Many of the technology features of digital asset management systems (DAM) and content management systems (CMS) are converging. That can lead to confusion, but they do serve different purposes. If you are shopping for a CMS or a DAM, you may be curious if you are looking for the right product. Or perhaps you already have one and you’re wondering if you could benefit from adding the other. In any case, I aim to clear up any confusion, starting with the intended purpose of each.
Content management systems are a way for non-coders to create website content. Thus, a higher percentage of CMS users tend to be writers, editors, and specialists in content marketing or communications. Historically the features of a CMS have centered on text with embedded images or videos, as that is the bulk of what blog posts and website pages are comprised of. Thus, CMS features are typically focused on designing web pages.
Digital asset management systems are meant to be a repository of all the various pieces of digital content used by a company. A DAM is more like cloud storage with extra features (see below), whereas a CMS is more of a content creation solution.
Often, having a wide variety of tools in your martech stack leads to data siloed into a variety of platforms. A DAM is meant to be the one central location all the teams pull from for various assets, so everything is organized and together.
Because a CMS makes content for the web, edits you make in your CMS typically only affect your website. (This is changing! But I’ll get to that below.)
The features of a CMS are more focused on facilitating images and text to display on web pages. A CMS will have some of the basic features of a DAM, such as ability to upload assets, and photo editing features like crop and scale. But uploads are not the main focus in a CMS; rather, a CMS structures everything around web pages. Compare this to a DAM, which is more focused on discrete, self-contained files.
While the CMS and DAM restrict access based on user roles, only in a DAM can you restrict access to individual assets. For example, in a CMS the author role can access all the site’s uploads but can’t access other people’s posts or the site’s administration features. Thus, any person with author-access could delete every photo and video on the site. A DAM is more granular. In the DAM, you can restrict who has access to a particular file or set of files.
While your CMS will let you categorize posts and pages, the DAM will let you categorize individual uploads like images, videos, etc. Industry-leading CMS solutions do offer analytics to keep track of traffic; again that data is attached to the page or post. The best DAMs will give you performance data on each individual object.
The rise of headless content management systems further obscures the distinctions between a CMS and DAM. Initially, CMS solutions were built strictly for web content, so they offered numerous ways to customize how content looks on your website. But as our lives become connected beyond the web (e.g. smart watches, game consoles, interactive appliances, etc.), business are responding with an omnichannel approach.
This has led to the rise of the headless CMS, which are designed for users to distribute content to a multitude of channels, not just websites, just like a digital asset manager does. A headless CMS does not require a lot options for how web content is displayed because it severs design presentation from content. There is a good reason for this, read about it in “How a Headless CMS is different from a conventional CMS.”
In a headless CMS, blocks of content are more flexible in how they are defined. For example, you could define a block as a “promo coupon.” Your developers or designers will decide what fonts, colors, and layout promo coupons should have. Then your sales team can set the text and images of a particular coupon without having to worry about how to make it beautiful and on-brand. By saving it as a “promo coupon” block the CMS will know how to style it, and will have the ability to push it out to all your various channels (not only your website). In fact, you could define a content piece as a single asset, like “hero image.” You could then revise, reuse, or publish that single asset to a variety of channels, just as you would in a DAM.
If you’ve ever wondered why Oracle doesn’t offer a standalone digital asset manager, it’s because we have built all the features of a DAM into our content management suite to get the best of both worlds.
Our guide to content management systems can help you understand the various types of CMS and what to consider when choosing the right one for your business.
Ready to learn more? Check out our self-guided tour of Oracle Content Management.
Karma has over a decade of experience with content marketing and SEO. In addition to marketing, she writes about tech, music, and politics. You may find her shamelessly singing along with the muzak at the grocery store or giving marketing advice at KarmaBennett.com.