Interview with Ralph Windsor

Ralph Windsor, the Director of Daydream and Editor of DAM NEWS, is always standing on the front trend of DAM industry. He is also the greatest supporter of our website, damcc.org, and helps DAM CC to grow from the very begining in 2018. This interview will give you his impressive opinions about DAM in China.

Here is the Linkedin page of Ralph Windsor.

(1) Ralph, you are such a big advocate of DAM China Connect and have given us great support to the establishment of our identity and website. Would you like to share why you believe that China holds a great deal of potential for the development of DAM industry?

Thanks for the kind words! On the question of the potential of China for DAM, I think many people in DAM are looking at this through the wrong end of the lens and that is from a European or North American perspective. Most current end users and suppliers of DAM solutions and services are based in that region, but I think that will change over the next decade.

I believe the major opportunity for DAM in China is likely to come first from domestic demand and local suppliers starting up to service that need. Subsequently, I expect it to become export driven, so Chinese vendors selling DAM solutions to foreign end-users. Even for solutions like DAM which require relatively high levels of skills to implement and support, the cost of labour is still significantly cheaper in China and there is now (or very soon will be) a lot of demand for something to help digital asset owners to manage all that content.

If you look at other tech sectors in China, for example, social media or e-commerce, there is a local operator who are natively Chinese, e.g. Ali baba, WeChat, Youku etc who dominate the Chinese market, rather than a western firm. For DAM, there are a great number of larger Chinese businesses that are going to be running into the same issues as western corporations in terms of managing digital assets, probably marketing content initially, but later through other non-marketing digital assets as that use-case develops.

Most of the current cohort of European and North American DAM vendors lack the scale and local knowledge to gain traction in China. I’ve heard about some who tried to open offices in places Beijing or Shenzhen etc but then gave up because of the cost and bureaucratic complexity. This means there is an opportunity for Chinese DAM vendors to essentially learn about how to implement DAM without there necessarily being a great deal of external competition. Having acquired that expertise and had exposure to the same issues as their western counterparts, they will be quite well placed to compete with foreign vendors in North America and Europe. To a lesser extent, the same is true of South American and Indian DAM suppliers also. The non-western DAM market is underestimated based on what is happening right now, not the underlying trends over the next decade any beyond.

I have mentioned that the DAM industry currently isn’t very innovative a lot on DAM News (and elsewhere). The competition may well force firms in Europe, United States and Australasia to innovate otherwise they just won’t have very much to differentiate themselves. Their costs are likely to be higher, so Chinese, Indian and South American firms may well just come along and eat their lunch. There is historical precedent for this in lots of other sectors and I don’t see DAM being any different. The fact that so many US and European vendors are so complacent and have a complete blind spot for what is happening in China indicates that there is a major opportunity on offer for someone.

A forward-thinking US or European vendor who can see this coming might consider that it makes commercial sense to obtain some local knowledge from a group like DAM China Connect who know about the Chinese market and Digital Asset Management.

(2) Shall we know two reasons of why you want to support DAM CC?

The first reason is that I think it’s a great idea! I’m not aware of anyone else anywhere who have come up with anything like it. The current Digital Asset Management market is heavily oriented towards western users and suppliers for a number of reasons, most of which are historical because that’s where demand has been centred up until now.

As the editor of DAM News, I’m always interested in fresh takes on the Digital Asset Management problem. The current DAM scene is heavily introspective, the same names (both people and companies) crop up all the time. They all say and do the same things as each other – to the point where it’s beginning to get quite smug and self-congratulatory.

The DAM market is well overdue a shake-up and needs to have far more of a global perspective than it does right now. While I think there’s a lot that Chinese organisations can learn about DAM, there’s also considerable potential for some knowledge transfer to go in the other direction also.

(3) Previously in DAM NEWS “China – A Major Untapped Opportunity For Dam?”, you mentioned that many western DAM companies are facing cultural differences between China and the western world, and also lack experience and resources to develop in China. Therefore, there could be some local Chinese Dam entities that start to grow in the near future. What we can imagine is that, based on many librarian professionals and the society’s focus on GLAM sector, also known as gallery, library, archive and museum, it is easier to let organisations to plan for DAM. But in China, DAM is not a local phenomenon and people do not grasp the true nature of operating those entities. In the past, they did not preserve with the purpose that everyone can find and appreciate the content, but with the intention to store and let people figure out by themselves. This makes the modern DAM awareness weak. To break through is not an easy task, but what do you think could be a solution to this cultural issue?

While the need for DAM might not be fully grasped yet, I suspect this is just a question of time. Most US and European DAM users didn’t proactively commence DAM initiatives because they saw the problem coming, they reacted to an issue that started to occur. Namely: too much marketing content that was required across lots of channels (digital and non-digital) coupled with a need to personalise it to help drive customer engagement.

I just don’t accept that these are uniquely western problems, it’s the same issue the whole world over. Prospective Chinese DAM users might be at different stages of their realisation of the need to fix it and have a different take on how to go about doing so, but the fundamentals are exactly the same. The kind of dialogue is going to go something like “we’ve got all these photos, videos etc and we can’t find anything, we need some kind of software application to help organise it”.
Chinese consumers are becoming as discerning and demanding as western ones. Their preferences might be slightly different for cultural reasons etc, but they’re still going to use digital channels to help guide their purchasing decisions and personalisation is going to be just as important. Something will need to drive all that activity and act as both a point of storage but also a metadata hub – like a DAM system, for example.

In answer to your question, I guess I’m saying that the cultural issue will eventually solve itself as the problem (too many digital assets) will eventually get so large that it can’t be ignored. What would help that realisation, however, is for a local advocacy group to go around promoting the benefits of DAM and also making connections and contacts with developers, educators, consultants and others on the supply-side so there is something already in-place when Chinese businesses start to realise for themselves that they have this problem.

As I mentioned in the previous answer to your other question, some forward thinking non-Chinese vendors could also get themselves an advantage over the competition if they were already connected with some local DAM experts who understood both the benefits of DAM and how to present them to a Chinese audience.

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