You already know what metadata tagging is and why it’s an important component of efficient digital asset management. But did you know that there are several types of metadata? Actually, there are only three main types, but it’s important to understand each type and how they function to make your assets more easily discoverable. So, if you’re not sure what the difference is between structural metadata, administrative metadata, and descriptive metadata (spoiler alert: those are the three main types of metadata), let’s clear up the confusion.
Let’s start with the basics. Structural metadata is data that indicates how a digital asset is organized, such as how pages in a book are organized to form chapters, or the notes that make up a notebook in Evernote or OneNote. Structural metadata also indicates whether a particular asset is part of a single collection or multiple collections and facilitates the navigation and presentation of information in an electronic resource. Examples include:
- Page numbers
- Table of contents
Beyond basic organization, structural metadata is the key to documenting the relationship between two assets. For example, it’s used to indicate that a specific stock photo was used in a particular sales brochure, or that one asset is a raw, unedited version of another.
Administrative metadata relates to the technical source of a digital asset. It includes data such as the file type, as well as when and how the asset was created. This is also the type of metadata that relates to usage rights and intellectual property, providing information such as the owner of an asset, where and how it can be used, and the duration a digital asset can be used for those allowable purposes under the current license.
The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) actually breaks administrative metadata down into three sub-types:
- Technical Metadata – Information necessary for decoding and rendering files
- Preservation Metadata – Information necessary for the long-term management and archiving of digital assets
- Rights Metadata – Information pertaining to intellectual property and usage rights
A Creative Commons license, for instance, is administrative metadata. Other examples include the date a digital asset was created, and for photos, administrative data might include the camera model used to take the photo, light source, and resolution. In addition, administrative metadata is used to indicate who can access a digital asset, the key to effective permissions management in a DAM system.
Descriptive metadata is essential for discovering and identifying assets. Why? It’s information that describes the asset, such as the asset’s title, author, and relevant keywords. Descriptive metadata is what allows you to locate a book in a particular genre published after 2016, for instance, as a book’s metadata would include both genre and publication date. In fact, the ISBN system is a good example of an early effort to use metadata to centralize information and make it easier to locate resources (in this case, books in a traditional library).
Essentially, descriptive metadata includes any information describing the asset that can be used for later identification and discovery. According to Cornell University, this includes:
- Unique identifiers (such as an ISBN)
- Physical attributes (such as file dimensions or Pantone colors)
- Bibliographic attributes (such as the author or creator, title, and keywords)
Descriptive metadata can be the most robust of all the types of metadata, simply because there are many ways to describe an asset. When implementing a DAM solution, standardizing the specific attributes used to describe your assets and how they’re documented is the key to streamlined discoverability.
What’s the Point of All This Metadata?
By now, it should be clear that metadata is imperative for ensuring that your organization’s vast collection of digital assets is easy to navigate and that your team members can quickly find the assets they’re looking for. Without metadata, your valuable digital assets could get buried in the sea of a complex, disorganized folder hierarchy somewhere, on someone’s computer (but you’re not sure whose). In short, it makes your digital assets searchable.
Metadata is what allows you to determine that you’re working with the most recent version of a digital asset, and it can save you from legal hassles by preventing unauthorized users from accessing rights-restricted assets and using them for purposes not included in the usage license.
MerlinOne’s DAM solution provides a single source of truth for your organization’s digital assets, providing a central content repository connected to a powerful search database, driven by metadata. Schedule a demo today to learn how MerlinOne can help you streamline content workflows and make your assets work for you.