As the digital asset management industry has matured, the terms “digital assets” and “content” have begun to be used interchangeably.
While this change emerged as a way to resonate more with marketing teams and the increasing surge in content marketing, the use of the word “content” within the DAM space has created the illusion that a DAM and a CMS (content management system) perform the same function.
A DAM and a CMS act as two completely separate systems, performing very different functions for a marketing team. In a nutshell, a CMS helps manage content for your website, while a DAM helps manage content for your entire organization across multiple channels.
Here, we’ll highlight the differences between the two systems and answer the frequent question: If I already have a CMS, then why do I need a DAM? Specifically, we'll cover:
- The definition of a DAM and a CMS
- The key features of each solution
- What use cases each solution is best for
DAM and CMS Definitions
To understand the difference between DAM and CMS, a good starting point is to look at the definition of each:
WPBeginner defines a content management system (CMS) as:
“A software that facilitates creating, editing, organizing, and publishing content.”
At a basic level, a CMS is used exclusively for your website and related web properties and helps you create and manage text and media content on your website. It’s typically only accessed and owned by the limited members of the marketing team (such as web development and content marketing), with its media library only hosting assets that are relevant to building out web pages.
TechTarget defines a digital asset management system as:
“A system for organizing, storing and retrieving rich media and managing digital
rights and permissions.”
A DAM is used to organize and distribute media, visuals and content across the entire organization. It’s typically owned by the marketing team, but is able to be accessed by multiple teams, including sales, product management, PR, communications, contractors, agencies and partners.
Let’s take a look at each in more depth:
Content Management Systems (CMS)
A content management system essentially acts as the foundation for your website (blog, news, eCommerce, etc). With a CMS, you’re able to publish, change and remove content from your website, making it a strong solution for teams across the globe.
A CMS is usually home for web designers, editors and administrators. It hosts easy-to-use templates, along with comprehensive WYSIWYG building blocks to allow users to easily and quickly build beautiful, impactful websites. It has strong capabilities when managing text-based content, with version tracking, SEO add-ons and robust search capabilities.
Where a CMS is lacking, however, is in its media abilities. The media library within a CMS is built to function as a repository for content that’s being shared on your website. While it's able to store videos, images, documents, audio and more, its searching, sharing and permission capabilities are limited. With this in mind, media and content that is not part of your website should not be stored in your CMS.
Key Features of a CMS include:
- Storing and indexing web pages and web copy
- Searching for and retrieving relevant content
- Format management for brand consistency
- Revision control for past versions of web content
- Basic access permissions to edit and view
- Publishing and reporting on web content
The Bottom Line
A CMS is best for companies looking to streamline the way they build visual, informative and user-friendly websites.
Examples of Content Management Systems
Digital Asset Management (DAM)
A digital asset management system is an integral part of the media content creation process, helping companies organize, collaborate on and distribute their visual media from within one central library. By providing a single-source-of-truth for all the important visual content within an organization, a DAM reduces internal bottlenecks and improves brand consistency across all channels.
With a DAM, users can manage nearly any type of digital file. From within the system, users can perform a variety of functions, including re-sizing & re-formatting their media, tracking usage history and sharing large files easily with external parties. A DAM also provides organizations with increased media security, such as user permissions, compliance regulations, recovery and geo-replication.
While a DAM provides great functionality for managing your visuals, it isn’t able to provide the same breadth of publishing capabilities that a CMS can. While a DAM can provide some publishing options, such as web publishing and embedding, it can’t create well-designed, highly-specific web pages in the same way that a CMS can.
Key Features of a DAM include:
- Storing and managing brand and marketing material (photos, videos, etc.)
- Finding and retrieving media assets, using advanced searches
- Enriching assets with custom metadata, such as keywords
- Version control and history tracking for all media assets
- Manipulating assets into other forms, such as file type or size
- Access permissions for internal and external users
The Bottom Line
A DAM is best for companies that need a better way to produce, store, collaborate on, share and distribute large amounts of marketing content (photos, videos, audio, etc.)
Examples of Digital Asset Management Systems
Integrating DAM and CMS
When you understand the difference between a DAM and CMS, it becomes clear that the two systems are actually complementary to each other (rather than alternatives). With a DAM, users are able to use advanced library capabilities to feed their web team the media content they need to confidently build on-brand, visual web content. This benefit only improves with an integration between the two, as users will be able to access the DAM without having to leave the CMS.
Benefits of a DAM and CMS Integration
When you’re able to access your DAM within your CMS, it allows your users to:
- Easily access on-brand and approved media assets from within your CMS
- Automatically upload and create links within your CMS library
- Use advanced search capabilities to find the assets they need
- Improve brand consistency across all web properties
- Effectively re-use media content across your website
Example of a DAM and CMS Integration
Without a DAM
You’re the web developer for a furniture retailer and you’re working on a web page to promote one of your partner brands and their upcoming sale. You go into your CMS library to find their logo, but there are 3 different variations. You know you should send a message to the marketing team to clarify which one to use, but this page needs to go live today. You ultimately decide to use the most recently uploaded logo and pray that it’s the right one.
With a DAM
You’re the same web developer, working on the same web page, but instead of searching for the logo within your CMS library, you open your DAM library plugin. From there, you can instantly see a category that your marketing team created specifically for this campaign. Within this category, you find a logo that was hand-picked by the marketing team and confidently insert it into the page to be published.