Manage, Dont Mangle, Your Digital Assets

Opinion: Content providers sometimes struggle with the complexities of going online. Here are 10 ways in which digital asset management goes astray, with some ideas about doing it right.

While the cash-for-old-content crowd was gathered in New York for the Digital Asset Management Symposium this week, I was sitting here in my office thinking about a very different, but related topic.

This is digital asset management gone wrong, to which I am applying the term "digital asset manglement."

Here are 10 ways digital asset management runs into trouble, based on my experiences both as a content provider and, mostly, as a customer:

1. Content that used to cost money is rapidly becoming free content. Some companies get this and others dont. I am thinking, primarily, of instruction and service manuals. These used to be hard-to-get and expensive, not to mention a pain for vendors to provide. But the ascent of the PDF file means that as quickly as the documents are finished, they are ready for online distribution. Providing documentation is not supposed to be a profit center.

2. If you are offering documentation online, it all needs to be available online. At least for all the products customers are likely to be using, which goes back a variable number of years, depending on what you sell. If youre in the computer or electronics industry, this is pretty much how we do things, but it hasnt caught on as universally as it needs to. Converting older manuals may be costly, but it is a useful investment in customer loyalty. And scanning documents has actually become pretty inexpensive.

3. Related to No. 1 is my own experience in the newsletter business. If you want people to pay for content these days, it has to be really special, or it has to be provided on paper. Ive never entirely understood this, but people who gladly paid for information in paper form simply could not be persuaded to pay for faster, online delivery—even of the PDF file used to create the paper version!

4. Companies providing e-mail content (such as "e-mail this story" on a newspaper site) need to do two things.

The first is to start including the headline and first paragraph of the story in the body of the message, to make it easier for the recipient to decide whether to click on the link and take a peek.

5. The second thing is that e-mailed links should bypass site registration. A friend sends me clips from the Dallas Morning News every few months, and I never am able to remember the information required to get to the content. Getting the user name and password e-mailed to me is more bother than the information is worth.

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