Digital Asset Management—Off the Shelf or On Your Own

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Looking for a solution to manage all your digital assets? EContent looks at two companies that took divergent paths in building a DAM solution.

Company: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
Assets: 97,000
DAM Solution: WebWare's ActiveMedia Enterprise

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is enormous. Stewart's conglomerate encompasses multiple magazines, a TV show, a Web site, franchises, books, a radio show, a mail-order catalog, a newspaper column, and various product lines. The company is drowning in all this and managing it has become something of a problem. Tracking down old stories used to rest on the shoulders of employees that had been with the company the longest. Looking for an article on quilting? Ask Brian, he's been with Martha for nine years. Good luck finding the article or companion images. Too many assets walked out the door when employees left; or were lost on CDs sitting under someone's desk. Clearly, something had to be done to bring order to the Stewart media empire's assets. Sheila Bushane, Martha Stewart Living's CIO, recalls, "We had so many assets that they actually became hard to keep track of, and yet there are more people in the company that you want to have access to those old assets."

So three years ago, Martha Stewart Living had a bake off. Bushane and crew sampled more than a dozen digital asset management (DAM) applications, and settled on WebWare's Mambo (later renamed ActiveMedia Enterprise) for its breadth of handling many different kinds of file types, especially video. Upon initial adoption, MSL quickly realized that its demands actually exceeded Mambo's capabilities. There was an initial growth period for both companies as the application had to be reprogrammed to better handle certain file types, like Quark documents, plus the volume of content MSL needed to import.

Three Stages
There are three stages to a DAM solution: production, management, and distribution. During the production phase, the WebWare solution integrates with development tools like Adobe Photoshop to create a traceable media asset. An asset can be incorporated into the DAM system during its creation allowing for an approval process within WebWare; or it can be batch ingested after all the assets have been produced and approved. MSL chose the latter.

Upon collecting the initial content, Bushane quickly realized that she needed to hire a content librarian to define metadata for these assets. "We needed someone within our team that was going to own the language by which we would define all these assets." That person met with all the business units to determine which fields should be tracked, like whether a photo had been published or if the image included Martha.

Meta searches become important, especially in the development of catalogs and "Best of" issues. When editors search for articles, they can see all the associated assets—used and unused. For example, a multitude of photos are usually shot for a single article, but only a handful are actually published. Instead of having to commission another photo shoot for the new issue, an editor has the option of choosing to use some of the unpublished photos.

Benefits Inside and Out
Even though MSL only makes its WebWare database available to company employees, customers also see benefits, like when they call customer service and ask, "Could you send me that apple pie recipe that was published sometime last year?" Customer service can now locate these types of assets without a problem. Bushane also says the company is looking for a business case to extend the WebWare content directly to the customer.

Carlos Montalvo, WebWare's chief marketing officer, is impressed with MSL's initiative. "Most [media companies] concerned about the repurposing of assets and the ability to assign multiple rights to multiple users of assets are in fact not repurposing media," he says. While most companies talk about leveraging the benefits of asset management, Martha Stewart Living is actually doing it.

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