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HS DAM (Digital Asset Management) Conference

September 25, 2023

Heather Hedden

Heather Hedden

Communications Manager/Knowledge Manager


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The most fundamental use of PoolParty software is for managing enterprise taxonomies as middleware. PoolParty can be integrated with SharePoint, content management systems (CMSs), and digital asset management (DAM) systems to enable comprehensive and consistent tagging of content in those various systems and in other content/data repositories with a unified taxonomy, enabling comprehensive and accurate content retrieval. Furthermore, a single front-end application that can access content from various systems, such as semantic search or a recommender system, can be built with the PoolParty API.

Semantic Web Company often participates in content management events to explain how a centrally managed taxonomy in PoolParty can provide superior taxonomy management, semantic search, auto-tagging, and the ability to link content from multiple CMSs. This month, we participated in our first event dedicated to digital asset management (DAM), the HS DAM New York conference. As a presenter and in conversations with other attendees and vendors, I took the opportunity to explain the benefits of a centrally managed taxonomy in a dedicated taxonomy management tool for improving the management and findability of digital assets (creative media files, such as images, video or audio, that have “value” as assets), along with other kinds of content.

HS (Henry Stewart) DAM New York celebrated its 20th year at its September 13-15, 2023, event in midtown Manhattan. Henry Stewart Events is the leading producer of DAM events worldwide with annual conferences currently in London, New York, and Los Angeles, and various online events and trainings throughout the year. This year’s New York conference had about 600 participants from across North America in diverse industries, including retail, media, publishing, manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, museums, and archives. The London event is more international, and the Los Angeles event draws more on the entertainment and media industries.

DAM and Metadata

I had been interested in the HS DAM conferences for some time, since the topics of taxonomies and metadata often appear in their agendas. In the area of DAM, metadata is of particular importance, whether describing what an asset is (asset type, file format, size or duration), what it is about (keywords for people, places, and things), or what its ownership and rights are. As in previous years, there were pre-conference workshops: a 3-hour morning tutorial “Fundamentals of Metadata for DAM Professionals” and a 3-hour afternoon tutorial “Taxonomy and Advanced Metadata for DAM,” both led by John Horodyski of the consultancy Salt Flats.

Metadata was mentioned in numerous sessions, and it was the focus of a few. One was a moderated panel discussion titled “Metadata Everywhere… Everything… All at Once!,” with panelsis from two DAM users and two DAM vendors. Pantelists explained what their organizations are doing with metadata, how they are handling integrations and organization, how they manage diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, and what they could recommend as metadata best practices and advice.

An interactive roundtable brainstorming session, titled “Disruptive Discovery for DAM,” with four facilitated roundables groups, dealt with identifying problems and solutions pertaining to the leading DAM issues of metadata, technology, workflow, and governance. Metadata problems my group identified included metadata coming from legacy systems and external sources and the different meanings for terms, but we also realized that metadata was related to the other areas of technology, workflow, and governance. A session on DAM migrations also emphasized metadata.

Taxonomy was mentioned by speakers in a number of sessions. It’s understood that a good taxonomy is part of good metadata, which supports digital asset management. However, besides the pre-conference workshop, there was just one session devoted to taxonomies, the panel in which I participated.

Taxonomies for DAM Session

“Taxonomy is What Powers DAM” included the panelists Annette Feldman of the Associated Press, Yonah Levenson of Rutgers University’s DAM Certificate Program, who was also the organizer of the panel, Tracey Forzaglia of Spotify, and myself. Annette started out our session presenting an introduction to taxonomies; Yonah spoke about taxonomy development; Tracy talked about research for taxonomy creation; and I presented the final segment, which was on taxonomy management best practices. The full slide deck can be downloaded here from the DAM New York 2023 Google drive.

In the area of taxonomy management, I chose to focus on the two topics of governance and alignment. I asked for a show of hands of how many were managing a taxonomy or descriptive topical metadata in a DAM, and it was slightly under half. I then asked how many of them had some documented policies or guidelines on how to maintain and update the taxonomy or metadata (aka governance), and the number dropped to about three of four individuals. I explained the importance of having a governance plan so that the taxonomy would be maintained and updated in a consistent manner over time to keep it relevant and of high quality. 

By “alignment” I meant aligning multiple taxonomies within an organization by merging, mapping, or linking them. DAM is certainly not the only system with a taxonomy. There are also taxonomies in various CMSs owned by different departments, such as marketing or product management, the intranet, and perhaps in a product information management (PIM) system. It’s confusing if the same thing has different names in different systems and departments. It’s also not possible to execute enterprise-wide search or discovery of information or analytics when things are inconsistently labeled. So, I recommended managing a taxonomy centrally in a dedicated taxonomy management tool, such as PoolParty, that can connect with other systems, including a DAM system. A tool like PoolParty also facilitates governance over the taxonomy by various methods. 

While DAM systems are designed to manage workflow and support metadata properties specific to digital assets, they do not manage taxonomies well. Taxonomy management features that are often not supported in a DAM system include alternative labels, hierarchies in any field, the SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization System) interoperability standard, multilingual concepts, and taxonomy mapping/linking. DAM auto-tagging is based on image recognition AI, which suggests keywords which are usually not in a taxonomy. Text-based tagging based on titles, captions, descriptions, or transcripts, as supported by PoolParty, is not supported by any DAM system.

Conference Summary

After a pre-conference tutorial day and a first day’s morning keynote, there were two days of four simultaneous tracks: Content and NextGen DAM, Your DAM Journey, Tech Lab, and DAM Intensives. Presenters were a mix of DAM system users from diverse companies and organizations, DAM system vendors, and consultants. Sessions were a nice variety of case studies, presentation panels, moderated discussion and Q&A panels, software demos, and interactive activities. The conference was live in-person only with no recordings made of sessions.

About 30 sponsors’ tables lined the perimeter of the large room where the breakfasts, lunches, refreshment breaks, and a drinks reception were held. These included DAM software vendors, vendors of other solutions related to digital assets and media, integration and technology solution providers, and consulting companies. I explained our interest in integrating PoolParty with DAM systems with some of these companies.

In addition to having the opportunity to talk about the importance of central taxonomy management to a wider audience, raise awareness about PoolParty software, and learn more about DAM, I was pleased to meet professional colleagues. A number of DAM professionals have a background in library and information science, so there is already appreciation among them for the value of well-designed and managed taxonomies.

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