Digital Publishing
6 mins read

How digital media management has changed over 25 years: Research

The journalism and media sectors were among the first to embrace digitisation of assets. However, digitising and managing the growing number of visual assets is a tremendous task.

Recent analysis by FotoWare, a DAM (Digital Asset Management) software provider, offers insights into the managing and sharing of digital assets in the media industry over the last 25 years.

The key findings are that those managing digital assets have many consistent challenges, revealed to be:

  • Organisation of digital assets (55%) – respondents cited the ability to organise and manage digital assets as the major challenge. With many managing thousands of assets (the highest figure mentioned was 170,000), there is a need for a system to process and access them quickly, especially as the amount of assets increases. 
  • Metadata governance (48%) – without strong metadata governance, many assets are hard to find and in danger of remaining unused, while others are published multiple times, especially among large collections. Respondents want to speed up the creation of metadata, as writing captions and keywords for all images extremely easily and quickly speeds up asset selection. Respondents also explained that many assets have small variations and good metadata is essential in finding the right version. 
  • Rights management and licensing (31%) – GDPR and copyright issues are a top challenge. Respondents are wary that all assets have the correct user rights’ information to protect their organisations and to be able to follow up on any theft of assets, on social media for instance. With only 66% of respondents using image rights the remaining respondents are leaving themselves open to prosecution. Rights are managed through a variety of methods, e.g. credits and expiry dates, GDPR information, transfer of IPTC copyrights into metadata fields, and documentation of purchased rights.
  • Ability to share digital assets with multiple stakeholders (31%) – respondents were also concerned about the availability of assets, citing that all relevant departments, employees and external stakeholders should have easy access. A respondent stated that “with several photographers, we need one place to store the pictures for sharing and marketing.” 

Surpassing the initial migration barrier is gruelling but achievable

One of the most significant challenges, which was identified by respondents, is the amount of labour associated with making the move from a traditional archiving system into a digital, cloud-based one. With 72% of respondents revealing that the number of digital assets managed has grown over the last year, this is understandable.

From dealing with suboptimal cataloguing systems to finding and allocating enough internal resources to deal with the migration, there is no shortage of issues faced by media organisations during this transition.

Another example of a significant challenge prior to migrating onto a DAM system is identifying duplicate images. While DAM solutions can make this process a breeze, existing systems often require an entirely manual process which can be highly cumbersome.

AI is increasingly important but not sophisticated enough yet

Surprisingly, while only 6% of respondents are already using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to manage digital assets, all respondents plan to implement it. 

However, what is seen today with AI is not able to serve all of the media sectors’ specific needs. Even though an AI can recognize an object in an image, it cannot do abstract interpretations.

4% of respondents using AI are using it to recognise people, while other uses include recognising objects in images, signs and registering numbers, redacting faces, voice search, and dynamic content creation.

According to FotoWare’s analysis, 75% of respondents believe that these emerging technologies will be important to their business in the future, but only 9% plan to introduce it in the next two years. Such tech can save media organisations countless hours of manual labour which in turn would make managing digital collections even simpler.

This emerging technology will be important to their business in the future. Such tech can save media organisations countless hours of manual labour which in turn would make managing digital collections even simpler. However, 75% of respondents are not sure when they would start to use it, while only 9% plan to introduce it in the next two years. 

AI is employed by DAM platforms to tag and organise images using automated metadata. What this means is that when an image is uploaded into a DAM platform, it is automatically scanned and assigned certain characteristics to make organising and finding the images easier.

In the journalism and media industries, this tagging of metadata used to be a manual process, but today it is easier as AI technologies become more advanced.

Securing the media sector’s digital assets is hugely important

Both the journalism sector specifically and the media industry in general often have access to very sensitive and highly valuable visual content. Using the right image in the right place, and ensuring that only the right people have access to it, is an incredibly important part of DAM.

Thankfully, it seems that the vast majority of organisations who employ DAM solutions are acutely aware of this. In FotoWare’s analysis, allied to remote working, respondents see the need for strong security. 

70% of respondents are actively protecting digital assets and fully aware of the importance of fundamental security measures, detailing strategies including mirrored backups, encryption access management, network segmentation, two-factor authentication and VPN management. Indeed 64% of respondents use Single Sign on (SSO). When selecting a DAM system, users are likely to upweight relevant experience in high-security applications (such as government and law enforcement asset management).  

In an industry that needs quick access to their digital assets at all times, it is reassuring to see that security has not taken a backseat but has rather come to the forefront.

Remote user management is more important than ever

As already mentioned, a considerable part of the media industry has moved to a digital-first front. A by-product of this move is that an organisation can now have teams all around the world, teams which often need to collaborate with each other quickly and efficiently.

In fact, FotoWare’s research 35% see enabling teams to access digital assets remotely as a priority for 2021. Indeed many organizations have changed their way of working since COVID-19 and this is reflected by the importance in having remote access to files when working from home and for disparate teams. 

Managing all those remote users, as well as their access rights, is more vital than ever before. Combined with the fact that remote working is on the rise, cloud-based DAM platforms should now be considered as one of the most flexible solutions for this challenge.

Integrations are a drive for higher ROI

Higher ROI is observed in relation to time used when working with large media files, especially with web-style API services and platforms, all of which are regularly updated with improvements, security fixes and new functionality. In all, 34% of respondents integrate digital asset management software with other solutions like CMS and publishing systems, and all found FotoWare’s well-documented API and extensive support library of existing integrations invaluable.

The challenge is particularly acute for the media sector, which has moved from using entirely manual, highly cumbersome processes, in many cases involving hardcopy referencing systems before migrating to a Digital Asset Management system.

Managing digital assets in the media sector has moved from traditional, highly manual archive processes to fully digitised, searchable systems, encountering common pain points along the way. These include the trials of internal Change Management and training on new systems, consistently managing multiple user groups across disparate locations, and ensuring that rights management is baked into the resulting processes and systems.

The flexibility of cloud-based systems, especially those that can offer benefits of automated metadata, is key for any organisation, including those in the media, that are working with media files.

DAM platforms keep adding value to digital collections

A couple of decades ago, managing a media organisation’s visual content was a much different affair. In fact, one might conjure images of warehouses stacked with filing cabinets stretching beyond the horizon.

Thankfully, those days are long gone now. With DAM platforms, managing digital collections has now become a simpler, more efficient process. Though there are certainly challenges to overcome, there are also a lot of things to look forward to such as better AI and Machine Learning.

To read the full research findings, visit

Anne Gretland
CEO, FotoWare

FotoWare is a Norwegian software company which, in the space of 20 years, has become a world-leading provider of Digital Asset Management (DAM) solutions. More than 250,000 users and 4,000 customers in a wide range of industries worldwide use FotoWare, including The Financial Times, NHST Media Group, Axel Springer Verlag and Thomson Reuters.