Making digital assets

What makes a computer file into a digital asset?

Engineered for reuse and reexpression

A thorough audit of the digital files that a firm creates reveals that only a small percentage of those files have a reasonable potential for reuse.

Yet GISTICS’ research of thousands of media-producing firms reveals that the systematic reuse of preexisting media and related digital objects can significantly reduce costs, errors that necessitate reworks and make-goods, and time-to-market cycles.

For a few firms, an enterprise-wide reuse strategy hinges on a particular type of digital asset—the digital master.

As the name suggests, it represents a file on which its creator expended extra effort to provide for the highest levels of reuse.

In this context, a reuse strategy turns on three prerequisites.

First, potential users must be able to quickly and easily locate and retrieve the file, necessitating a robust search capability.

Second, the creators must optimize the file for broad reuse by a range of users.

Third, the owners of the file must take measures to protect their intellectual property rights—their investment in creating and managing the file for reuse by others.


Corporations spend billions on the development of artwork and brand-related material.

In many cases, the owners of these brand resources cannot envision others reusing their finished works and direct their design firms and internal creative-services departments to create less-reusable digital objects (one-shots). The figure to the below depicts several important concepts about the reuse of digital assets.

Whether it resides in the file header, alongside the content file as an XML “stub” (text file) or in a DAM system, metadata unlocks the economic value of digital assets.

Whether it resides in the file header, alongside the content file as an XML “stub” (text file) or in a DAM system, metadata unlocks the economic value of digital assets.

While only a small percentage of all creative work warrants the investment to create digital assets, most corporations do not realize the economic benefits of reusing those few masterworks they could easily commission each year.

The figure also illustrates key concepts of a digital asset. A digital master represents a multipurpose reusable digital file with embedded metadata derived from four systems or tools:

  • Authoring tools to create the file
  • Business systems to manage accounting and intellectual property rights
  • Digital asset repositories to manage the file with its metadata and creation workflows
  • Cross-media publishing systems to use or express the digital master in a finished work

Adobe Systems‘ open-source initiative facilitates the creation of digital masters. Called the eXtensible Metadata Platform, or XMP, it provides a powerful and extensible way of embedding metadata in files.

This platform allows one party to copy a digital master to a second party, enabling recipients to get the file and embedded metadata in a way that their business systems or asset repositories can immediately recognize and import.

Discussion-starting questions:

  • How many types of metadata does your firm use to describe its digital assets in marketing?
  • What is the estimated cost saving from one instance of reuse in marketing operations?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *