A couple of weeks ago, a representative from a DAM vendor contacted me about a DAM software review site that had requested a trial edition of their solution. They were somewhat suspicious about the motives of the operators and shared their concerns with me. The site appears to be French in origin. One application which receives a glowing write-up that puts it well ahead of all the others is developed by a firm who are also French. The vendor who emailed me originally pointed out that the whois data for the domain name reveals that both the review site and the company who develop the DAM system which get the highest rating were, in fact, the same firm (quelle surprise). I must make it clear that none of the French vendors listed on our directory are involved with any of this.
As well as this example, I have heard reports about other DAM system review sites where the operators (while less obviously biased) are sometimes partial to weighting the prominence afforded to certain products over and above the others. It is not unreasonable for industry sites to include commercial advertising (we do to a limited extent on DAM News, as does CMSWire and various other similar publications) but there needs to be a clear line drawn between editorial copy and advertising.
User-supplied reviews also provide an opportunity for the unscrupulous to gain an edge over their more honest competitors. For smaller items like books, films or consumer electronics where relatively modest sums are involved, this might not be too significant. For a big ticket purchase like DAM software, however, placing any real trust in the reliability of them could be a perilous undertaking. Just because there are positive reviews for some products (and highly negative ones for others) does not mean they are all rigged, but distinguishing the real from the bogus might not always be straightforward.
Essentially, it is the model employed by these sites which is most deserving of criticism, rather than their attempts to apply it to DAM software. I don’t think it is feasible to reduce DAM applications to an n out of five star rating (as many of these sites seem to) since there are just too many different variables. What is a selling point for one organisation is the complete opposite for another. As we announced recently, we are currently in the process of setting up a DAM News software pricing survey and based on the responses from a small sample of vendors who have agreed to review the proposed questions, there is a lot of diversity in terms of the implementation styles and delivery methods used by different providers (to the extent that the questions have needed to be revised several times). Anyone who has had to prepare RFPs for DAM solutions will be aware that they are complex documents to author because although there are a number of common factors to most DAM solutions, vendors each address them differently and in ways that can substantially influence the final cost and ultimate value obtained.
To properly investigate most DAM solutions takes a lot of time and effort. I would assess that one day of solid work per product is probably only just about sufficient for many solutions (with a longer period required to give the task the attention it really deserves). Given the business models employed by many of these sites, I do not believe they can economically carry out the exercise in sufficient depth to write a satisfactory review (I notice that most also cover hundreds of different software markets, which must be to compensate for this limitation). As a way to gather a list of possible options they may offer some potential, but don’t expect to get anything useful out of them in terms of credible product feedback and opinions as to the suitability of them for your own individual Digital Asset Management requirements.
Apart from the trust issues with some on-line sources, an opposite (but related) problem is a lack of willingness by users to share feedback in a format that is open and will persist for an indefinite period (e.g an on-line forum). This subject was discussed last year on one of the LinkedIn DAM groups; many end users will still have to liaise with the firm who supplied the product for support etc and deal with the fall-out from any negative remarks. I have seen a few instances where unfavourable comments about a product emerge, but only several years after the supplier has left the scene and are not involved with the organisation any longer. An additional problem with that kind of feedback is that the vendor in question might have since become aware of the issues and fixed them in the intervening period.
Although there are various other more in-depth sources of information about DAM solutions such as analyst reports or hiring consultants to review the options for you, one low-cost and simple approach is to go and meet with some actual users of the product you are interested in and talk to them, live (i.e in the flesh) where it is a little easier for users of a product to be a little more open about their experience with it. There are a few Meet Up groups dedicated to DAM and trade shows do have the benefit of providing a focal point for larger gatherings that will include some users (although a cost is usually involved). I have discussed this issue with a few other people in DAM and as yet, I can’t see any practical alternative to the methods described, although I do remain open to listening to any proposed ideas.