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Another DAM Podcast interview with David Austerberry on Digital Asset Management

David Austerberry discusses Digital Asset Management

Here are the questions asked:

  • How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
  • You wrote a definitive book called Digital Asset Management in 2006. Do you see DAM changing or evolving?
  • What advice would you like to give to DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM Professionals?


Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with David Austerberry.
David, how are you?
David Austerberry: I ’m fine, thank you.
Henrik: [0:11] David, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
David: [0:13] Well, I guess it started about the turn of the century. At that time,
I was working in the video area. I got involved with a group of people who are
actually setting up a Digital Asset Management system. I got involved with it
very much hands on. [0:29] Back then, Digital Asset Management was fairly new
in the video field. There was a lot of it around photography for image libraries,
but nothing specifically for video.
[0:45] Now, the project we were working on was a service that would encode
and host people’s video and we’d be able to serve it over the Internet. I guess
today that would be called a cloud.
[0:59] I think we got into it far too early, though, because back then, everybody
was using dial-up modems. Although broadband was around, it was hardly
ubiquitous. The idea of delivering video over the Internet, although you could
do it, the reality was that very few people had broadband connections, so they
weren’t really able to use it. I guess we were too early.
[1:30] Out of that project, I learned a lot about Digital Asset Management.
Henrik: [1:33] David, you wrote a definitive book called “Digital Asset
Management” in 2006. Do you see DAM changing or evolving?
David: [1:41] Well, I actually wrote it, originally, in 2004, because it’s had 2 editions.
The first edition was 2004. I guess I did the research in 2003. I think it has
changed a lot over the years. [2:01] The initial products that I looked at when we
were setting up a Digital Asset Management system, on the whole, were not
really products. Let me qualify that a bit.
[2:12] They were projects that one particular customer had, had a requirement
for Digital Asset Management system and a software company had written
a custom system for them. Very few of the products had sold to more than a
handful of customers. They were not really salable products, more a custom
project. Along with that went a very large price tag.
[2:43] I think that was the big barrier to the sale of Digital Asset Management to
a lot of potential customers. The early systems ran on things like Sun hardware
platforms, they used historical enterprise databases, and the entry-level was
somewhere in the region of $1 million for a system. And you probably would
need to spend about $5 million to get a fully working system. And that was
completely out of the reach of most of the customers. Even the large broadcasters
balked at those sort of sums of money.
[3:24] What’s happened since then? Well, some of those companies have gone
out of business. I seem to remember one of the early ones was the Informix
Media 360, which probably pioneered a lot of the ideas around Digital Asset
Management. And that Informix has disappeared now. I think it’s been subsumed
into IBM. Some of the systems were just too complex. And at the end of
the day, they’ve got to sit on everybody’s desktop, be easy to use, and a lot of
those early systems just weren’t.
[4:00] So I think what’s happened since 2004, when the first edition came out, is
that people had got real about what customers really want from a Digital Asset
Management, and what they’re prepared to pay for it. On the point of what
they’re prepared to pay for it, it was always a problem proving an ROI for the
big systems.
[4:24] I think a lot of the customers looked at it from the point of view of this perceived
cost, that they know what it costs to put Microsoft Office on a desktop,
that sort of thing. They know what it costs to put video editing software. And
the early DAM systems cost about $1,000 a seed, and I don’t think most of the
customers felt that was value. Because to a lot of people it was just a fancy version
of a file search, and, well, from Google, you know, you get that for nothing.
[4:56] So until the seed cost came down to something more realistic, it was
very difficult to prove a return on investment for a DAM system. Google represents
just the search side, and there’s obviously more to DAM. There’s all
the indexing and the management of hierarchical storage systems. I think that
what has evolved is that a lot of the customers, what they’re really wanting is
management of the entire workflow, from ingest of a digital asset right through
to its publishing.
[5:35] Although the early Digital Asset Management systems handled the management
that asset, there’s a lot more to dealing with assets beyond Digital
Asset Management. I think that some of the newest systems now include a lot
more workflow management, and they can also handle external media, like
video tapes, for example.
[5:59] You have a crossover between managing media assets, which, to me,
a physical assets, like a video tape, and digital assets. The thing which really
makes it much easier to prove in ROI for a vendor is to introduce management
of workflow processes, as well. Digital Asset Management has become a component
within the management of the entire workflow.
Henrik: [6:29] David, what advice would you like to give to DAM professionals
and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
David: [6:34] First of all, DAM is a rather vague term, and it means different
things to different people. To a photo library, it’s dealing with IPTC metadata,
and it’s managing maybe a website to sell the digital assets. To somebody, say,
in the broadcast or the media and entertainment space, it’s a lot more complex,
in that they may be wanting to handle the many thousands, or even millions,
of digital assets that go into creating something like a movie. [7:14] There’s that
front end side. Once the salable asset that the movie, the television program, or
the TV commercial is finished, there’s the managing of that finished asset and its
[7:29] There’s very many facets to Digital Asset Management. For the DAM professional,
first of all, they’ve got to decide, do they want to be involved in the
entire business, or do they want to focus on particular area, like video production,
movie production, or image library management?
[7:54] I think somebody coming to it afresh will see that there’s a very large
number of different standards bodies involved, and they’re all vying for users
to adopt their tagging systems, their standards. There’s the IPTC, which I mentioned,
which is very strong in the newspaper industry, and has come to be
found to be very useful across the entire photographic profession.
[8:30] But the IPTC is focused, at the moment, on still images. I know they’re
looking at extending it to other areas. But if you look at audiovisual assets, there
are a number of organizations looking at Digital Asset Management and metadata
schemas for audiovisual systems. That can be rather confusing for somebody
coming into it from afresh, because there’s just so many standards.
[9:07] The SMPT is very strong in this area, but then there’s other things, like
MPEG 7. There’s 10 to 20 international standards group that are developing standards
that can be used within Digital Asset Management. This clouds the whole
issue, and removes some of the potential clarity within the area.
Henrik: [9:30] True. They’re adopting what’s needed of all those standards,
rather than necessarily, would you say, instead of reinventing the wheel, pick
what best fits the need of the organization that they are working with? Is that
what you’re saying?
David: [9:47] Yeah, very much so. I think one needs to have a pragmatic approach
towards choosing how you run a Digital Asset Management system. You
could overtag your content, and there is quite a cost involved in tagging content.
You have to balance that against the business need, the business value.
Henrik: [10:17] That’s true.
David: [10:19] I think that one of the areas that’s very important to focus on is
how one gathers metadata when one’s ingesting digital assets. In principle, that
should be done as automatically as possible. [10:35] Now, that is getting a lot
easier with, for example, video and still cameras can have GPS systems built in,
so that you immediately get assets tagged with the geographical location.
Henrik: [10:52] Yeah, it’s true. Geotagging as a they call it.
David: [10:57] Yeah. Things are getting easier and easier. But one of the big
problems with Digital Asset Management is that an asset will pass through
several organizations during its lifetime. The organizations downstream are the
ones who benefit from Digital Asset Management, if it’s well tagged. Because
they can then find things and makes it easier to monetize it. [11:26] The person
upstream who is actually adding all the metadata doesn’t see the value from it.
That’s always been a bit of an enigma with Digital Asset Management. Those
who do the work don’t necessarily benefit.
Henrik: [11:42] Yeah, I see what you mean. Thanks, David.
David: [11:45] Right, you’re welcome.
Henrik: [11:46] 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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