Digital asset management, according to David Diamond’s DAM Survival Guide, is “like dental floss.” If you use it every day, the “long-term benefits are significant,” even though both are inconvenient, tedious and do not display their benefits immediately. 

But reading Diamond’s DAM Survival Guide, now available in a free version through the end of this month courtesy of DAM vendor Picturepark, is not like a trip to dentist. Instead, the PDF, a 100-page selection of the nearly 200-page original that was first released in print form in June, gives a solid, easy-to-read grounding in the basics of DAM systems from the point of view of an organization considering a purchase or an upgrade.

Diamond is head of global marketing for Picturepark and a monthly columnist here at He wrote this Guide before he went to work for Picturepark, and the Survival Guide, which is subtitled Digital Asset Management Initiative Planning, is vendor-neutral.

Ground Level

Diamond starts right at ground level, defining DAM with the assistance of metaphors. Comparing digital assets to physical assets, for instance, he points out that, just as FedEx wants to keep continually updated on the whereabouts and other specifics of each truck in its fleet and each physical asset in each truck, organizations want to know the history, current status and future possible use of its images, brochures, media-based releases, videos, presentations, animations and other rich-media assets.

The author notes that DAM frequently refers to the software, while managing digital assets actually requires an overall initiative that also includes needs assessment, requirements, policies, staff resource planning and integration with other systems, in addition to a particular vendor’s software package. The book is focused around how to organize a company’s resources and policies to develop a DAM initiative. One reason among many: how do you determine which person “owns” the rules about an asset?

Diamond also makes a key distinction, too often overlooked, between content and files. While some vendors describe their software as if your content assets were the same as files, Diamond notes that it’s the content lifecycle that’s key. A given InDesign file, its constituent images and its related PDF file might be considered as different files, but the organization is primarily interested in the current version of a brochure that those files represent -- the overall content property. The brochure itself will change over time, living among a variety of files.

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A Few Steps More?

I haven’t read the original, but it would have been helpful if Diamond had here taken the discussion about management of content property a few steps more. A variety of DAM vendors are beginning to address the fact that users should really be focused more on their content and less on the specific files.

Diamond does point out that, in the age of cloud-based systems, the file-shipping and file-location orientation of many DAM systems is beginning to fade away as systems emphasize content over where the files actually live. But how should an organization evaluate the growing trend of content-oriented approaches?

Diamond also notes that metadata embodies the direction established by an organization’s DAM initiative, where policy determines what information about an asset will be specified and preserved in the context of its use as content. An organization will, for instance, set policies about which users can modify which metadata specifics, such as who is in charge of permissions and what permissions the organization is interested in. This results from an assessment of who’s in charge of the content that a given asset addresses, such as a marketing director for assets relating to marketing content.

A DAM Is Not a Thesaurus

Metadata consistency depends on clear taxonomies and controlled vocabularies, both of which Diamond clearly explains. “Don’t let your DAM become a thesaurus,” with multiple listings of similar but slightly different words, he advises. “Offer some structure so that users won’t have to guess what to think.”