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DAM vs MAM: 5 big differences that are overlooked

You might be wondering what the difference is between digital asset management (DAM) and media asset management (MAM) system. After all, they both sound like they do the same thing and MAM is actually a subcategory of DAM. But you'd be wrong to assume that the difference is just semantics. In fact, there's a big difference between the two.

Creative Professionals , Broadcast Operator , Content Distribution , Marketers Agencies & Social Media
Steve Ferris01.17.237 min read

You might be wondering what the difference is between digital asset management (DAM) and media asset management (MAM) system. After all, they both sound like they do the same thing and MAM is actually a subcategory of DAM. But you'd be wrong to assume that the difference is just semantics. In fact, there's a big difference between the two.

What is a DAM?

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Traditionally, a digital asset management (DAM) system could be seen as a brand asset management or library asset management system. The content managed often revolves around sales and marketing and can include assets such as logos, marketing materials (brochures, banners, etc.) or product photographs. It is the source of truth for approved assets.

What is a MAM?

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A Media Asset Management (MAM) system is focused on rich media assets (e.g. video and audio). Unlike a DAM, which is more general in its approach to digital asset management, MAMs tend to be specifically tailored for very large video files and have features to support production workflows. It is the source of truth for all assets; approved or unapproved, raw or finished. 

Key similarities between DAM & MAM

The common nature of these solutions means that there will be overlapping features you can expect to see in both.

  • Asset search capabilities
  • Metadata tagging
  • Secure storage and access
  • Digital rights management
  • Version control
  • Access control
  • User management

So far, DAM and MAM sound quite similar. Now, let's consider the key differences, which will quickly become apparent once you begin to apply these solutions to your workflows. 

5 key differences between DAM & MAM

1. User Accessibility

If you can't access your media, it might as well not exist at all. When it comes to accessibility, DAM and MAM will do this differently. DAM is designed for large-scale access and delivery for entire organizations, the press, and even the public. It allows users to quickly and easily search for content, view files, and download assets for their own use. 

On the other hand, MAM is best suited for limited access for internal teams and only select collaborators, often requiring authentication before allowing users to access and manage specific collections of files. In this regard, DAMs are more user-friendly with more accessibility, while MAMs are more secure, allowing only those with the proper credentials to gain access to the content.

2. Hot and cold storage

The way DAM and MAM handle storage can be fundamentally different. Data storage can be classified into two groups: hot and cold. Hot storage is any type of data storage that is immediately accessible, while cold storage is for long-term archiving of large amounts of data. Hot storage, as the name suggests, allows for instant retrieval of data and provides more performance and speed. Cold storage, on the other hand, is ideal for storing static data that is rarely accessed. Since these files are not accessed frequently, they can be stored in less expensive cloud storage or media such as tape or optical storage.

A MAM system takes advantage of both hot and cold storage to store and archive media files for long-term preservation securely. As media progresses through its lifecycle, a MAM can facilitate moving it from hot to cold storage. However, if raw or archived assets need to be moved from a DAM, it’s possible that you’ll find that there’s no concept of where to put them; everything goes in the same place, hot storage—and it can be pricey. In fact, the DAM business model is centered on selling storage. Whether you use it or not, the cost remains.

3. Large file support

Video files are substantially larger than other types of media files, which presents unique challenges in storage and distribution. If you’re dealing with video content, you need solutions that will help you store, edit, and share it as smoothly as possible.

A DAM system is specifically designed to store, organize, and distribute digital assets—files of any kind. By design, DAM is limited in how fast it can process and preview large media files like video or video project files.  

Then there’s MAM, which was designed to manage millions of files with sizes in multiple terabytes. The ability to handle this amount of data is crucial when managing libraries of rich media and enabling on-premise or cloud-based file workflows.

4. Video format support

MAM systems are designed specifically for video. This focus allows MAM to provide tools for video production workflows, such as transcoding, proxy files, multiple asset formats, fast previews, metadata management, and rights management. 

DAMs can handle the most popular video formats, like h.264, but they have a reputation for limited video codec support and not being able to handle camera-native media like Red, XDCam, or ProRes. If you are managing and creating video, MAM systems offer a level of functionality that other asset management solutions can't match. 

5. Production management

MAMs are better for production because they are designed to manage assets through every stage of the media lifecycle, from ingestion and production to post-production and distribution. This also means that MAMs are better equipped to facilitate video creation by integrating with media production software.

DAMs are best for finished assets that are approved for distribution because that is what they were designed to do. However, DAMs will struggle with raw assets like b-roll footage, audio, video, or animation project files and post-production workflows. When creative teams are expected to manage raw assets and finished assets in one DAM, it can be frustrating because DAMs are not made for this.

The popular conclusion

In practice, production teams in the film, broadcast, or video industry would use MAM to manage, store, and work with video files for video post-production workflows. But if your branding and marketing require managing still images, graphics, or textual content, then DAM software would be a good choice.

Before you choose, take note of market changes

MAM technology has developed significantly in recent years and is defying old expectations. Old blanket statements like "MAM is just for large video files" or "MAM is just for media and entertainment companies" don't hold true anymore.  

While a MAM is the go-to solution for film and TV production, the rising demand for video is touching every industry. Major changes in the way companies engage their market with media are fueling the shift to video-centric solutions. A recent poll found that 97% of companies have moved at least part of their digital marketing in-house. This shift has been driven largely by changing consumer demands, and 42% of organizations have increased their volume of production as a result. This is possible because media production technology has become more accessible. 

As new content fills the archives, organizations from every sector are looking for systems that allow them to create, organize, store, and share media files. This has made MAM systems a crucial tool for teams that require quick access and efficient collaboration with media, causing more DAM users to make the switch to MAM.

At iconik, we’re on the leading edge of media management technology. So much so that we’ve defied the traditional boundaries of asset management categories (MAM, DAM, PAM) in our commitment to solve the problem of finding and using media. As a result, iconik is an extremely affordable, flexible solution to accommodate the rising demand for media management in businesses of every size. To date, iconik is used as a media management solution, a collaboration hub, a one-stop shop for post-production, and a platform to build and tie together complex media systems.

The reason?

We just figured that if this wondrous digital age has removed boundaries everywhere else, then why not free up how we manage media as well?

Do you need better media management? Take our quiz to find the best solution for you.

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Schedule a personalized iconik demo with one of our experts and start your free trial today.

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Steve Ferris
Marketing and Content Creation | iconik

Steve Ferris is content creator and marketer from Indiana, USA who is based in Stockholm Sweden with his family. Since 2019, he's been with iconik using his 20 years experience in storytelling to share the stories around iconik and media professionals.

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