CMS vs DAM: The Difference Between Content Management Systems and Digital Asset Management

Learn about CMS vs DAM

Image: Novy Studios

The modern marketer is constantly bombarded with new tools to help them better promote their companies. Many of these tools are necessary, but others? Not so much. Then there are some tools that are misunderstood and/or confused with somewhat similar solutions.

That seems to be the case with CMS vs DAM.

Both of these tools deal with content, but they each have different purposes and use cases. In this article, we want to explore these differences and explain how each is best utilized. We’ll also help you identify which tool your company should invest in.

Sound interesting? Then let’s dive in!

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

According to Optimizely, a content management system is, “an application that is used to manage web content, allowing multiple contributors to create, edit and publish.”

To put it more simply, a CMS is the tool you use to create and publish web pages, blog posts, and more to the internet. Some of the most popular CMS platforms include WordPress, Squarespace, and Drupal — though there are many more options available.

For the most part, CMS is used by web designers, content editors, and website administrators. These are the folks that tend to create web pages and/or publish digital content.

A proper CMS will have the following features:

  • Access to easy to use, great looking web page templates
  • The ability to store and index web pages
  • The ability to search for and retrieve digital content
  • Control over edit and view permissions
  • Web publishing ability and revision control

What a CMS doesn’t provide however, is a convenient way to organize a large media library, quickly find files, and distribute them. That’s where a DAM system comes to the rescue.

What is a Digital Asset Management (DAM) System?

A digital asset management system is a tool that allows users to easily store, organize, relocate, and distribute digital assets such as photos, videos, and other rich media content types.

Essentially, a DAM system is a centralized library that acts as a single source of truth for all of a company’s visual content. As such, it promotes consistent branding and helps to minimize internal bottlenecks. It also increases productivity, improves security, and ensures usage rights compliance.

Typically, company marketing and PR teams use and maintain DAM systems, though anyone in an organization (or outside of it) can be given access. That’s the beauty of DAM. It’s a flexible tool that gives power to its users.

A quality DAM system will include these six features:

  • Accessibility: Many DAMs operate in the cloud, which means users can access their accounts on any internet capable device.
  • Organization: DAMs boost productivity levels because they allow for intuitive, customizable organization via metadata and tagging features.
  • Distribution: Sending files via email is a pain. Quality DAM systems allow users to send bulk files with both download links and public-facing galleries, i.e. brand portals.
  • Security: DAMs house all company brand files, which means they need to be completely secure and allow users to set and modify permissions as needed.
  • Convenience: A DAM system should make life easier for its users in many ways, one of which being automatic file formatting so users always have the exact files they need.
  • Ease of Use: Operating a DAM system shouldn’t be difficult. The best DAMs are powerful but also intuitive and user-friendly.

CleanPix is a popular digital asset management system with all the features listed above. If you’re looking to invest in DAM, we suggest you try the service for free for 14 days.

Should You Invest in CMS, DAM, or Both?

As we’ve just seen, a content management system and a digital asset management system serve two different purposes, but they do compliment each other perfectly.

CMS is the tool you want to use to create and publish your company’s content such as web pages and blog posts. DAM, on the other hand, is the perfect tool to store, organize, retrieve, and distribute digital assets like photos and videos.

So which should your organization invest in?

While the answer to that really depends on your company’s unique situation, we find that most businesses benefit from having both.

The combination of CMS and DAM will allow your company to easily organize its media library, quickly find the correct files when they’re needed, and publish them in an appealing way.

Now, are there ever any scenarios where a company might decide to invest in one tool but not the other?


If your company has a limited number of brand files that only need to be accessed by one or two people, DAM might not be necessary. In this situation, we’d recommend investing in a quality CMS so that you can easily publish content to the web.

But if your business doesn’t need to consistently publish content like new web pages and blog posts (a rare circumstance, but not implausible), but has a large library of media files, a DAM service would prove more beneficial.

The Right Tool for the Job

Both CMS and DAM are helpful tools. To recap in extremely simple terms, CMS allows companies to post content to the web while DAM enables them to organize, find, and distribute digital assets like photos and videos.

One tool is not more useful than the other. They each play different roles in an organizational technology stack and help users accomplish different things.

If you decide that your company is ready to invest in DAM, we recommend trying CleanPix for FREE for 14 days. Our solution is powerful, intuitive, and loved by our many users. We also offer a straightforward pricing structure — something many other DAM providers don’t — so you’ll never have to deal with surprise fees.

Yes, I want to try CleanPix for FREE!

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