Digital Asset Management, DAM, It's Time to Kill the Competition
Conventional wisdom has it that competition is good for consumers. People say it helps drive things forward and keeps manufacturers on their toes. But in some situations, collaboration might be the better corporate strategy for long-term survival—at least for the players in emerging markets.

Take Apple and Google, for example. They are both profitable and strong in a mobile space that continues to expand. Yet instead of working together to establish Mobile as a truly viable alternative to the desktop empire ruled by Dell, HP, Microsoft and others, Apple and Google take aim at one another. 

Perhaps a little thermonuclear collaboration would do them and their customers some good. I know that if I was named the new CEO of Microsoft, I’d be more than a little nervous to see Big A and Big G getting along.

The fact is, until an industry becomes a zero-sum game, there is room for multiple winners. This is the case with Mobile and it is the case with Digital Asset Management too.

Do Customers Benefit from DAM Competition?

In the DAM space, there are slightly fewer DAM vendors than there are digital assets to manage. This is likely due to having no clear winner in the DAM space. As my DAM mentor, Jennifer Neumann, explains it, with so many DAM journalists and DAM analysts going on about DAM’s booming potential (as they’ve done now for decades), DAM becomes almost irresistible to software developers who think they will be the ones to finally get it right.

So with all this DAM competition, where are all the benefitting consumers?

The fact is, DAM systems are all more or less the same. Sure, some have some nice feature here or there, while others miss features you can’t imagine users can do without. But, ultimately, there is no magic DAM.

An Argument for Standardization

The problem is that DAM vendors waste energy trying to one-up one another when they should be focused on what happens next. Vendor X introduces an integration with Dropbox, so Vendor Y has to do one too. How many different DAM integrations with Dropbox do we actually need? Shouldn't an integration with Dropbox be on par with a printer driver in terms of how many we need on the market?

We need only one DAM integration for Dropbox but we can’t have just one because we have no interoperability standard between DAMs that would enable them all to use the one Dropbox integration. This leaves DAM vendors to each make their own. And despite the fact that each is just as difficult and time consuming to create as the others, only the first of anything can ever really be considered an innovation. The rest are just markers of time wasted playing “me too.”

Then think about metadata extraction, the process through which a DAM makes metadata that’s already inside your files searchable within the DAM. Or digital asset previews, or conversions between formats. Virtually all DAM vendors reinvent these technologies for themselves but this costs time that should be spent on innovations that drive the industry forward.

Imagine where Web browsing would be today if each browser had to create and manage its own Internet transport protocol, mark-up language or font technology.

I've heard some argue that standardization would prevent DAM vendors from being able to compete. But auto manufacturers seem to be able to compete even though they share tires, spark plugs, hoses and fuel.

Until the Digital Asset Management market has become so saturated and developed that there’s nothing left to do but eat the competition, we should see less competition and more collaboration.

In the meantime, competition is holding DAM back. I say it’s time to kill it.

Title image courtesy of Sergey Nivens (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Never shy of controversy, David explores DAM inside and out. Read more in 5 Good Reasons to Avoid DAM Software