DAM vs. MAM - what's the difference?

  • 30-Oct-2012

At RSG, we publish separate research streams for Digital Asset Management (DAM) and Media Asset Management (MAM), and you may wonder why. After all, some vendors attempt to tackle the task of managing both (even if no software package does it all well).

One could also argue that you could use a web content management system to manage documents, or SharePoint to store and manage images. You could also use a sauté pan to roast a chicken, but it's probably not the approach that will bring about the best, most effective, and tasty results. Most sauté pans aren't built to withstand the heat of the oven, either.

The same is true of stretching a technology's capabilities into a scenario it's not really engineered for: you're unlikely to get an optimal result, and you may not even be able to accomplish the primary task to begin with. Worse, you could have the technological equivalent of chicken juices all over your oven, because the technology couldn't scale to the task.

DAM systems are focused first and foremost on brand assets and image management, and these vendors mostly come out of the print, typesetting, catalog production, and advertising world. The functionality is centered on the upload, management, and transformation of images to various formats, and also very unique functionality to manage, parse and search compound documents such as those created with Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. Typical DAM buyers include advertising and creative agencies, marketing departments, and increasingly, CMOs. Examples of DAM vendors we evaluate can be found here.

MAM systems are focused on the needs of the broadcast media market, and origins of this technology are from the television and movie industry. The original functionality was centered on the storage, archiving, and later the distribution of high-resolution, usually long-form (20 minutes or more) time-based media assets. Increasingly, the technology focuses on multi-channel scenarios beyond television. Typical customers include broadcasters, television program producers, sports networks, government agencies, and increasingly religious institutions, corporations, and other organizations who are all morphing into mini-broadcasters in the age of YouTube. A list of the MAM vendors we evaluate can be found here.

DAM systems have modernized into a market of web-based applications, while MAM vendors continue to sell and support primarily rich clients with poor attempts at corresponding web-based versions.

"So what if I have to manage 30-second television commercials?" you may ask. That's where the crossover is between MAM and DAM. Yes, some DAM systems allow you to store, search and manage time-based media such as audio and video in rudimentary ways, which may be adequate for your needs. But if you're a broadcaster or have complex needs around video, a DAM vendor is likely inadequate.

We outline these functional differences in great detail in our evaluation research -- and we also help our subscribers sort out their particular needs via custom phone (or in-person) consultations.