Rich media, such as online video and audio content, is now vitally important to the marketing mix, and digital asset management systems are becoming increasingly essential tools for its management, according to Wouter Maagdenberg of SDL Web Content Management, who here explains how marketers can choose the right tools for rich media management to more successfully reach their target audiences. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

Here we establish how the various media management systems differ from one another, how they can work together, and how they interact with content management systems.

The Media Asset Lifecycle
Digital Asset Management (DAM) refers to the protocol that supports the creation and production of assets, enabling file versioning, grouping, archiving, sharing and exporting. DAM has its roots in the print industry and its primary purpose is to improve collaboration and add workflow to the creation and production processes of rich media.

Media Asset Management (MAM) mainly focuses on optimising, publishing, hosting and distributing rich media assets such as audio, video, images and other rich content, to multiple channels.

Producing Assets
DAM adds control to the processes of creating ideas and turning them into reality, while also providing control over production, file versioning and costs. Control is as vital as providing a collaborative function between internal teams and external providers, since it ensures delivery of an optimal digital asset.

Using Assets
After assets are delivered, MAM enables publishing. It optimises and localises assets and powers multi-channel distribution. For distribution, the MAM ensures that you have added capacity to meet high-volume file sharing and streaming demand. MAM also tracks how the digital assets are used and consumed in digital environments.

In this sense, MAM aligns with Content Management processes but also adds rich media management and publishing capabilities to existing systems, such as Web Content Management, Campaign Management and Digital-Out-Of-Home (DOOH) systems. Your system requirements are highly dependent on whether you will produce assets from scratch, or use and adapt existing assets.

In-house Creation versus Outsourcing
In-house creation and/or production of rich media assets usually require the need for a DAM solution. If most of the assets are created externally (e.g. by an agency) you may have little need for a DAM. In this case, a DAM may be overkill since it will only be used as an expensive file server!

DAM and CMS typically meet when (intranet) portals access raw files. When organisations realise they need a way to distribute raw materials internally, they often connect their creation system, the DAM, to their content distribution system, the CMS.

However, in most cases they actually need a MAM that will make these raw assets accessible for various screens and platforms and distribute them to a global audience, in multiple digital channels and devices. MAM supports the demands of a variety of file profiles and can supply you with the right bandwidth capacities to address your global audience.

Rich Media
Compared to traditional print assets, digital assets, such as audio, images and video, bring new challenges - especially in the context of online distribution. Overall, you need to publish these rich media assets to various digital channels and devices. To enable this broad delivery requirement, they need to co-exist in various technical file variations and contain different codecs for the specific devices or operating systems.

A further complication is hosting these variations. Hosting depends on the method of distribution that the consuming device supports (i.e. progressive download, download or streaming media) and the global spread required per variant. A MAM's device, OS and geo-detection, makes this publishing process smooth and easy for you.

Customer Experience Management
Consumers and quickly growing business audiences expect you to support and communicate with them via a myriad of touch points, such as online, mobile, social media and via outdoor messaging. Each of these channels and devices, however, has a specific role in the customer's journey to satisfaction.

While outdoor messaging builds awareness and mobile devices enable transactions, your website and social media reviews enable you to gain customer confidence and trust in your offerings. Device-independent access to your information, message consistency and ease of use, are key for success.

Where content management enables you to publish text, localise and orchestrate your messaging, MAM enables you to enrich multi-channel communications with proper imaging and video. This not only makes your customer's journey a rich media experience, but it also bridges gaps between different media channels through, for example, linking and QR-codes.

Multi-Channel Content Management
Content Management is typically organised per channel. Systems for managing Web Content (WCM), Campaigns and Digital-out-of-Home (DOOH)-environments are siloed. In addition, many organisations do not systematically manage social media, viral campaigns and mobile messaging.

In these circumstances, MAM adds most value as the one and only central repository for all rich media assets. This provides central control and synchronised messaging through the various, sometimes disconnected, publishing processes and channels. A MAM not only provides you with controlled media message publishing and distribution but it also provides reliable reporting across and between the various channels.