What Is the Difference Between “Digital Asset Management” and “Content Management”?

Digital Asset Management (DAM) focuses on the asset itself, such as an image, a Photoshop file, a QuarkXPress document, a FileMaker file, or a Word document. DAM does not manage the creation, or assembly, of any of these digital assets, but is concerned with the workflow required to create the asset and metadata, or contextual information, about the asset itself. For example, a DAM system typically consists of a database that tracks the status and content of a digital file. Sometimes, the files reside on a standard file-based volume, sometimes the files (or some of them) are integrated right into the database itself.

Content Management Systems (CMS) focus on integrating assembling digital files and new content into a publishable format. Web Content Management (WCM) systems assemble and publish Web sites, whereas Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems manage documents that might be published as print documents, PDF files, Web pages, or other delivery methods.

CMS applications often use digital assets in DAM systems as they assemble publications, whether they are separate systems or a DAM database as part of the CMS application.

The larger vendors in each of these fields usually have cooperative partnerships and develop “hooks” that allow their systems to interoperate. Some of the smaller systems integrate both into one product.

Regardless of the CMS application that an organization may choose, the first priority is organizing, archiving, and evaluating currently existing assets. Future publishing systems will integrate with most enterprise DAM applications, so long as they are standards-compliant.