A Glossary of Terms for Digital Asset Management nerds.


Every industry sector has its own language here’s a list of key terms to help you understand the world of Digital Asset Management (or is that DAM, or BAM, or MAM, or Vam, or ….).


API stands for “application programming interface” – which basically means that one system can talk to another. Relating to DAM – this means that creative assets stored in your DAM can be integrated in other systems – such as your content management system.   

Adaptive Metadata

Adaptive metadata is a way to assign metadata automatically for certain files. For instance, when you upload an audio file, metadata would capture the length of the file, which would not be present when uploading an image. 

Asset Manipulation

Asset manipulation refers to the alteration or editing of an original file to create a new file. The new file may be stored within the DAM or can be downloaded immediately.

Boolean Search

When you think of Boolean Search – think about how you can search on Google.  Boolean Search enables you to identify a digital asset based on true or false queries.  For example, you can search for all files with the keyword girl, but exclude the keyword family and add a date range.  

Brand Asset Management (BAM)

Brand Asset Management systems is a DAM on steroids.  In addition to storing digital assets, Brand Asset Management platforms help marketers not only explain their brand guidelines, but are also able to approve creative that is submitted, to verify it is on brand. 


Cataloging is another word for ‘ingestion’ – or more simply said – the process by which when you upload a digital asset, metadata from the file is automatically extracted, and you can add additional keywords and other metadata so it’s easily found in the future by searching.  


Compression is used in many digital file formats to reduce the amount of storage capacity needed. This is done so files can be quickly uploaded and downloaded.   Examples of compressed file formats include JPG, WEBP, MP$ etc

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Content Delivery Networks or CDNs are dedicated networks with high levels of capacity specifically designed for the distribution of bandwidth heavy content. A CDN provides multiple geographically dispersed Points of Presence (PoPs) and replicates content across the network so downloading content is quick.

Controlled Vocabulary

A Controlled Vocabulary helps you structure your digital file’s metadata by offering predefined keywords people can apply to their content for easier search.  It can also be thought of as a taxonomy. 


The DAM industry loves acronyms. DAM stands for “Digital Asset Management” –software that enables you to put a process around managing your digital files and creative assets such as cataloging, searching, workflow approvals and the ability to manage talent usage rights.   

Data Storage

Digital Asset Management relies on digital storage facilities to hold assets. Usually when purchasing a DAM, data storage will include the primary storage, as well as backup storage of the assets.

Data Migration

This is the process of transferring data from one system to another. Usually when you start using a DAM, your vendor will offer to migrate your images and creative files from another provider – or most likely from your hard drive – into the new system. Here’s how it works. You provide the DAM vendor with your images in the folder structure via a secure FTP or a hard drive. They then give you a spreadsheet  so you can add additional keywords or fix naming conventions – and then your files are automatically imported into the new DAM system. Voila! You launch with everything in place.

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

This is metadata associated with a file, that tells the user who the author or owner of the file is, licensing arrangements and permitted usage information.


This is basically when you convert a physical thing – i.e. a printed photograph, into a digital file.

Dublin Core Metadata

There are many metadata schemas used in DAM.  Dublin Core is one of the more popular standard metadata schemas for digital assets. For an asset, the metadata fields include: title, creator, subject, description, publisher, contributor, date, type, format, identifier, source, language, relation, coverage and rights.

Email Link

In the context of your DAM, it is the method of sharing a single or multiple files to external recipients by sending via email a link to download those files.

Embed Media

Is the process of displaying media files, directly from a DAM by embedding a reference to a file stored in the DAM, on a third party, public website. e.g. display an image tag that reference URL supplied by the DAMEmbedding media from a DAM can be thought of as the DAM acting as a CDN. Youtube™ embeds are a popular example of embedded media.

Encoding (or embedding) Metadata

From your DAM – you are able to add and edit metadata, which then gets embedded into the file.  For instance, if you have a file that’s named – “Happy Woman” – from your DAM you can change the title to “Happy Woman Smiling”, add a description “Image of a young, Asian woman, smiling at the beach” and metadata keywords such as – Young, woman, smiling, beach, Asian, Female, Lady.  When you make these changed in your DAM – they are automatically embedded into your image.

EXIF – Exchangeable Image File Format

The simple way to think about EXIF is that it’s information from the camera as it relates to the digital image. EXIF data is embedded within the image file itself, usually jpeg or tiff, and is used by many camera manufacturers. Adobe created a better, more flexible metadata format for photography and image processing, called XMP (extensible metadata platform), but EXIF is still a very popular and supported metadata specification.

Extracting Metadata

When you upload a file into your Digital Asset Management system, automatically, the metadata associated with the file is indexed into the DAM’s search engine. This is important, as it allows users to enter metadata in other software applications that can later be used in the DAM system to help users organise and finds assets more efficiently.

Faceted Search

Faceted search is a way of filtering down when you search. For example, if you search for assets containing the keyword “green field” – once you see your results, you can narrow your search to assets created on a certain date, or are of a specific file type.   

File Format

File format is a catch-all term to describe the type of each digital file. Examples of file formats include: .jpeg, .mov, .MP3, .docx, .ppt, .png, .tiff. .eps – etc – the list goes on.


Ingesting means the same as cataloging – which is the process of adding or uploading assets to your digital asset management system, and adding, embedding and extracting metadata to/from your digital assets. 

IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council)

IPTC is a set of metadata attributes that can be applied to images and is embedded with the file, and is called “IPTC header”. This information travels with the digital file and is read by many software applications. 

Keywords (aka Tags)

Keywords are information that describes your digital assets, so they are easier to search for and find later. Keywords become part of your digital assets’ metadata. 

Keyword Search (aka Tag Search)

Keyword search is how searches are conducted within a Digital Asset Management system. The user enters a term or phrase, metadata fields are checked for matches, and results are returned.



Linked and Related

Linked and Related files refers to the method of linking a file to a new folder (Linked) or linking a file to another file (related). The original file does not move, but rather, a digital relationship is formed. This is useful when managing talent usage rights in a DAM – for example to link a talent release form to multiple files.

Marketing Resource Management (MRM)

Marketing Resource Management (MRM) is a software platform for the entire marketing life-cycle, including a method to manage digital assets, as well as planning marketing schedules and forecasting marketing activity.

Media Asset Management (MAM)

Media Asset Management (MAM) is generally considered as simply an alternative term for <em>Digital Asset Management</em>, although some believe that a MAM system only supports video rather than any type of digital file. 


Metadata is descriptive information about your files (data about your data). Digital Asset Management systems rely heavily on metadata, as it’s critical for searching, retrieving and managing your rich media assets.

On Premise vs Cloud

On Premise based solution is the alternative to Cloud based systems. If you host your DAM on premise, your IT department will generally manage the software as well as the hardware. 

Product Information Management (PIM)

PIM is the abberviation of <em>Product Information Management </em>software which integrates product data sheets and related resources, to all artwork and creative related to the product. Most DAM systems can serve as a PIM for your business.  


RAW is a file format usually used by professional photographers that contains ‘unprocessed’ metadata. These are usually very large files and this format is often referred to as a digital negative because photographers can then use software such as Photoshop to manipulate them before compressing into a JPEG, TIFF or PNG.


RSS stands for ‘Real Simple Syndication’ and is an XML based Metadata standard that makes it easy to get feeds from one website to another.  


RGB stands for Red, Green, Blue and is the standard colour model used for screen based media.


SaaS stands for Software as a Service – and in the context of a DAM, enables you to manage your digital assets in the cloud, versus and on premise implementation. SaaS products are provided as web applications that users access via a browser. SaaS DAM is also interchangeable with Cloud DAM solutions.


Search is the heart of Digital Asset Management software, as it enables users to find exactly the asset(s) they are looking for.


Tagging is the process of adding metadata to digital assets to categorise content.


Taxonomy is traditionally hierarchical structure used to classify and assign metadata to files, derived from folder hierarchies in computer operating systems. Modern taxonomy’s are often flat (no tiered hierarchy) tag based constructs.


Uploading in digital asset management usually refers to the act of ingesting or cataloging assets into the DAM system. Most DAM systems allow you to upload a single file at a time, and to bulk upload files by dragging and dropping from your desktop.

Usage Approval (aka Asset Request)

Usage Approval is a type of Workflow in a digital asset management platform, that enables people to request approval before using a file. Usually, the requestor needs to specify how, when and where a digital asset will be used.  

Video Asset Management (VAM)

VAM stands for <em>Video Asset Management</em> – which is similar to Media Asset Management – a platform that specializes in the management of video. These specialized systems typically are on-premise solutions and can handle large file sizes, so are often used by large broadcasters such as Television broadcasters.


Watermarking means adding a logo, or a user’s time and date stamp information on top of the file when displaying in the DAM to prohibit people from using either small images in final creative and to prevent unauthorized usage of the file.  


Workflow is the digital sign off process for when people want to upload a file into your DAM, download a file from your DAM or to simply electronically circulate a file to get feedback.  Workflow is usually tied to versions of a file and the history of a workflow is often attached to the file.  

XMP – Extensible Metadata Platform

Adobe’s metadata schema for writing and storing metadata and encoding it in the digital file for photography and image processing and is used throughout Adobe’s Creative applications like Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.Adobe’s XMP format is becoming the most commonly used standard for images for transferring metadata between software applications and DAMs.


ZIP is a compression or digital archive format used to reduce the storage space used by digital files. Acknowledgements to DAMGlossary.org for their comprehensive list of DAM definitions.


DAM, BAM, MAM or VAM? A Glossary of Terms for Digital Asset Management nerds.

Every industry sector has its own language here’s a list of key terms to help you understand the world of Digital Asset Management (or is that DAM, or BAM, or MAM, or Vam, or ….).

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Adaptive Metadata API Asset Manipulation BAM Blog Boolean Search Brand Asset Management Brand Management System Cataloging Compression Content Delivery Network (CDN) Controlled Vocabulary Dam DAM Glossary DAM Terminology Data Migration Data Storage Digital Asset Management Digital Rights Management Digitisation Dublin Core Metadata Email Link Embed Media Encoding Metadata EXIF – Exchangeable Image File Format Extracting Metadata Faceted Search File format Glossary Help Image Library Ingesting IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) Keywords (aka Tags) Keyword Search (aka Tag Search) Knowledge Base Lightbox Linked and Related Assets MAM Media Centre Metadata MRM On Premise vs Cloud PIM Raw RGB RSS SaaS Search Tagging Taxonomy Uploading Usage Approval VAM Video Library Watermarking Workflow XMP – Extensible Metadata Platform

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