The Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab is attempting to bring a measure of uniformity to the messy world of podcast advertising.
The trade group rolled out a new compliance program on Tuesday that certifies that a given podcast is adhering to consistent guidelines around a set of engagement metrics, spanning downloads, listeners and ad delivery. NPR and RawVoice/Blubrry are the first two podcasting networks to earn seals of compliance.
While podcasting as a medium has been growing in popularity for years, a lack of consistency as to what constitutes stats like downloads and listener counts has held back the flow of ad dollars in the space. Many podcasting producers and networks use their own proprietary algorithms to determine performance numbers, making across-the-board comparisons difficult.
“The main challenge has to do with the current reality that most of podcast measurement is done (and can only be done) server-side and has to be conducted without client-side signals,” said Dennis Buchheim, svp and general manager of the IAB Tech Lab. “This makes it a very complicated process where various platforms make different assumptions about the meaning of the data available on the server side, which results in widely diverging results.”
The IAB first announced the technical guidelines that serve as the basis for the compliance program in December of last year, with input from a working group of major players in the podcasting industry. Now, after spending much of the past year hammering out details around how to best vet companies, the trade group is taking the rules a step further.
Media companies that want to gain or maintain certification with the program will be required to submit a certain number of data samples around each of the program’s three metrics. Buchheim said the initial validation process takes between six and eight weeks, and another batch of companies are expected to complete it by early 2019.
“This first wave of compliance will help build more momentum behind the Podcast Measurement Technical Guidelines and get the rest of the market to adopt the guidelines as well,” Buchheim said.
While a uniform measuring stick might appear to be an obvious net benefit for the industry as a whole, there are individual incentives for some companies to cling to their own measurement methods. Because the IAB’s measurement specifications filter out duplicate downloads and other sources of inflated numbers, some podcast producers have reported major drop-offs in listenership after adopting them last year.
Nevertheless, most of the major podcasting networks have acknowledged that a common measurement system is a necessary hurdle in moving the industry forward.
“The IAB guidelines ensure this entire skyrocketing industry speaks a common language,” Steve Mulder, senior director of audience insights at NPR, said in a statement. “This certification is a key step for us and for the industry.”