(By Todd Cochrane) In 2005, I had the privilege of being part of the team that built the first podcast measurement platform. I quickly found myself buried in podcast statistics and trend measurement, which led to our very first podcast advertising deals. As the CEO of RawVoice/Blubrry, I have kept a good handle on not only the past, but where we now stand relative to podcast measurement.
To dig a little deeper, in late 2007 podcasters formed the now disbanded Association of Downloadable Media (ADM) and a small team worked together to establish the first podcast metric standards, released in 2008. Those standards are not that fundamentally different from what we have in place today with the exception of refinement to the rule sets around that data.
I have always been humored when individuals have made uneducated comments about podcast measurement standards. We have had standards for a long time, sadly not every podcast company followed them and as more companies started to roll out their own measurement systems the crazier some of the numbers got.
Many of us over the years have ended up spending a lot of time talking to media buyers explaining the processes we each had in place. Obviously, an industry-wide, updated standard for podcast measurement was critical to the foundation and growth of podcasting.
In late 2014, the Interactive Advertising Bureau started a Podcast Audio Committee to work on formalizing podcast measurement guidelines. Twenty-plus companies — my company, Blubrry Podcasting, included — participated in the formalization of the new guidelines.
Those meetings were full of passionate and productive discussions that lead to a meeting at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in 2015, where companies shared technical data and case studies to prove a number of metric processing techniques. These data and studies not only backed up the original standards from 2008, but lead the way for formalized guidelines.
Many months later, 25 leading podcast companies signed off on the first version of the podcast measurement guidelines; released in September 2016. While version 1.0 was important, we knew more work was needed. The combined IAB team spent the next year working on version 2.0 with 32 companies signing off; it was released in December 2017.
In 2018, the IAB Tech Lab stepped forward and proposed an IAB Podcast Measurement Guidelines certification process. My company has spent the past three to four months going through the proposed certification process with a very thorough independent audit team. We have to prove a number of specific measurement guideline requirements that the IAB Tech Lab has outlined from Version 2.0.
The process we and, to my knowledge, one other company is going through with others on deck has included code review, test measurement comparison, control policies, log audits, and extensive discussions of the entire chain of data processing, whitelist creation, blacklist sources, fraud prevention, and cross verification. My team has spent several hundred hours on this audit, which we hope will lead to certification.
Today, podcast measurement is largely derived from media hosting server logs. And until client-side signaling is in place, client-side metrics in a useable form — from Apple, Google, and a bevy of apps — face an uphill battle for adoption from a public-radio-proposed protocol called RAD that will need to comply with GDPR and account for listener privacy concerns among a growing list of adoption issues.
Until client-side reporting is implemented, the IAB Tech Lab Podcast Measurement Guideline certification of server-side date will be the gold standard and will allow companies to validate they comply and meet the specifications outlined by the IAB. This should resolve any lingering questions from media buyers and podcasters on the accuracy of reporting data.
I understand the challenges this certification entails not just from a cost and time perspective for companies; even my company has had some healthy discussions as we have gone through this process. In the end, we want the podcasters’ needs to prevail and, as a result, media buyers will be confident to spend more money in the space.
My hope is that more companies get on board and go through the IAB Tech Labs Podcast Measurement Guidelines certification process. A rising tide raises all ships, and podcast statistics certification is certainly part of the story.
Todd Cochrane is the CEO Blubrry.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org