An Interview with John Horodyski, DAM & Metadata Expert

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We sat down with John Horodyski for a conversation about how he got started in the world of metadata, his inspiration – and what the future holds for brands in the fast-evolving content landscape – and understand why metadata matters.

John Horodyski is a DAM & Metadata expert, currently working as an executive director at Salt Flats, providing Consulting Services to help clients solve their business problems through thought leadership, design thinking methodologies, and collective intelligence. John is a world-leading expert and has provided strategic direction and consulting for a variety of Fortune 100 and 500 clients from Consumer Packaging Goods, to Media & Entertainment, the Pharmaceutical industry, and Insurance. 

How did your Digital Asset Management & Metadata journey begin? 

I started my metadata journey back in graduate school where I was studying for a Master of Library & Information Science, and a Master of Archival Studies. I was taught that everything is about “access” and I took that philosophy and practice to heart. Metadata is all about access. Metadata matters. Data is complex; it is growing. Organizations will need to show how they are acting responsibly in safeguarding it in order to build trust and confidence. The best way to manage your data is with the power and rigorous application of metadata. It is the best way to protect and defend digital assets from content clutter and mismanagement. You need to invest the time, energy, and resources to identify, define, and organize assets for discovery. Classification is meaningful. Access is everything.

What inspired you to write your book ‘Metadata Matters’? 

My “Metadata Matters” book is both an appreciation of metadata and a way in which to share the value and importance of metadata. Metadata, like language itself, is a reflection of all of us . . . it is both subjective and objective at the same time, as it tries to define who we are, what we are doing, when we are/were doing it, how, and why. It is not immune to race and gender bias, and to ageism and opinion, but with good governance, metadata is able to respond as society evolves and reflects a more respectful understanding of the human condition and the content it creates. I want the readers of “Metadata Matters” to be educated, informed, and most importantly, to be inspired. The more we understand something, the better we are able to appreciate it and use it wisely in our personal and business affairs.

In your book, you explain how metadata is the foundation of any digital strategy as all assets created have to be identified and discovered. Can you summarize why metadata is so important to build a good creative workflow within your DAM system?

If data is the language upon which our modern society is built, then metadata is the grammar, the construction of its meaning. Without it, you have nothing; your assets in your DAM or PIM, or wherever they may be, will not have value until there is metadata associated with it. And yet, metadata is more than just data about data. It refers to the descriptive, structural, and administrative elements that define content, and defines us at any given point in time with the best information available to us. Metadata is a program, not a project, and is a human endeavor; it takes people power to make it work. The key to good creative workflow is both to understand the issues involved in identifying, capturing, and ingesting content into the system and to make them accessible and available for retrieval. For example, a DAM system aims to improve workflow efficiency through the automation of tasks such as ingest, metadata creation and authenticated access.

For creative and marketing professionals who are currently going through a digital transformation, can you please share some tips & best practices for effective metadata & taxonomy management? 

It is critical to not only develop but document your creative workflow, from ingestion to approval, and even during the migration of assets. With multiple touch points along an asset’s life cycle, potentially spanning multiple versions and incidents of reuse, a content system can help teams across an organization—from creatives, to IT staff, to all users, past and present, and make coordinated and educated decisions about the strategic use of their digital assets. A DAM ensures that the right asset is being used by the right person(s) at the right time for the right reasons. But it needs metadata-powered workflow to make it work. And, as the content moves along that creative workflow, there will be different user roles to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of asset information.

Metadata is constantly evolving and has to adapt to the changing nature of language. What are the key trends you see for the future of metadata, and how creative professionals can prepare for this change?

I am still seeing great interest in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and this will continue throughout 2023 and beyond, using a strong data foundation to power your DAM and other business systems.

I am also seeing trends in how DAM is being used more and more as a method upon which to serve e-commerce so well in these remote & online times in which we now live. A recent study by McKinsey shows the availability of products and services is the number one reason customers are switching their brand allegiance right now. And, this is directly tied to two powerful parts of DAM: that the product images, videos, and copy are available with accurate metadata, and the power of search associated with that accurate metadata

This is all about improved communication and understanding of availability, and DAM has been and will continue to power e-commerce in 2023 and beyond.

And, I am seeing great interest in DEIA … Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility and its impact on metadata and language. Brands are struggling with how to tag their images, and videos with respectful, and inclusive metadata representative of societal norms in 2023. It’s not easy, but it is necessary work to happen, and to happen now. Metadata matters because it defines us at any given point in time … it is about meaning and must change with societal norms in a respectful and inclusive manner. Business needs, user needs, and language change … your metadata needs to adapt to stay relevant.

Outside of the world of DAM & metadata, what else do you enjoy the most? Where can we find you on weekends? 

That’s a great question, and the best answer is that you will find me busy. I believe in the quote, “I was never being boring because I was never being bored.” You can find me outside being active. I love hiking in the mountains, and biking, and being as active as I can be. But, I am also an avid reader and movie watcher … a true bibliophile, and cinephile. And, anything related to food … preparing it, making it, and eating it.

Click here to rewatch our webinar with John Horodyski!