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The Art of Digital Asset Management

The global market for digital asset management (DAM) solutions was more than $330 million in 2007, according to ABI Research, and is predicted to reach $1 billion within the next five years. Driving that growth is the increasing volume of rich media assets and the greater flexibility of the software solutions available. Initially focused on archiving digital assets, DAM systems are beginning to extend back toward the creative phase and forward to distribution.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is dedicated to preserving and documenting the leading collection of modern and contemporary artwork in the world. Founded in 1929, MoMA now has a collection of more than 150,000 items of art and more than 22,000 films and videos. As part of its mission, the museum has photographed all the artwork that it owns or has displayed. Until a few years ago, the digital photographs were stored in multiple locations, such as CDs, DVDs and tape backups. Records listing the items were contained in paper files and electronic spreadsheets.
The museum’s board recognized the need for a comprehensive system to store and retrieve the digital files, and gave David Garfinkel, technical coordinator for digital asset management at MoMA, the task of selecting and implementing a new system.

"We wanted a solution that we could manage in-house," says Garfinkel, "and as a non-profit organization, we needed one that fit our budget." After considering the options, MoMA selected the Image Portal from NetXposure.

A group of stakeholders worked together to design the metadata so that the digital files could be organized and searched. "Initially, we were on a learning curve," Garfinkel says. "For some participants, metadata was a new concept."

But MoMA had a clearly articulated goal and strong support from the IT department, so it was able to move forward efficiently. Certain fields were imported from MoMA’s legacy collection tracking system, The Museum System (TMS), and incorporated into the SQL repository used by NetXposure. The digital files were gradually imported from the various discs and tapes into the NetXposure Image Portal. The ability of the solution to integrate and work well with TMS was an important criterion for its selection. Built on open source technology, the Image Portal also integrates well with other applications and has been easy to customize.

"We made some enhancements in the metadata flow so that different views of an image would carry the core metadata as they went through the approval process," adds Garfinkel. "NetXposure support has also been very helpful, working side by side with us to either modify our system or sometimes to make changes in the product itself."

The solution supports the Apple Macintosh platform, which is used by many MoMA staff members; it also supports all other major platforms, including Windows, Solaris and Linux.

Another key issue was digital rights management. The images generate revenue for MoMA when they are purchased for posters, flyers and other printed output. But as intellectual property, they needed to be controlled. NetXposure allows control at both the user level and the asset level. That allows MoMA to monitor usage of the files for both security and business purposes.

NetXposure has partnered with Adobe in the development of its product. "We built the first digital asset management system that used the Flex interface," says Scott Eilers, VP of sales and marketing at NetXposure. Flex is an open source framework for building Web applications and helps developers produce Flash-based interactive Web sites that run on all major browsers. The service-oriented architecture (SOA) of NetXposure allows it to be readily integrated with numerous enterprise applications.

Book site

The Hachette Book Group had been using a DAM system since 2000, but when faced with a decision about whether to upgrade again, the company opted to evaluate the products that had come on-stream more recently. In the past, the system had been used mainly to archive digital assets and make them available for reuse. Artwork for book covers, author photos and other graphic components were stored in final form so that the latest approved version would always be used. The repository was referred to as "the vault."

Looking to the future, however, Hachette wanted to move in a more dynamic direction. "We wanted to be able to generate a catalog automatically," says Matthew Bennett, director of strategic publishing operations at Hachette. "We were also considering other digital options such as starting to show portions of the books, for example. For that, we needed to be able to ‘chunk’ the content."

Hachette found that the TeleScope Publishing Platform from North Plains Systems had the right focus. "Some of the products were more generic," says Bennett, "while others were geared toward the video world. North Plains had the publishing-oriented focus that we needed." In addition to being well suited to Hachette’s vertical, TeleScope also integrates with Adobe Creative Suite and therefore can manage the creative portion of the asset life cycle.

Because Hachette had been using a DAM system for some time, change management was minimal. "Designers do not like to be told how to work," Bennett says, "and the shift to a more formal DAM system can be difficult. But we had already been through this transition, and our users adapted very well."

In the future, Hachette plans to extend its use of TeleScope at both ends of the digital life cycle. In the creative phase, TeleScope’s integration with Adobe will allow it to manage design work in progress, with workflow functionality, moving the asset through review and approval. At the other end of the cycle is the ability to manage and re-purpose content from the vault to extend the value of its digital assets.

"We are planning to generate e-books using TeleScope and push them out to our trading partners," Bennett says. "Reuse is the big story behind DAM, and we want to maximize the value of our digital assets."

The Web-based interface is simple and intuitive. For example, TeleScope can be set up to pull a jacket cover from the vault, add an author’s picture and create an up-to-date press release.

In addition to serving as a repository for assets that users can retrieve, TeleScope is also being used to populate Hachette’s Web site with images directly from the vault. The accompanying text is stored in PubTracker, a title management system that was developed by Hachette to handle bibliographic data.

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