In the nearly three years since we first began in-depth research into the Digital & Media Asset Management market, I've been nothing short of fascinated by the process of uncovering more and more details about DAM vendors and their tools.
Two vendors that are particularly onion-like in their layers of intrigue are North Plains and MediaBeacon, not only because they are prominent players in the DAM space but also because they are the two vendors our subscription customers ask me to compare and contrast to each other the most.
During 2010 I was involved in several procurements where these two vendors were shortlisted, and several weakness and strengths were consistent with both:
- Neither of these vendors has a strong representation in Europe. Despite dribs and drabs of small implementations in the UK or resellers talking up the tools, our European customers always saw higher-cost proposals (than those of our North American customers) and thin resources on the ground when it came to these two vendors.
- Both vendors are evolving quickly, adding to their professional services teams and in some cases, outsmarting their own partners when it comes to the selling and implementation of DAM. Many buyers want to go right to the source of the product, rather than to a 3rd party - and these vendors are staffing up as a result.
- Both vendors have two internal visionaries - in Jason Bright (of MB) and Steve Sauder (of NP) - whose vision of the future of DAM and the technologies they built is of deep interest to both existing and prospective customers of the two companies. With MediaBeacon in particular I'm often asked, "What would happen if Jason Bright got hit by a bus?" It's not a simple answer - but suffice it to say that both these companies are still small enough that customers often expect the visionary's personal attention. Well, don't get used to it.
- Neither MediaBeacon's nor North Plains' DAMs are simple systems. MediaBeacon's may be architecturally elegant and standards-based, and North Plains' may be more scalable -- but that does not come without complexity. They are both platforms moreso than out-of-the-box products, whose set-up and maintenance I'd compare more to cooking a ten-course French feast at a well-orchestrated Michelin 3-star restaurant, than whipping up a jell-o salad for the next community pot-luck.
- Both companies remain independent from the larger ECM market. While many DAM vendors of the old guard were gobbled up by the EMCs, Autonomys and OpenTexts of the world, both MediaBeacon and North Plains remain the rebellious and free renegades.
There are, however, marked differences between these two vendors that few tend to point out:
- North Plains has more VAM or Video Asset Management features than MediaBeacon, though the new features debuted in MB's latest release show they are eager to catch up.
- They have very different personalities. North Plains as a vendor is a rather serious, no-nonsense company; MediaBeacon, meanwhile, always feels like they're about to throw a party. One isn't inherently better than the other, but I have found this greatly influences which of our customers wants to work with them.
- North Plains has recently been focused on growth in the eBooks market, while MediaBeacon is expanding their reach further into broadcast media and brand management.
These are just a few of the things I point our to our customers when I'm asked to compare these two vendors. You'll find all the juicy details in our DAM research where I've updated these two vendor reviews with a lot more of the information I learned about them over the past year. I suspect 2011 will be an interesting year of evolution for both of them.