Peter BC
Image_DAM Taxonomy

What is a Media/Digital Asset Management Taxonomy?

Peter BC

A media/digital asset management taxonomy refers to a scheme of classification which is used to categorize and organize the metadata for digital assets. It is simply the data structure which a DAM and MAM system is built upon to make your digital assets findable through searching and filtering. For this reason alone, the taxonomy design must be the first priority when implementing a DAM or MAM system. 

Professionals within the media/digital asset management industry know and use the terms taxonomy and metadata on a daily basis. The issue is that most people outside of the industry have no clue what these terms mean, and why they are so important - which this article seeks to rectify.

Understanding taxonomy and metadata in a media/digital asset management system

The probably easiest way to illustrate the concept of taxonomy and metadata is by using the “Hello, my name is…” introductory sticker you often see at conferences or class reunions. 

There are different variations of the introductory sticker where they provide information about yourself regarding everything from names and professions, to where you live; in other words, an attribute of some sort. The same principle applies to media and digital assets. The media/digital asset management metadata is the collective term for all of the information an asset (or in the case of the introductory sticker: an individual) holds. One attribute (e.g. name) is a single piece of metadata. But in most likelihood, when working with digital assets, you will have access to a range of different pieces of information.

Now that we understand the role of metadata, we can continue the metaphor to explain media/digital asset management taxonomy. The taxonomy is simply the different information you have chosen to include on your introductory sticker, e.g. name, profession, city, etc. The more information, the better your ability to store them and perform much more detailed and advanced searches within the system. 

Why is taxonomy important?

Having a media/digital asset management taxonomy is important for two main reasons:

  • Asset cataloguing
    A successful DAM/MAM implementation relies on cataloguing of all assets on the level of available metadata. Having an intuitive catalogue allows you and all other users to easily browse the different areas of the system to find the media/digital assets you are interested in. In very basic DAM/MAM implementations the taxonomy is equivalent to a “folder structure” and should be designed with the users in mind according to their behaviour - such as what files they need access to on a regular basis. In more advanced implementations, and where the data model supports it, taxonomy can be context sensitive, such that users only see fields or categories in a hierarchy that are related.
  • Searching
    Performing a basic search on a single attribute within a media/digital asset management system will often yield a great number of search results relevant to your query - often too many results to be of any use. Instead, by using multiple attributes (metadata) as part of your taxonomy, you can perform much more complex searches on additional attributes. For example: searching for “orange” as a Keyword rather than including other attributes such as “Description” where the word could have been used in a different context (orange as a color rather than the fruit).

What’s the Difference between VAM, DAM & MAM?

It’s easy to get lost in the many acronyms being thrown around within the industry. You are more than likely familiar with at least one or two but might just have heard about the others. Understanding the difference between these asset management systems and picking the right one can make or break your content creation efforts:


  • DAM - Digital asset management
    DAM is great for managing brand and image assets. It’s mainly focused on managing already finished digital assets. The key functionalities of DAM solutions include uploading, searching, and transforming digital assets for several different formats. At times, DAM is used as an umbrella term that other more specialized asset management solutions sit under.
  • MAM - Media asset management
    MAM was traditionally focused on archiving and storage of video assets, but, being pioneered by the broadcast media, it was expanded to serve other functions, including the distribution of media. With the increase of businesses producing multimedia content, Media asset management tools have grown to accommodate a much wider array of needs.
  • VAM - Video asset management
    VAM, or as it’s often referred to - VDAM (Video Digital Asset Management), is a subset of MAM. A MAM system includes additional advanced functions beyond the basic store and search functions to handle both pre- and post-production. For example, editing, collaboration, sharing, and version tracking. VAM usually integrates within a larger MAM or DAM system and enables direct uploading to distribution channels (such as YouTube or Vimeo).


Asset management is the foundation of a media supply chain, just as the media supply chain is the foundation of a business. Take control over your asset management with the Vidispine solutions and learn how we can maximize your media potential. 

Flexible and scalable MAM/DAM system from Vidispine

The most important part of a MAM/DAM system when it comes to taxonomy is to be flexible. You need to accept that the implementation will constantly change and evolve to meet the needs of the business and users. The initial taxonomy structure will most likely change over time to fit the users way of work, as will the need for different features and integrations you require to be able to expand your business. 

All of this is possible with Vidispine. We can help you store, manage and maximise the use of your media/digital assets. Contact us today for more information about digital asset management.

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Your Contacts for Media/Digital Asset Management Taxonomy

John Proctor
Expert for Broadcast Solutions - North America
Peter BC
Peter Booth-Clibborn
Expert for Broadcast Solutions
Dirk Steinmeyer
Expert for Broadcast Solutions - Europe & MEA