What is a Digital Asset?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A digital asset is something which is stored and available in binary format and owned by the individual or entity which holds it. Ownership of a digital asset means that the rights to use it are retained. An increasing amount of material worldwide is stored in digital format and as a result the related field of digital asset management is an area of tremendous growth. People with training in this area, such as librarians who have specialized in information technology during their training, can find employment in very diverse settings.

Woman holding an optical disc
Woman holding an optical disc

Digital assets can take a number of forms. A classic example, and one you are likely to have on your own computer, is textual content. Someone who writes a text file retains the rights to use it, and the word processing program converts it into binary format for storage. The same program is also capable of reading binary code and converting it into a form which is comfortable for human readers.

Another type of digital asset is an image, which may be a still or video image. Finally, multimedia assets such as computer animation are another form which a digital asset may take. These assets can be stored on a wide range of media, easily copied and transferred between media, and read by a variety of machines. Digital data is prized for its flexibility and versatility, making storage of materials in digital format an appealing option for many industries.

A company can use a digital asset in a variety of ways. For creative companies, such assets are a substantial part of the company's value and leasing out usage rights may be a major source of income. Computer users lease rights to use digital assets on a daily basis; many operating systems and software programs are structured in a way which gives people permission to use them, but not full usage and modification rights.

Digital asset management includes storing assets in stable formats, maintaining accurate records of assets kept in storage, and maintaining archives. As anyone who has tried to search for a file in a cluttered hard drive knows, keeping archives in usable shape is difficult work. Files may become difficult to find if there is a great deal of material in storage, especially if that material is varied. Establishing effective archiving and management systems from the start is critical. Studies suggest that many companies are underutilizing digital assets because they have forgotten that they are there.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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