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Another DAM Podcast interview with Tobias Blanke on Digital Asset Management

Tobias Blanke discusses Digital Asset Management


Henrik de Gyor:  [0:01] This is Another DAM podcast about Digital Asset Management. I am Henrik de Gyor. Today, I am speaking with Tobias Blanke.

Tobias, how are you?

Tobias Blanke:  [0:10] I’m all right. How are you Henrik?

Henrik:  [0:12] Great. Tobias, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?

Tobias:  [0:16] I am the current director of the MA in Digital Asset and Media Management at King’s College, London. As far as we can see, this is still the only full postgraduate qualification directly related to this field [of Digital Asset and Media Management].

[0:33] There are, of course, a lot of individual modules, but not a full MA in the course. We have been running this MA now for three years and it has become very successful. We are very pleased with it, I myself, I’m a senior lecturer in this department the MA is running, that’s about the equivalent in the US of an Associate Professor.

[0:53] My research is mainly on data infrastructures, media industries, and this kind of things. What we are particularly proud of is how we are able to translate our own research into this degree. This is how I became initially involved in digital asset management.

[1:11] What I find most fascinating by interacting with all these students who come from various industries and other nations to us to study the degree is to learn how far and wide-reaching the impact of this seemingly small field has become. This is also one of the reasons why I wrote a book, which I guess you’re going to talk about today, Henrik.

Henrik:  [1:33] Of course. To clarify, MA is the Master’s?

Tobias:  [1:36] Yes, it’s a Master’s degree. It’s a post-credit qualification, so after your BA. I think you have the same in the US, only that yours is two years, and we have a one year MA here in London.

Henrik:  [1:45] You recently wrote a book titled “The Ecosystem of Digital Assets: Crowds and Clouds.” Tell us more about what inspired you to write this.

Tobias:  [1:55] The title changed slightly. It’s now called “Digital Asset Ecosystems: Rethinking crowds and clouds

[2:02] This is a direct reflection of what I said earlier about the interaction I have with my students and other fellow members of the academic staff here, about the development of the field of digital asset management and digital media management.

[2:17] I think we quite soon noticed that there is, of course, already quite a lot of discussion on, I would call this now, the traditional application domains of digital media management and digital asset management, which are often about organizing digital assets in an organization… organizing them in such a way that you can retrieve them efficiently, and so on.

[2:39] But there’s also, I think, if you come from it from the perspective like myself, which is slightly more computational, and also more in relation to what we would call Internet studies and these fields if you come from these fields to Digital Asset Management.

[2:54] Then, you notice, actually, the importance that digital content has not just in a single organization, but to bring together various organizations across the Internet, across the globe, and integrate their workflows of working together around the digital content they produce and consume together.

[3:15] That was the original intention when I wrote the book. The book has four chapters. The first one is the background and introduction chapter. The second one, which discusses these kinds of general perspectives on the evolution of digital assets, and also introduces the concepts of digital ecosystems, which is also quite hotly debated recently.

[3:39] It is one of those concepts where you don’t really exactly can define what it is about. But it basically describes how businesses and other organizations bring together their data, tools, and services, but also, the people that work for them and with them into a kind of integrated environment on the Internet.

[4:01] That then led to the subtitle of this book, which was called “Crowds and Clouds”, where we basically see how ecosystems are constituted by crowds, so the people who work with an organization and around an organization. And they work with this organization using platforms or clouds to produce and consume digital assets. This was the background section, where I discuss these kinds of concepts and the evolution of Digital Asset Management.

[4:28] Then, there is further sections discussing the technologies and methodologies, that really describe the kind of evolution of this platform I was just describing, and analyze that for also its future potential.

[4:42] Then, there is something that is very important to us, if you also work in a public sector, about how open or closed the ecosystems are around these digital assets. Anyone who’s ever used, let’s say, the Apple iCloud will know what I’m talking about.

[4:57] There’s challenges of sharing certain types of content. And this is, of course, an indication of the kind of business model that Apple, for instance, wants to develop around its digital content. Then, I also have, finally, two chapters which discuss “Big Data”, which is, of course, a big topic in the field.

[5:16] Then, also the kind of wider economic and society implications. What are actually these global workflows that I mentioned earlier? And how do they link together around this digital content? And how do these crowds and clouds integrate with each other.

[5:33] I’m particularly interested, at the very end, to discuss a kind of new idea for digital asset values, which is related to so-called network value, which is something that I describe as you become something else on the Internet that nobody else can do without anymore.

[5:53] The standard example for me is always Google Maps. You always wonder why Google has published this freely and openly. But, of course, we recently found out that by publishing this freely and openly, they generated a lot of network value for these maps or assets that they have, because really most all applications on the Internet now run on these maps.

[6:19] This is really to say what I tried to do. I tried to think a little bit about the assumption that digital asset management has a much wider application domain than, maybe, certain traditional ideas about it, and I wanted to write this book mainly to really practically lay down what my own research agenda for this kind of field would be.

Henrik:  [6:41] If you read the show notes, there will be a giveaway of Tobias’ new book. Take a look at for more information. Tobias, what are the biggest challenges and successes with Digital Asset Management?

Tobias:  [6:53] That’s, of course, a great question and a grand challenge to answer. I could talk about technologies, and also methodologies, and also business applications, but, of course, one of my primary interests in this field is the development of educational frameworks for it. I still think it’s quite a challenge for us.

[7:12] I don’t know how you feel about this in your professional practice, Henrik, but it’s quite a challenge for us to make organizations and businesses understand the kind of educational background, the skills, and so on digital asset and media managers need.

[7:30] Also, we have to learn this, because, of course, there’s a wide range in different ways of applying digital media now in the world. We find it interesting, but also really challenging to actually define exactly the kind of skills and professional qualifications that a digital asset manager needs.

[7:49] I think it lies somewhere between some kind of very lightweight computing understanding, so that you can talk to developers, at least. They then go on, of course, to deeper business knowledge around digital content. Then, of course, into the more established fields that one might immediately associate with this, which are more related to information science like metadata and those kind of questions.

[8:14] Now, the greatest success of Digital Asset Management is in a way, I think, the things I already mentioned in my last answer. The importance that people feel about the value of digital content in all kinds of digital industries. I think to say we can really see how this knowledge and understanding is now taking hold of many industries if you just look around here in London, which is, of course, a global hub for these digital industries.

[8:44] The challenges are related to making organizations and companies understand what kind of qualifications and skills are needed based on the success we already had, in a way, and making them understand how important digital content and the curation and preservation and the making use of the digital content in other forms really has become.

Henrik:  [9:06] What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?

Tobias:  [9:11] I think it’s a great job to get into. [laughs] My first advice would be try it. I’m not sure whether you need at an entry-level necessarily professional qualification like we offer. Or, even a degree. But, I guess, you will find out soon that it helps you to advance to the more advanced levels.

[9:29] The real, to say, advantage of becoming, I think, a DAM professional, if you want to become one, is that you really sit at the heart of the operations of a digital organization in the 21st century. You really sit there where the content is produced and consumed, where the data is exchanged, and so on.

[9:51] If you are already a DAM professional, I think you should, that doesn’t mean that you have to study here, you should think hard whether it is enough what you have already learned through the practice that you’ve done, and whether you not need some kind of more education.

[10:08] I can only say that, for myself, who considers himself also to be, in a way, a DAM professional. Only through the interactions with all our students and the other people that we met from the wonderful DAM community, which is a global, great family.

[10:24] We have really learned to say how much is involved in this field, and I think it’s really important that DAM professionals keep learning that too. In my experience, highly advisable that you try and stay up‑to‑date in whatever form, with the developments in this field.

Henrik:  [10:42] There is a fair amount of education out there, or even enrichment, to your point.

Tobias:  [10:46] It’s really, Henrik, I don’t know how you feel about it. It’s a field that is evolving very fast, but you also need to stay up‑to‑date with the field, however that might work.

[10:56] You can visit the conferences. You can visit the wonderful blog of Henrik. You can read even more academic publications like The Journal of Media Management and all these kinds of things. I think that is not to say that you have to go back to school or university, but it’s really important I think, in all digital fields that you try to constantly change your self and evolve.

Henrik:  [11:18] Great point. Of course there’s plenty of new books out there, about Digital Asset Management, including the one you’ve written.

Tobias:  [11:25] We’re also going to publish another one, which you can interview us in about half‑a‑year, about more the theory and practice of the general background of Digital Asset Management.

Henrik:  [11:33] Fantastic. Thank you so much, Tobias.

Tobias:  [11:35] It was nice meeting you, Henrik.

Henrik:  [11:36] For more information on Digital Asset Management, log onto

Another DAM podcast is available on iTunes and AudioBoom. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to email me at Thanks again.

Book Giveaway

You see, there is a benefit to reading the transcripts found in this podcast series. We are giving away one free copy of Tobias Blanke’s new book titled Digital Asset Ecosystems: Rethinking crowds and clouds. To enter this book giveway, email the podcast host with a one-paragraph summary on what this book is about (from the transcript above) by no later than August 24, 2014. A random drawing of the email submissions will award one lucky winner free book. The book will come directly from the author. You could even ask for the book to be autographed and personalized from the author himself, Tobias Blanke.

Listen to Another DAM Podcast on Apple PodcastsAudioBoomCastBoxGoogle Podcasts, RadioPublic, Spotify, TuneIn, and wherever you find podcasts.

Need Digital Asset Management advice and assistance?

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Another DAM Podcast interview with Romney Whitehead on Digital Asset Management

Here are the questions asked:

  • How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
  • How does a broadcast media organization use Digital Asset Management?
  • You are going to be a graduate of the MADAM program at King’s College of London. Is this Master’s Program preparing you for the working world of Digital Asset Management?
  • What advice would you like to share with 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 Romney Whitehead.
Romney, how are you?
Romney Whitehead: [0:10] I’m very well, thank you, and thank you for
inviting me.
Henrik: [0:12] No problem. Romney, how are you involved with Digital Asset
Romney: [0:17] I began in Digital Asset Management about 10 years ago at
BBC Worldwide. Within there, I was working in the magazines division, focused
on brand management and distribution of magazines globally. My team was
involved in uploading of the assets, rights management, metadata management,
and then distribution of the assets within BBC Worldwide itself, and then
globally out to 53 territories to our licensees and syndication partners. [0:48]
Recently, in the last month, in fact, I’ve joined NET-A-PORTER GROUP. That’s
made up of NET-A-PORTER , MR PORTER , and THE OUTNET. They’re an online
luxury fashion retailer. We’re at the stage there where we’re choosing a solution,
at the moment, to manage a very extensive range of assets, from product photography
to video to print and online magazines, and TV outputs as well. Very
interesting times.
Henrik: [1:22] Excellent. How does a broadcast media organization use Digital
Asset Management?
Romney: [1:29] In my experience, probably looking at it in two ways, one from
the comment workflows, and then probably from a preservation point of view.
From the workflow perspective, what a DAM solution offers a media company
is the ability to manage the content from the point that it’s created to the point
where it goes out to the consumer. [1:55] You could have the ingestion of content
immediately into a system. You could have multiple editing suites dealing
with that content. You can then have the input of the photography unit, if they’re
sending out stills or they’re sending out merchandise related to a particular
show or a product. Then moving through the life cycle through to the points
where that content goes out to a third party broadcaster or to a consumer.
[2:23] Then from the preservation point of view, especially from the point of view
of public broadcasting, what DAM offers is the ability to preserve their content
but also go back through their archives, perhaps finding a back catalogue of
content there. Some of it may be in technology which is obsolete if it’s been
produced over a very, very long period of time.
[2:50] If they’ve got a DAM system, then they’ve got the ability to go back and
retrieve that content. Preserve it at the same time, and then offer new outputs
to consumers. And also, historical value, massive historical value, especially for
broadcasters that have been running for 60 or 70 years.
[3:12] I think a DAM solution, in that sense, means that they never need to lose
material ever again. Whereas in the past it’s, obviously, been stored in dusty
cupboards and left to really not be looked after, unfortunately.
Henrik: [3:27] Romney, you were going to be a graduate of the MADAM
Program, if I understand correctly, at King’s College of London. Is this Master’s
program helping you to prepare for the working world of Digital Asset
Romney: [3:40] I have to say I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everything
goes well for September when I finish my dissertation. Working in the world
of DAM for so many years, you could almost have that thought, “What else is
there to learn?” [3:55] But I’m a great believer in that there’s always something to
learn, especially if you’re approaching a subject from a particular point of view. If
you’re in the commercial world or if you’re in preservation or library or cultural or
heritage, there’s always something to learn from another area.
[4:12] Where this course has been very beneficial, I have to say, is I’ve come
from a commercial background. What I’ve learned from it is the best practices
that certain other areas have, areas like archive or societies, are really very, very
useful for the commercial world.
[4:31] Things like having extremely in-depth metadata, something which isn’t just
focused on your business but is actually focused on a larger scale to allow an
interoperability between what you have and what other libraries have, or what
other institutions have. Things like Linked Data for, first of all, the semantic web,
which has been a long time coming but is really starting to accelerate now.
[4:57] Preservation strategies, which in the commercial world, I feel preservation
is a bit of an afterthought. But actually, it can prove hugely valuable because
you may have content which is sitting in your archives, or sitting in your DAM
system. Nobody knows what somebody is going to want in 20 or 30 years’ time.
Henrik: [5:20] True.
Romney: [5:21] Rather than just ignoring it, as I feel some commercial institutions
may well do, because it’s costly to keep all that data and to manage all
that data, there needs to be some kind of preservation strategy there which will
allow that content to be opened up in the future if it needs to be, if somebody
wants it. [5:42] I think during the degree, I’ve been very reassured that with every
class and module that I’ve taken, there really was a direct link with what I did on
a day-to-day basis, and what I do on a day-to-day basis. It’s certainly refreshed
my view of the DAM world, and it’s given me some good ideas to take forward.
[6:02] It’s very nice also to have a recognized qualification within DAM, because
I’ve not really seen something out there. You can have people who’ve worked in
this field for a long time, and I can say to people what I do when they look at me
as though I have two heads.
Henrik: [chuckles] [6:17]
Romney: [6:19] So, it’s nice to be able to say, “Oh, there is this here.” But the
fact that my mother will tease me for being a MADAM, and perhaps I will be at
the end. And that’s perhaps illegal in some countries.
Henrik: [laughs] [6:30]
Romney: [6:32] But I would most certainly recommend the course, and the
college and the staff have been wonderful. I think it’s really opened my eyes, I’d
have to say. It’s been very, very good.
Henrik: [6:43] Excellent. And, just to clarify, we’re speaking of the MADAM
program, which stands for the Master in the Arts of Digital Asset Management
Program at King’s College of London, correct?
Romney: [6:50] Yes. [laughs] That’s great, please.
Henrik: [6:55] Not any other madams, necessarily.
Romney: [6:56] Yes, it doesn’t lead to anything else.
Henrik: [laughs] [6:58] Best of luck with that.
Romney: [7:01] Thank you.
Henrik: [7:02] Let me ask you the last question, of course. What advice would
you like to give to DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM
Romney: [7:10] Well, one would hope that current DAM professionals know
what they’re doing, so I would not profess to be so omnipotent to be able to
give advice to them. But I think people who want to get into the field perhaps
don’t understand what it’s about. It’s a great field to be in, because it involves
a massive range of knowledge and lots of challenges as well. [7:34] As a DAM
manager, I think you need to know what every department in the company
that you’re working in is doing, because DAM will touch every department in
some way. Maybe extensively, it may be very small. Because of that, I think
the key part of DAM is not necessarily the technical solution, but the ability to
[7:57] You need to empathize with people. You need to be able to sit down with
an individual and ask them what their pain points are, and understand them. Be
able to reassure them that you know what they’re talking about, and that whatever
solution you’re putting in place is actually going to help them.
[8:15] You have to give people something tangible, because every individual will
use a system differently. So you can’t build a system for one set of users, and
you cannot focus on one set of users, either. You’re not building the system for
just a CEO who wants to save money, or for the clerk who wants to save time in
filing things. You’re building it for everybody in between as well.
[8:38] So, I think the ability to manage people and their expectations, their fear
of change, what their daily stresses are, will make you a good Digital Asset
Manager. The ability to communicate, I think that’s what you need to always
keep in mind, always.
Henrik: [8:53] Excellent. Did you want to share your blog that you have as well?
Romney: [laughs] [8:58] My blog, which I’ve been very remiss at keeping up, but
Henrik: [9:08] Excellent. There’s a link to that on my blog at Thank you so much, Romney.
Romney: [9:15] Thank you very much.
Henrik: [9:16] For more on Digital Asset Management, you can log onto

Another DAM Podcast is now available on Audioboom,
Blubrry, iTunes, and the Tech Podcast Network. Thanks again.

Listen to Another DAM Podcast on Apple PodcastsAudioBoomCastBoxGoogle Podcasts, RadioPublic, Spotify, TuneIn, and wherever you find podcasts.

Need Digital Asset Management advice and assistance?

Another DAM Consultancy can help. Schedule a call today