Web Extra: DAM: It’s a Good Thing?

With nearly 100,000 information assets to keep track of, executives at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia were quick to realize that an efficient system to catalog its many articles, television shows and radio spots wasn’t just common sense, it could actually save money. CIO Sheila Beauchesne spearheaded a digital asset management project and recently spoke with CIO Insight Reporter Debra D’Agostino about the initiative’s benefits and challenges. What follows is an edited transcript of that interview.

CIO Insight: When did Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia begin thinking about using DAM?

The idea initially arose from our concern for all of our assets. The company has been around now for over 10 years, and had created all these wonderful assets through books, magazines, television shows and such, and there was a concern that we would lose track of them. We find these assets to be very valuable; our whole business model is based on reusing digital assets that we create, and of course you can’t reuse them if you can’t find them. So the basic security of all those digital assets was the initial impetus for getting rolling with it.

Was security an issue beforehand?

Primarily in the sense of not losing [an asset]. For example, we would have many photos that had been shot that were stored on CDs in a box in someone’s office. As employees come and go, and as you collect more CDs, you lose track of where [the assets] are, and potentially they make their way out of the building.

And was that happening frequently?

I think it was more of a concern than it was really a problem. Someone may have had to spend a few hours finding something they were looking for, but eventually they would find it. But that would bring up the concern, “Oh my gosh, what if the people who know where to look for the boxes end up leaving the company? How will we ever find these things?” There are two employees here who are kind of experts. They’ve been around since the magazine’s launch. Before the DAM system was implemented, everyone would go to them and ask ‘Where is this? Where is that?’ and they would say, ‘Oh yes, that was in the September 1989 issue.’

The whole company relied on those two people?


That’s kind of risky.

Exactly. So the big thing was covering that risk, so that even a new employee could go in and research the data we have on various topics.

So the DAM system allows employees to do faster research?

Yes. It has all these assets. Say, for example, someone is going to do a television segment on Martha’s rose garden. Well they can go into our DAM and say, ‘Show me everything we’ve done on Martha’s rose garden before,’ and they can read all the articles, all the research that was done. They can literally click on it and get a PDF of the magazine article, book story, radio transcript, whatever it is. Another example: We do photo shoots for our catalog. We sell our Catalog for Living products in our print catalog as well as at our marthastewart.com Web site. We do refreshes of the catalog [but] we don’t necessarily have to go out and take all new photos of the products. We can go back into the DAM program and find all the photos that we have taken before of garden clogs or whatever it is we’re looking to sell, and we can use those images [to update] both the catalog as well as the Web site.

How many items are we talking about?

Right now we have loaded into the system more than 93,000 assets.

Can you walk us through the process of how you implemented?

Sure. First, we sat down with each of our four main business units, all of which come into contact with the DAM—publishing, merchandising, television, and Internet direct commerce. We sat down and met with department heads from each area, to understand their workflow for the assets we were creating, and how and where they were being stored. From that, we generated a list of functional requirements for what we wanted to have in a digital asset management system. Then we went through a traditional software evaluation process, where we identified and met with various vendors, and by the end, each came in and did a demonstration, and we included the business units’ users as well as the technical folks in those evaluations and demonstrations. We ended up selecting WebWare Corp. Once we selected WebWare, we put together the whole project plan from the systems side on what it would take to implement and test the system, and looked at what modifications we might need to meet our business requirements.

How often did the planning group meet?

They met every single week through the implementation, for about an hour.

Does that still go on?

No. It’s not weekly now because that was geared toward development and the plans and processes for getting in the initial archive of content. They still meet, but I would say now it’s probably once a month.

After that, were you responsible for getting all the assets digitized, or did WebWare do that?

We did. A really key thing that we didand would never have made it without doing was to hire a full-time content librarian. His name is Jeffrey Sauder and he works for us, and his big project after joining with us was first of all to identify the taxonomy and the language that we would use to categorize and describe all these various assets, and then start working on the plan to actually ingest all of those assets. So he basically is responsible for getting in all 10 years of archives.

How long did it take him?

He’s still doing it now (laughter). He’s by and large done with the major chunk of it, but overall I would say he’s been working on it for the past year.

When did the process begin?

January 2001.

And how long did it take you to roll out the system?

We’ve rolled it out in pieces. The first major piece, related to our Martha Stewart Everyday products, was launched in June 2002. We used this not only for our editorial assets, but also for our merchandising and catalog assets. We took images from all our Martha Stewart Everyday products, all those things that we sell at Kmart, and got those ingested into the system along with all their merchandise specs and description information, etc. We tied that into the database our merchandisers use, so they use it as a regular part of their product design and support processes. For example, when we get a request that we need a binder to print out an image and information about every single one of our Martha Stewart Everyday products, this is the one and only place in our DAM system where you can actually go and get that. We were using that right away.

Since then, we have continued to ingest all of our magazine issues. Around September of last year, we launched the rest of the system; we have it available on our intranet. Any employee can go in, click on our DAM system, sign up for a user ID if they don’t have one already, and they are able to go in and look at any of our historical archives. And we continue to add to the historical archives all the time. For example, we just this year launched a magazine called Everyday Food. Well that’s already incorporated into the system and we are completely up to date on the assets from Everyday Food in the DAM system.

CIO Insight Staff
CIO Insight Staff
CIO Insight offers thought leadership and best practices in the IT security and management industry while providing expert recommendations on software solutions for IT leaders. It is the trusted resource for security professionals who need network monitoring technology and solutions to maintain regulatory compliance for their teams and organizations.

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