “I buy this movie, I buy this TV show, and I get to view it
on all my devices.” It’s, again, metadata based, digital sites management. [8:17]
But ASTD isn’t doing anything different than other small publishers in saying,
“We need to look at what the big boys are doing and mimic it.” There are definitely
business reasons for doing that.
[8:30] As far as the O’Reilly example goes, we need to meet the expectations of
our customers. Those expectations are not being set by us, they’re being set by
other companies like O’Reilly. They’re doing a really good job of making those
expectations harder and harder to attain.
[8:47] We have to keep up with each new search experience, with the great
search experience that somebody has at Google, with each great business
model that the newspapers make up. Smaller people, smaller publishers like
ASTD have got to keep up with that or we look further and further behind.
[9:06] Now, the other part of the piece is stuff like Amazon. This, again, speaks to
the first part of ASTD as a small publisher. Amazon is great because, as ASTD is
a commercial publisher we have lots of our stuff up on Amazon, but the taxonomy
that governs Amazon is completely meaningless for trainers.
[9:29] One of our big, hit books is called, “Telling Ain’t Training.” One of the four
ways it’s listed metadata-wise is under psychology and counseling. Now, no
trainer is going to go to psychology and counseling to find training content.
[9:47] Amazon is great in that it sends way more traffic to our book than we ever
could, but from a business perspective they take a huge cut. The training taxonomy
metadata based publishing and better categories on our stores that are
more meaningful for our audience, is going to allow us to sell more on our own
website, which is where we keep most of the profits.
[10:16] Building my P and L for my boss and saying, “Hey, we need to invest
$255,075,000 in this new technology,” part of that P and L, that business justification
is driving traffic back to our site where we don’t have to depend on other
sites like Amazon, where they take a huge cut of the book.
Henrik: [10:37] Just to clarify, P and L, you mean profit and loss?
Anthony: [10:40] Yeah, exactly. As a business owner, I have to go to my boss,
beg for money and he says, “Anthony, why?”
Henrik: [10:48] Prove your cause.
Anthony: [10:49] Exactly. The other part of your question was “Why does a
training and development organization use the DAM?” [10:57] The big part of
training and technology, where those two things meet are in what I call actually,
what everybody calls Learning Management Systems.
[11:10] Learning Management Systems are things, like Blackboard is a big LMS.
[11:17] Those systems are where a student can start a class and the learning
management systems take the student through the class and mark off with
metadata what has been completed, what the scores are.
[11:31] It takes all of that data and sends it to the teacher for verification, it marks
off what classes they’ve taken.
[11:39] The other thing that it does is it can match learning objectives and content
to industry metadata standards like SCORM, one of them for the education
[11:52] That kind of flow of data and process, the whole eLearning industry
would not have been born had it not been for Digital Asset Management.
[12:09] All of the video clips that people play as part of their class, moving things
around from this folder to that other folder, being able to create new classes
and training sessions, new educational sessions that are built off of learning
blocks from other training classes, being able to customize courses, none of that
stuff would happen without a Digital Asset Management.
[12:35] If you look at the rise of Blackboard, Blackboard is now an incredibly profitable
company. They did their IPO. I look at Rosetta Stone and they’re used to a
Digital Asset Management.
[12:47] I look at Audible.com, it was there with their audio versions of books.
These are all companies that have found incredible amounts of success by leveraging
Digital Asset Management and selling better to their customers, meeting
their customer’s expectations.
[13:05] Quicker time to market, better product, it’s all through the leveraging of
Henrik: [13:12] Anthony, what advice would you like to give to DAM professionals
or people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Anthony: [13:20] There’s a place in the US called, Silicon Valley and there happens
to be thousands of web startups there. [13:28] A lot of web startups start
with a problem statement. What problem are you trying to fix and how does
your web startup fix that problem?
[13:38] I would recommend to anybody that wants to become a DAM professional
to figure out what problems there are and then create a solution
that’s DAM specific. Start with a problem statement you can start at your
[13:55] No matter what the company, what the entity, there’s probably a process
that’s at risk for falling apart because of ill management. There’s probably a process
that could use a dose of technology.
[14:12] These kinds of problems that can be fixed with a proper process is ripe
for a Digital Asset Management system.
[14:22] There’s so much sense of media even non-media companies because
of the rise of media and consumable media on the web, consider themselves,
“Part-time media companies.”
[14:37] Digital Asset Management then comes into play for seemingly unrelated
industries and companies. For anybody aspiring to get into the DAM, Digital
Asset Management field, start with a problem.
[14:52] Look at your company and say, “Wow, this really is a problem.” Then,
think, “How can this problem be fixed with Digital Asset Management?”
[15:03] I encourage people to go out and meet other people in the Digital Asset
Management field, go up to them. Find them on LinkedIn and go up to them at
[15:15] Pose your problem to them and say, “My company has this issue, how
would you fix it?” You never know what that Digital Asset Management professor
may give to you.
[15:30] If you go to your boss with that, that boss will see you as “This person is
trying to fix problems, trying to help, trying to leverage technology.” You make
far about a whole new job description for yourself in the process.
[15:41] That’s where I would start, with a problem statement.
Henrik: [15:45] Thank you, Anthony. For more on Digital Asset Management,
log onto anotherdamblog.com, thanks again.
- Another DAM podcast interview with Heather Hedden (anotherdampodcast.com)
- NYC Digital Asset Managers Meetups now shared on YouTube (anotherdamblog.com)