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Understanding Media Asset Management

Does Investing in MAM Make Sense?
In most cases, yes, you can benefit almost immediately from Media Asset Management. There are basically two tiers in managing video content. You can manage a physical tape library (and create streaming proxies for search and preview) or you can create archive-quality digitization of all of your content and ditch the tape (this can get pretty expensive and time-consuming). In any case, a first step is to assess your video archive: learn about your workflow, decide if a MAM system can simplify your business processes, create efficiencies, or create new revenue streams. This analysis will drive your needs and requirements as you move forward.

Organizations likely to benefit most quickly from a MAM system seem to have the following factors in common: 1. they rely on content, 2. they have at least a thousand hours of video that are valuable to them, 3. they have a very limited number of employees who are basically the sole keepers of video assets (or sometimes just one employee). Wilma, the video librarian at the Naval Media Center in Washington, DC, comes to mind. She is the only one who knows how to find video in the archive. If Wilma takes the day off, you don’t get the video clip you are looking for until she returns (unless you can find it in the occasionally-updated three-ring binder that she keeps on her desk), 4. they want their system to reduce costs and save time, and 5. they don’t want to dedicate additional staff to manage the system.

In general, these are legitimate requests. However, most folks don’t initially understand the golden rule behind any MAM deployment—the system is only as good as the information in it. Time must be invested in developing a good metadata model, and the video logging staff must be trained in the fine art of "library sciences" (how to enter metadata and keywords correctly that conform to a commonly understood vocabulary).

Also, sophisticated MAMs require a non-trivial amount of support from your IT department to manage multiple servers (database, app server, Web server, indexing engines, speech-to-text systems, etc.). I have seen many great MAM projects die thanks to company executives who were only concerned with the cost of the initial investment and did not consider the cost (both labor and capital) of keeping the system operational, valuable, and usable. Treating your MAM system like any other critical enterprise software application will greatly increase your chances of success over the long run.

In general, to be successful with MAM, you must spend upfront time in planning your system, developing requirements, and balancing the "must-haves" versus the "nice-to-haves" against your budget. Planning must include internal interviews as well as investigation of the best practices in developing a usable metadata schema. (Talking with peers who have deployed a MAM or hiring a consultant with MAM experience will be invaluable here.) Find out what the system needs to do and don’t focus on all the bells and whistles offered by vendors. (Who cares if a MAM can handle 1,500 different file types if you only need it to handle streaming and digital video formats?) Make sure your staff who will run the system understands what archiving is all about—organization, utility, self-service.

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