DAM And Home Kitchen Metaphors

CMSWire are running a series of articles in October with the common theme, “Do we still need DAM”.  They ran one of my items earlier this week about service oriented models for DAM (following our general DAM Value Chain theme).  They have followed up with another article by Widen’s Al Falaschi: We Still Need DAM – The Home Kitchen Thesis.

Al’s item is a bit different to mine (but no less valid for it).  I’ve analysed the DAM industry and various business trends, whereas he has approached it from the perspective of an end user deciding whether they need to bother with DAM at all and whether you can piece together DAM functionality from various free or cheap services, like Vimeo, Dropbox or even using shared network folders (if you’re determined to carry on like it’s still 1995).  He uses the analogy of a kitchen and comparing the one in your office with the one you probably have at home to explain why DAM systems offer a superior method to manage your digital assets, while you can do ‘fast food’ and snacks with these freebie services, if you want to do a full dinner party, you’re going to need a proper kitchen:

A faux-DAM system is purely designed for making finished products public or sharable with a very small group. A real DAM system is designed to migrate and manage large volumes of digital assets in varying formats, give them meaning, make them usable and give you control over their use, just as your home kitchen gives you control over a cooking ‘workflow.’ Your home kitchen is designed for collaboration, management and distribution. Your office kitchen is designed for microwaving cold pizza. When you have tens of thousands of photos, Picasa doesn’t cut it. You need DAM’s ability to categorize every photo with custom metadata so it’s easy to find images — just as it’s easy to find ingredients in a familiar pantry. When you’re done using the photos, you want to put them back where they can be reused, just like your spices and olive oil.” [Read More]

I could make some facetious remarks here about the amount of time I personally end up spending in the office kitchen already (in my capacity as executive tea boy) or that in some apartments in North London (where I live) you’re lucky to get a microwave, let alone a cooker + fridge.  However, setting the jokes aside, I can see Al’s point and I tend to agree with him.  In the past I’ve used a comparable metaphor with accounts packages to explain this issue to those unsure whether they need DAM, in the sense that while you can get by with spreadsheets and hand-written ledgers, pretty soon you need something designed specifically for the job and that is when a proper DAM system is required.  Most people would prefer Al’s analogy (and they would probably be right about that too).

Where the situation gets a little more nuanced is if you look more at applications which get supplied by assets held in DAM systems and the ways they might start to horizontally integrate to reduce the need for dedicated DAM solutions.  I don’t think this is yet a feasible or realistic proposition, but there are moves which suggest that those interests might nibble away at some of the starters which DAM vendors might have reasonably expected to form part of the lunch they have been busy assembling in their own kitchens.  An item CMSWire covered last week was the news that Automattic (developers of WordPress) have acquired start-up CloudUp and intend to use it to replace their existing Media Library feature in WordPress.  The current WordPress Media Library is rudimentary (at best) and I can see why they have made this move.

Obviously, CloudUp does not compete with a proper DAM system, but it might make users less inclined to go further.  If demand for it is strong (and with WordPress as an effective channel or route to market then you would expect it to be) then you might expect them to extend this product and a logical direction is to add more DAM-like facilities into it.  To re-use Al’s metahpor, this is like the pre-packaged ‘gourmet’ meal you might end up purchasing late on the way home from work one Wednesday evening.  Probably not one you’re going to depend on for that forthcoming allegedly home cooked lunch you have to prepare for the visiting in-laws, but better than a pizza and maybe good enough for your current purposes.

How might DAM vendors counter this kind of threat?  An option would be stocking up your application with ever more advanced functionality to offer something these DAM component competitors cannot.  As discussed many times on these pages before, however, that might not be ideal in terms of the on-going cost of maintaining a working product – and new DAM users especially tend to favour simplicity over functionality anyway.  The other approach is to invest significantly in getting your application to peer or integrate with as many different partner solutions as possible and dramatically enhancing the interoperability features.  With that approach, you open up a wider cross-section of potential end users who might take your DAM application far more seriously because it can be used as ‘media hub’ for all the other various existing applications they already use.

I would imagine that the smarter DAM vendors have already begun to grasp this trend and I expect vendor integration and partnership announcements to start to now come even thicker and faster than they already have been as a result.

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