Is Dropbox a Digital Asset Management Game-changer?

DAM News has posted an article that asks whether the Dropbox Carousel Photo Sharing App is a game-changer for digital asset management. Author Ralph Windsor asks all the right questions, and he makes good points. But, personally, I don’t see Carousel as a DAM game-changer; rather, I see it as further evidence that the game has already changed. You just wouldn’t know it from looking at today’s DAM software.

Ellen and Gang Oscars Selfie

Woody wouldn’t have smiled.

The change was that DAM 1.0 is now dead. What used to be “DAM enough” is no longer so, and “DAM Lite” arrived a decade too late. In fact, just as the world searches for increased simplicity, it’s likely to be the more advanced DAM systems that survive—the DAM platforms. The fact is, we’re running out of room for “DAM enough.” And the Dropbox and Google Drive development teams are no more than a productive weekend away from being able to swallow DAM Lite whole.

People ask “Why not Dropbox?” or “Why not Google Drive?” when we try to explain the benefits of digital asset management. They do this not because those services offer truly viable DAM alternatives—they don’t; people ask because the DAM industry has done a pathetic job of defining itself.

“File sharing” is an entry point for discussion that virtually everyone understands. Add to that, the concept of social sharing and people still get it. Hell, once you have all those people listening, you could then add something called “Custom Attributes” or “Personal Properties” and, without anyone noticing, you’ve snuck metadata in through the back door. Then all you need is something along the lines of Google + Circles to determine who can see what, and you’ve made permissions palatable too.

Before you know it, the world’s DAM vendors are left with their thumbs up their asses, wondering how it could be that they’ve offered the same thing for 20+ years, yet so few people cared. And don’t get me wrong—I’m not suggesting that this might happen; I’m predicting it. You don’t hire Ross Piper as VP of Enterprise Strategy and then call it a day after making a photo sharing app.

The problem as I see it is that DAM vendors got no game. We expect sex on our first dates with prospects, and we insist that our dates know exactly what they want out of life before we even order dinner. Then, when we finally get them home, they see our lame UIs, just as we explain to them how sex needs to work with us. Once we’re done, we see that familiar hybrid of disappointment and disbelief staring back at us. Then we hand them a five- or six-figure invoice and ask them to recommend us to their friends. DAM is quirky that way.

It’s like DAM is Woody Allen to the Bradley Cooper called Dropbox. Though it’s a virtual certainty that Allen will have ultimately had the richer career, far more people want to get into bed with Bradley. And that’s the measure of success in market definition—people need to want you; they need to be able to imagine you enriching in their lives.

So, yes, the game has changed. DAM vendors had better get their asses to the gym, and fast.

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