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DAM Basics

What are Digital Assets?

  • 7 min read

The term "digital asset" has become more common in marketing and creative communication - and with good reason. According to Venngage, 74% of marketers now use visuals in over 70% of their content. But, despite the increased use of digital assets, there's still a disconnect between what's considered a digital asset. Is it just any digital file? If not, what are the other criteria? 

In this post, we'll explore the key elements of digital assets, how to evaluate the value of your digital assets and why digital assets are important to your business.

What are Digital Assets?

According to Gartner's Glossary, a digital asset is any digital material owned by an enterprise or individual including text, graphics, audio, video, and animations. Historically, many people have considered digital assets to only include photos and videos, but over the years, we've started including other digital files in our definition, such as documents, presentations, and spreadsheets.

While the definition of a digital asset is constantly changing as new digital formats are emerging in business, it’s important to remember that the file format is only part of the definition. The other portion of the digital asset definition is derived from the value the asset brings to the company.

There are 3 key elements that make any single file a digital asset. A digital asset must:

  • Be a digital file owned by an individual/company,
  • Provide value to the individual/company, and
  • Be searchable and discoverable (usually with metadata).

What kind of file types are considered digital assets?

In order to fully understand what digital assets are, here are some common digital asset types:

  • Photos,
  • Videos,
  • Audio files,
  • Presentations,
  • Graphics,
  • PDFs,
  • Spreadsheets,
  • Documents,
  • Design files,
  • 3D files,
  • and more.

DAM Trends Report 2022

Learn about the benefits that come from implementing the right digital asset management and how to get started.

What is the Difference Between Digital Assets and Other Files?

To help identify the difference, Theresa Regli, a digital asset management industry expert, describes digital assets as “something represented in a digital form that has intrinsic or acquired value”. To simplify, the key difference lies in whether or not the file adds value to the company.

For example, if an image from a photoshoot is used in a social media campaign that raises awareness of an upcoming event and drives registration, that image would be considered a digital asset. However, if a rough screenshot is sent in a one-off email to a potential client, the image itself has minimal long-term value and would likely not be considered a digital asset.

A high-quality photoshoot image is a digital asset

A quick screenshot is not a digital asset

When evaluating the value of your digital assets, there’s more to consider than just the hard cost of them. It’s also important to consider 2 factors: the time spent producing it, and the ability to recreate it. 

1. Time and Effort to Produce 

When evaluating production value, consider the time, resources, people, and planning that it took to create the asset. Often, an organization's most high-value assets are those that take a considerable amount of time and effort to create. For example, as a marketing manager, losing a single photo, while inconvenient, can likely be resolved fairly quickly, by either re-editing the raw file or selecting another from the shoot. A fully-edited and ready-to-distribute eBook, however, will take significantly more time and effort to recreate and get re-approved, even if you still have each individual asset. This is an incredibly common challenge. In fact, in our recent DAM Trends Report, 41% of organizations without a digital asset management (DAM) solution in place reported having to recreate or repurchase an asset.


Woman on the phone
How to Buy a DAM eBook on tablets

A single image can be reproduced or replaced

An entire eBook is more challenging to replace

2. Ability to Reproduce

Assets also become increasingly more valuable when they’re impossible to recreate. These types of assets usually come from one-time, never-going-to-happen again events, where even all the time and money in the world couldn’t recreate that moment. For example, as the marketing department of a sports team would know this all too well, a single photo of a game-winning goal can be extremely valuable and can’t be recreated if it’s misplaced. When just looking at the costs to create that asset, it's just one of the hundreds of images taken by the photographers in a single night, but to the marketing team, this single photo is more valuable than gold.


Game winning catch

An image of a football is easy to recreate A winning catch in a sports game can't be recreated

Why Are Digital Assets Important?

The way that we do business is changing and emotions have always influenced buying behaviors, but now it’s about more than just producing cool ads to drive customer demand. It’s about who is connecting the best with customers, and how they're doing it. In an increasingly digital world, most of these connections are happening across online channels: exactly where your digital assets come in.

At their core, digital assets are the visual representation of your products, services, culture, and, ultimately, your brand. As the key drivers of online engagement, digital assets represent the connection between your company and your customers and give you the ability to interact with them in the way they like, when they like, and where they like.

How to Make Digital Assets Discoverable

While investing in creating digital assets is important, the assets are only valuable if they can be found. When you’re working with a lot of digital assets, it’s important to take steps to make sure they’re discoverable and can be managed efficiently. This is usually done with the consistent use of metadata (keywords, titles, photographer name, etc.), and a smart taxonomy (category structure):


Metadata is essentially data about data providing a variety of information about the asset, beyond its basic filename. There are two types of metadata that include the following:

  1. Technical metadata: usually displayed automatically, such as resolution, photographer name, dimensions, and size.
  2. Descriptive metadata: describing a resource for the purpose of discovery, such as title, description, and keywords.

Most commonly, people tend to associate metadata with keywords. Your keywords are key to powering asset search and give you the power to label your assets in a way that’s relevant to your unique business needs. Here's a helpful guide to keywording.


A taxonomy is a hierarchical structure that allows you to categorize and classify your assets to ease navigation, and identify relationships between assets. Using a taxonomy will help users intuitively browse for assets in a digital asset management system, especially when they’re not exactly sure what they are looking for. Here's a helpful post about building a taxonomy.

While a basic form of both metadata and taxonomy can be done in-house, most companies are taking advantage of a digital asset management system to truly take control of their digital assets and give instant access to the people that need them.

Better Manage Your Digital Assets With a DAM

Digital assets have become the essential tools of brand loyalty, with every single digital interaction coming back to visuals and copy. But, your assets are only valuable if they can be found and used efficiently. For a step-by-step process to finding a DAM vendor, download our eBook: How To Buy a DAM.

MediaValet is a leader in cloud-based digital asset management that helps organizations manage, organize and share their digital assets, improving productivity and increasing ROI. See MediaValet in action today.

MediaValet Team