The IAB Tech Lab said Tuesday it has launched a compliance program for publishers and platforms that adhere to its podcast measurement guidelines. Podcast hosting service RawVoice/Blubrry and NPR are the first companies to be certified.
The program is based on the IAB’s Podcast Measurement Technical Guidelines, which were released in December 2017 to provide the burgeoning podcast industry with standard measurement protocols. The guidelines, updated in July 2017, offer specific criteria for measuring podcast downloads, listenership and ad delivery while filtering out invalid requests.
The IAB Tech Lab hopes this program will standardize analytics across the industry, which still vary across players “sometimes by an order of magnitude,” said Dennis Buchheim, SVP and general manager of the IAB Tech Lab.
“While this certification process will not eliminate variance in measurement, getting certified will provide transparency around the baseline and help the buy-side evaluate the numbers they are looking at better,” he said.
In addition to RawVoice/Blubrry and NPR, five other publishers are going through the IAB Tech Lab’s certification process, and a handful of others are being onboarded, Buchheim said.
The IAB Tech Lab’s certification process was extensive and involved working with an outside auditing firm to answer in-depth questions about the measurement process and evaluate code line-by-line, said Todd Cochrane, CEO of RawVoice/Blubrry. While 32 companies claim to be compliant with the IAB guidelines already, it’s difficult to know for sure without going through a formal review.
“We had to go through the step-by-step process we use to report back to media buyers,” he said. “Compliance is an easy claim to make without going through the process we just went through.”
Compliance will lend credibility to publishers in an emerging industry and shed light on players who may not be reporting their reach accurately. That clarity will hopefully make big brands more comfortable buying podcast inventory. The IAB expects podcast ad revenue to grow 110% to $659 million by 2020.
“Media buyers want standard measurement that lets them compare ad performance across networks,” Cochrane said. “I think a few players out there may take a hit if they go through the process.”
While the IAB Tech Lab’s guidelines and certification program are a step in the right direction toward standardizing podcast measurement, they don’t go beyond the download metric. NPR released its Remote Audio Data spec in December in an effort to gather more data for advertisers through a URL embedded into podcast content. But Apple, which captures more than half of all podcast listening, hasn’t announced support for the standard.
“The only gap that really remains is client-side reporting,” Cochrane said. “If Apple and Google gave us exact information, that would be the best solution.”