Managing digital assets

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As production departments have eased off using outside vendors in recent years, the need to control the influx of data-from advertising that's used in multiple titles to editorial that's used across a broad spectrum of products-has increased exponentially.

This, in turn, has led to the huge growth of the digital asset management marketplace. Digital asset management systems enable users to find and reuse digital files. Editors, for example, can repurpose stories efficiently for multiple electronic versions; photo departments can easily retrieve images; and advertising executives can find their contacts' ads and business plans quickly.

CMP Media took the plunge into digital asset management in 2003 with a system from Artesia Technologies, and the transition has been extremely smooth, said Marie Myers, the company's corporate director of publishing services. "But we were very clear about what we wanted to do and how we wanted to work before implementing it," she said.

Getting to that point of clarity took some time. "We started out just wanting a system to store our ads," she said, "but then we decided to add editorial in and that changed some things."

After many meetings with potential vendors, visits to companies that had systems in place already, and many in-house meetings, CMP was ready to define its needs and choose a vendor. "Being able to lay that out really helped everything go smoothly," Myers said.

Myers said the system is expected to pay for itself in three years. "There are people here now who would have no idea what to do with a piece of film if it landed on their desks," she said. "We're purely digital now."

To save money on ad storage and placement, Advanstar Communications spent about $200,000 on a digital asset management system from Xinet's Fullpress and Web Native in 2002. "We had wanted to go from film to digital for quite some time," said Keith Hammerbeck, director of manufacturing services at Advanstar, "but as we looked at systems, we decided to get editorial involved as well."

The system Advanstar selected consists of folders that employees can browse through, pull information from and then close. "It's really basic, but we tried to eliminate all the bells and whistles that we didn't think we'd need," Hammerbeck said.

One of those "whistles" is a search mechanism. "Since we're not storing photos on there, people tend to know when X ad ran or when X story ran and can go back and find it easily," Hammerbeck said. "Many of these systems will store your photos, and I think that needs a search mechanism. Fortunately, we have another system altogether for that."

Hammerbeck cautions others to be sure about what they need from a digital asset management system. "If you want something to be retrieved or edit to appear in different publications or products, make sure the system has that capability," he said. "It's easy to sign on for things you don't need, but don't do that. Be sure of what you need and why you need it, and that will save you money."

Digital asset management can help publishers resell content, Hammerbeck said. "It's a matter of revenue," he said. "If you don't have access to your edit files relatively easily, it's going to be difficult to resell that content. You're eliminating a lot of revenue streams by not having it available. And if the consumer can't get it from you, they'll get it from your competition."

The viability of the vendor was a factor for both CMP and Advanstar when they were evaluating potential systems. "When a field is growing so rapidly," Myers said, "you have to figure that some won't exist in a few years. It's just the nature of the game."

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