descriptive metadata about a puppy
PHOTO: Andrew Pons

Metadata matters, because when it comes to content, it’s everything you have. Metadata is the descriptive, administrative and structural (technical) depiction of an intellectual or creative asset. Metadata is a strategic imperative when endeavoring to effectively manage a company’s knowledge. The success of any content-related strategy relies on the implementation of a holistic metadata schema that is supported by technology, people and process. Metadata increases the return on investment of a content system by unlocking the potential to ingest, discover, share and distribute assets. Metadata is the foundation of a profitable digital strategy to deliver an optimized and fully engaging consumer experience. 

Unfortunately, metadata is not easy: It takes time, money and resources to make it all work. Your vendor will not save you, nor will your IT team. There is no “magic bullet” and there is no easy way out. Metadata is critical to your digital asset management (DAM) success, so start your metadata strategy now.

Metadata, By Definition

There are three types of metadata:

  1. Descriptive metadata describes a resource for purposes such as discovery and identification (i.e., information you would use in a search). It can include elements such as title, creator, author and keywords.
  2. Structural metadata indicates how compound objects are put together, for example, how a digital image is configured as provided in EXIF data, or how pages are ordered to form chapters (e.g. file format, file dimension, file length).
  3. Administrative metadata provides information that helps manage an asset. Two common subsets of administrative data are rights management metadata (which deals with intellectual property rights) and preservation metadata (which contains information needed to archive and preserve a resource).

And yet, metadata is an asset unto itself — and an important one, at that. It provides the foundation and structure needed to make your assets more discoverable, accessible and, therefore, more valuable. In other words, metadata turns assets into smart assets. Simply digitizing video, audio, graphic files and more only scratches the surface of their value as digital assets. Their full potential is realized only by their use, and they can only be used if they can be found. The robustness and relevance of the metadata associated with an asset is what makes it findable, and therefore usable.

It's estimated that 800 neologisms (new words and phrases) are added to the English language every year. The evolution of language provides a lesson for metadata: metadata too is a snapshot in time, representing the business processes and goals at that particular time. In an ever-changing business environment, metadata must evolve over time. If maintained and governed well, then metadata continues to contribute to expanding business needs. The best way to plan for future change is to apply an effective layer of governance to metadata. Take the time to manage and control the change.

Related Article: What Makes a Good Metadata Schema?

Metadata's Impact on ROI

Metadata increases the return on investment of a content system by unlocking the potential to ingest, discover, share and distribute assets. Every piece of content has the potential to be exploited for a variety of purposes. A well-designed metadata schema also allows automated structural metadata, like file type and size, to be leveraged to help creative and publishing teams speed the time to market. 

Metadata is the key that unlocks the commercial potential of information, data, and intellectual or creative assets. For example, by tagging an image with descriptive metadata about gender, marketers can discover and use the asset for targeted marketing or for demographically-specific content. A metadata schema that includes administrative information allows for targeted access control, allowing more people to use and search information and content systems without increasing the risk of misuse. 

Related Article: Spread DAM Across the Enterprise to Make Your Assets Sing

Metadata Best Practices

There has never been a more important time to prioritize metadata and have a roadmap for delivering value from it, because data will only continue to grow. New platforms provide great opportunities for communication, engagement and risk management. Data sharing and collaboration will play an important part in growth as business rules and policies will govern the ability to collect and analyze internal and external data. More importantly, business rules will govern an organization’s ability to generate knowledge, and ultimately value. 

Metadata best practices include:

  1. Content is no longer the only king. The user is also worthy. If you have great content and no one can find it, the value of the content is diminished, so ensure you are building the right DAM for the right users.
  2. Understand how your users/customers want to interact with information before designing your metadata and the user interface.
  3. Develop an incremental, extensible process that identifies and enables users, and engages stakeholders with feedback loops, user testing and evaluations.  Remember that metadata is a snapshot in time.
  4. Accept that it won’t be perfect.
  5. Put into action good governance policies.
Related Article: Managing Metadata: Any Volunteers?  

Content Drives the Brand

“I never met a data that I didn’t like” — Internet Meme

Regardless of where it comes from and what it is, content is what drives your DAM and more importantly, your brand. Think of content in terms of what it does for you but also for what it is for your users — it is the constant connection between you and your users. Because of the critical role these assets play in business operations, discoverability throughout all points of a digital lifecycle is key. People also need to trust and be certain the data is accurate and usable. Leveraging meaningful metadata provides your best chance for a return on investment on these assets and forms an essential line of defense against lost opportunities. By helping people identify, discover and experience your brand the way in which it was intended you create value for them and for your brand.