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China – A Major Untapped Opportunity For DAM?

by Ralph Windsor on May 25, 2018

Yaochong Chen who is currently a student on the DAM post-graduate (MA) course at King’s College in London has written an article about the lack of DAM software platforms in China:

Paradoxically, although many DAM Chinese scholars like me are passionate about bringing these amazing ideas into Chinese technology-intensive market and looking forward to massive opportunities, there is actually no western-style DAM platforms in China.” [Read More]

In her piece, Yaochong describes that while there is a great need for DAM solutions (i.e. expertise as well as products) this is currently not being served at all by Western DAM vendors.  She describes one internal platform used by e-commerce operation, Alibaba (which is based on a product they have acquired) but as Yaochong says, this is of no use for other firms who are not associated with them:

…for companies that does not closely collaborate with Alibaba and with less budget, effectively managing digital asset is extremely hard. A TV program director even told me that many rich media in early days are still recorded and preserved on tapes placed in a small room. Facing the rapid development of digital technology and increasing amount of data, they may lose valuable contents forever. ” [Read More]

The situation with DAM and what are somewhat disparagingly referred to as ’emerging economies’ is an intriguing one.   I suspect a significant reason why there are so few sales of DAM platforms to places like China is that (as we have discussed on DAM News before) even those vendors who are referred to in DAM as being ‘large’ are actually tiny by the side of many other tech businesses.  For this reason, their focus is predominantly a North Atlantic one (i.e. Western Europe, USA and Canada) because they lack the resources to pursue other opportunities elsewhere.  With that said, there is strong demand in Australia (and to a lesser extent Japan) but the former still has a mainly Western perspective.  What little I know of the Indian DAM market is that while substantial amount of DAM development occurs there, it is mainly for non-domestic use (i.e export).  I gather this is beginning to change also and the same is true in South and Central America (which has the advantage of being in closer proximity to the USA).

Another factor which historically made marketing to Chinese clients difficult for DAM vendors used to be cultural differences and I would imagine the same is true elsewhere also.  I have some prior experience of dealing with a company in Hong Kong several years ago and there was a heavy emphasis on kit (i.e. technology hardware) with a mistrust, or more likely misunderstanding, of software and consulting – especially what tangible benefits it would offer.  While that was formerly the case, my expectation  is that is probably changing and quite rapidly now.

The primary use-case for DAM remains productivity enhancements via automation (i.e getting more work done with the same number of employees).  In the past that might have been less of a priority for Chinese businesses, the anecdotal evidence in Yaochong’s article suggests that is not true any longer.  It is a frequently observed fact about DAM initiatives that you cannot just requisition inexperienced labour (e.g interns, crowd sourcing etc) and hope to get credible results.  AI is still nowhere near advanced enough to offer an alternative, so the need for both decent DAM software and skilled people who know how  to get the out of it remains and is no different in China than it is anywhere else in the world.

I am unsure how all this will play-out for Western DAM vendors and to what extent they are too busy and/or not open-minded enough to take advantage of this opportunity.  I note that while many tech concepts like social media, e-commerce etc are the same in China, the firms who offer them to users in that region are local ones (Alibaba being a case in-point).  In addition to selling into the Chinese market, I would not be completely surprised to see some Chinese competition for Western DAM vendors beginning to appear before long (i.e. the opposite direction of travel).

Irrespective of the commercial factors at work in all this, I cannot foresee this regional ‘DAM blind spot’ remaining the case for very long as the opportunity is a large and increasing one.  It also seems quite likely that there will be a demand for those like Yaochong with a good understanding of DAM as well as how to apply it in different regional markets.

If any DAM News readers have opinions or experience on the situation in global regions where DAM is currently less commonly used, please feel free to comment or get in touch and we may run a series of articles around this theme.

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