Metadata is commonly referred to simply as ‘data about data’. Easy to understand right? However, understanding how to leverage metadata to the get most out of your digital assets is a bit more involved.
So to use metadata effectively, you need to understand:
- What exactly is metadata?
- The different types
- How it can be used to categorize your assets
- And most importantly, how to use it effectively
What exactly is metadata?
Metadata is a term that can be applied to any kind of information that describes a digital asset. It refers to anything about the asset, that isn’t the actual asset itself.
Anything that adds information or value to a specific file, item or asset is known as metadata.
This could simply be a file name or the size of a file, or it could be more thorough – like a detailed description of the content in that asset, or a list of all the people within an image perhaps.
It’s likely that you already use metadata, without even realizing it. If you tag content or files in any way, that’s a type of metadata. If your videos have notes, then you’re including metadata.
Metadata can also be used to describe the taxonomy – or filing system – that you use to organize your files too, including the names of folders and structures.
Essentially anything descriptive that makes files easier to find is metadata.
What are the different types of metadata?
As metadata is such a broad term, it is often broken down into different types. There are many different ways to group metadata, and you may find a variety of the terms are used interchangeably.
There are two main types of metadata. Implicit metadata is data that’s collected automatically, usually generated by a system. For example, the resolution information added to images by the camera. Explicit metadata is user-generated, information that’s purposefully added – like a note about the image.
Metadata data can then be further segmented into additional categories like:
- Technical – things like file sizes, file types, frame rates, codecs etc
- Content – used to categorize any data that describes what’s in the file, often using keywords relating to the product, vertical or industry etc
- Instructional – that explains how or why to use a certain asset, ‘external’ or ‘internal’ for example
There are also different field types used to store metadata. At one side of the spectrum, there are open text boxes, where users can add any type of metadata they want. At the other, there are checkboxes or drop-down lists that a user selects from, which limit the range of metadata available.
David Diamond, a leading author on Digital Asset Management suggests another way of organizing the different types of metadata with the following taxonomy:
- Historical metadata – which refers to the origin of the asset and all the things that have happened to it since it was developed. This might also be referred to as tracking or permissions data, to see how an asset was used.
- Current metadata – which is the status of the content now, including the key content terms that make it searchable
- Future metadata – which would be any plans, limitations, and/or expectations in place for the content.
- File metadata – the technical details of the file itself
Some types of metadata will always remain the same. Some will change over time, as assets are re-used or re-purposed, adapted and tweaked, with new owners, new distribution and usage, and new approvals.
How to use metadata to categorize your assets more effectively
As you can see, there are many similarities and crossovers between the ways to organize different types of metadata. What’s important is how you use assets and metadata in your organization to make your DAM as effective as possible.
Following on from this, you might want to start thinking about which types of metadata are most important to you and your business, and then begin to consider which fields you should be using.
This will help you start categorizing your content and get into a routine of including the essential metadata that will help power your DAM. For example:
- Asset type – WHO is it for – marketing, sales, finance, onboarding etc.
- Origin – WHY the asset was created
- Description – WHAT is the asset, what’s in it.
- File type – WHAT KIND of asset – e.g. photo, video, or document
- Usage information – HOW to use, e.g. in what situations should this version be used, are their restrictions for different markets, should it only be used in one area?
- Content source – WHEN and WHERE the asset came from
- Rights management details – WHO has access to it.
Titles, descriptions and file types are the most common kinds of metadata, and the ones which every organization will likely use, at the very least. But there could be many more, covering anything from usage rights and file size, to number of ratings or most viewed.
The key is to be flexible, to allow metadata to work effectively for your organization; that’s why it is so useful when structured properly.
Is metadata really that important?
Metadata is the essential language of your Digital Asset Management (DAM) system. If you want your DAM to function at its best, you need good metadata.
It holds all the information of your digital assets. It increases your understanding of these assets. It increases their relevancy. And it helps you use them more effectively.
To fully harness the power of a DAM system, you need to understand how to accurately utilize metadata for your assets and how it benefits their structure and usage.
Good metadata allows you to use a faceted taxonomy too. That’s where you can organize, categorize and search for assets via checkboxes or filters, narrowing your options to a smaller and smaller range of results.
If you have thousands of assets in your DAM, this is essential.
Searchability and filtering is next to impossible without metadata. But with it, you can structure your assets more effectively, improve efficiencies across your company and make it far easier to manage your digital assets, use them correctly, and re-purpose them for the future.