Shelves Objects Colors Person DAM Content Management

As a content editor, your world revolves around content. Big content, little content, and everything in between. And as we catapult into the digital era, one term keeps popping up—”digital asset management” or DAM.

But what on earth is a DAM? And more importantly, what’s it got to do with your content management system (CMS)? Let's unravel this mystery together.

What is a DAM?

Digital asset management, or DAM, is like the older, more organized sibling to your content management system. This kind of system specializes in the storage, organization, and retrieval of rich media files—such as photos, videos, music files, animations, podcasts, and pretty much any other file you might need for your company’s branding and marketing needs.

Think of it as a massive, super-organized digital library. Complete with added metadata tags and permission controls.

See also: How to optimize your website UX with smart content »

The difference between DAM and CMS

Now, if you’re scratching your head and thinking, “isn't that what my CMS does?” you’re not entirely off the mark.

But here’s where the lines get drawn: your CMS is like a chameleon, handling all kinds of digital content, particularly for web output. It’s your go-to tool for creating, managing, and modifying content on your website or app.

A DAM, on the other hand, is like a hawk, sharply focused on rich media files. It’s your wingman when you’re dealing with brand assets, buying image rights, and other heavy-duty tasks that require rigorous compliance checks.

Two systems, two paths

Using a DAM vs. using a CMS is like choosing between a 4x4 and a sports car. If you're trekking through rocky terrain with lots of baggage (read: dealing with a multitude of rich media files across various channels—including physical magazines and billboards), your 4x4, aka your DAM, is your best bet.

But if you're zipping through the city streets (managing web-centric content), the sports car, your CMS, can handle the job just fine. You see, it all depends on your use case. A CMS can solve the task if the relevant assets are primarily being used for web or an app, together with content that is typically managed in a CMS anyway.

See also: How to maintain and update your existing web content »

To DAM or not to DAM

But what if you’re an adventurous spirit and want to trek through the countryside at day and zip through the city streets at night? That's where the harmony of a CMS and DAM comes in. You can integrate your DAM with your CMS, creating a dynamic duo that can handle just about anything you throw at them.

However, keep in mind that a DAM isn’t for everyone. It’s like that high-end espresso machine—perfect for a bustling coffee shop but overkill for a home kitchen. So, if you already have a modern CMS that manages structured content primarily aimed towards the web, it might be counter-productive to acquire a DAM.

But if your organization is on the heavier side and juggles large volumes of rich media files, frequently collaborates with agencies and subcontractors on both digital and physical assets, operates across various regions, or has to deal with complex rights management, a DAM could be your new best friend (after a CMS, of course!).

The Digital Project Business Case Checklist

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