What We Learned at Henry Stewart DAM New York 2022
By Ben Zamora-Weiss
Henry Stewart is a major webinar and in-person event organizer in the DAM space, and they typically (that is, when there isn’t a global pandemic) produce two or three conferences in the US every year (New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago). Every conference features panel discussions and case study presentations by DAM consultants, DAM managers, and software/integration vendors – gold mines of learnings and insights from around the world. In mid-October, two of our librarians (Phil and Ben) attended “DAM New York 2022.” Here’s what they learned…
Metadata is the Mantra
No doubt, the word you hear most often at Henry Stewart conferences is metadata. Metadata is data ABOUT other data – aka, your content – and properly tagging your data with metadata allows for quick retrieval of exactly what you’re looking for. Storing your media assets somewhere is easy; finding those assets later is hard – unless you embrace the power of metadata.
LIBRARIAN 201: MORE REASONS TO LOVE METADATA
- Connecting well-documented rights and usage details saves on purchase and legal costs.
- It can spark and accelerate creativity if you and your team can quickly see what content is already available.
Ingest Sheets: Strange Name, Great Idea
An “ingest sheet” (a single document that contains much of the key information on a project) is a great way to deliver key metadata to the people who will be performing the ingest and tagging in the DAM system.
LIBRARIAN 201: ingest sheets
- An ingest sheet might be a stand-alone file that travels with a project while it’s in production or a form utilized within project management systems (such as Monday or Workfront).
- The key: data can be collected along the way, so you and your team don’t have to remember or track information down weeks or months after production wrapped.
It’s About the DAM User (a.k.a. You)
Very often, we (DAM managers and librarians), want things to be a certain way because we think it makes more sense, organizationally, taxonomically, or just plain old logically. But… who cares what we think! No matter how (cough) “right” we might be, the users and stakeholders of a system must guide the broad strokes of its organization. For example, we might expect specific terms to be used in a picklist field, but they’ll be of little use if those terms aren’t in the company’s vernacular. It’s our job to find a balance between “best practices” and the customized reality of our client’s needs.
Take time to purge
Your DAM shouldn’t function like a junk drawer. You might be tempted to save everything created as part of the project, but you’re really just using up storage, and probably creating work for yourself and your team, down the road. Instead, as you wrap a project, consider: are there assets, drafts, or grading that don’t need to be kept?
LIBRARIAN 201: Standard Assets
- If you have standard assets that go into almost every project (e.g., logos, brand guides), these could be collected in their own section in the DAM, and removed from new project folders as they get ingested.
- Similarly, suppose you have a project that pulls from content already in the DAM (e.g., interviews or excellent evergreen b-roll). Instead of duplicating those files over and over again – in storage and in search results – many DAMs allow you to link older records to newer jobs. You free up space, but still, know exactly where all your source footage lives.
Customer feedback is a gift
The DAM is meant to make it easier for a wide range of users – not just a few “keyholders.” If something isn’t working well for someone, anyone, it’s important to address it. It may be solved with a simple training exercise, or an adjustment to a workflow, or it may require a more extensive review and strategy overhaul.
(At Aldis, we understand that what we configure the first time might not be the final version. We ask our clients to work with their system for a few months and make notes. Then we have feedback sessions so we can identify and implement solutions in a new version.)
LIBRARIAN 201: REGULARLY CHECK-INS WITH USERS
It’s important DAM users know whom and how to ask for help; on top of that, on a regular basis, DAM managers should reach out to users and ask:
- Are you able to find what you need—perhaps new fields or terms might be helpful?
- Are you able to navigate the system—maybe documentation, guides, or FAQs need to be created, updated, and made readily accessible.
Metadata Project vs. Metadata Program
What’s the difference between a metadata project and a metadata program?
A ‘metadata project’ is a short-term task with a finite amount of work or end-goal, such as a migration from one system to another, looping back to fix something, or tagging newly-created fields on older assets.
The ‘metadata program,’ however, is on-going. It’s part of keeping your DAM healthy and includes regular check-ins with your business partners and stakeholders. Tasks here might be checking controlled vocabularies and picklists for typos or duplication, adapting to a change in company terminology, and assessing whether any useful fields are missing or now feel redundant. As long as your DAM is active, the metadata program is, too.
Want a Successful DAM? Hire a Librarian!
Something we like to hear! Okay, a bit of a self-plug with this final one, but we hear this more and more often at Henry Stewart conferences, and across the DAM industry: it’s a good idea to employ people with librarian training in your company’s DAM program (whether on staff or as contractors, like our team at Aldis). Librarians bring (at least) three key benefits:
- They have a keen understanding of categorization and tagging, with an ability to meld your unique company processes and workflows with industry best practices.
- They appreciate that their role is also one of customer service, assisting internal staff (and anyone who uses the DAM) to find what they need.
- They value content. They have an inherent instinct to catalog the content your company has spent good money on, and do it well.