Digital Asset Management (DAM) is a subset of Content management (CM), which is a set of processes and technologies that support the evolutionary life cycle of digital information. This digital information is often referred to as content or, more specifically, digital content. Digital content may take the form of text, such as documents, multimedia files, such as audio or video files, or any other file type which follows a content lifecycle which requires management.

The digital content life cycle consists of six primary phases: create, update, publish, translate, archive and expire. For example, an instance of digital content is created by one or more authors. Over time that content may be edited. One or more individuals may provide some editorial oversight thereby approving the content for publication. Publishing may take many forms which include pushing content out to viewers, or simply granting digital access rights to certain content to a particular person or group of persons. Later that content may be replaced by more current content and will be expired or removed from use.

Content management is an inherently collaborative process. It often consists of the following basic roles and responsibilities:

Content author – responsible for creating and editing content.

Editor – responsible for tuning the content message and the style of delivery, including translation and localization.

Publisher – responsible for releasing the content for use.

Administrator – responsible for managing access permissions to folders and files, usually accomplished by assigning access rights to user groups or roles. Admins may also assist and support users in various ways.

Consumer, Viewer or Guest – the person who reads or otherwise takes in content after it is published or shared.

A critical aspect of content management is the ability to manage versions of content as it evolves (see also version control). Authors and editors often need to restore older versions of edited products due to a process failure or an undesirable series of edits.

Digital Asset Management (DAM) specifically refers to a set of business technologies and processes designed to manage the storage, protection, retrieval and re-use of digital files. Simply stated, DAM is a combination of workflow, software and hardware which organizes and retrieves a company’s digital assets.

Digital Asset Management Systems can be sub-divided into two primary categories:

Brand Asset Management Systems – Designed to facilitate content re-use within large organizations.

Library Asset Management Systems – Designed to optimize storage and retrieval of large repositories of infrequently changing media assets, such as in digital media production.

Digital assets are considered to be a higher class of content, distinguished by the quality of information (metadata) describing the asset, which is critical to optimizing the value of proprietary content. DAM was initially used by the media and entertainment industry for the management of video files, audio files, and digital print assets, but more recently, digital asset management has also been widely adopted by advertising and corporate marketing departments.

Media Asset Management (“MAM”), is considered by many to be synonymous with DAM, but carries connotations of usage primarily in the management of rich media assets.