TechLabFAQ

IAB Tech Lab

Podcast Measurement Guidance & Compliance

Updated March 2020 The IAB Tech Lab Podcast Technical Working Group works to provide clarity in the marketplace by developing a common language around podcast measurement. In addition to defining standard metrics for both podcast content and podcast ads, this group also provides guidance on some of the technical details such as request filtering, in order to reduce the discrepancies currently seen across podcast publishers and tech vendors. This document covers frequently asked questions on the standards and the accompanying compliance program.

For more information visit https://iabtechlab.com/standards/podcast-measurement-guidelines/.

Table of Contents

What are the podcast measurement guidelines?

Why did we need the podcast measurement guidelines?

Most podcasts are measured using analysis of server side logs, because of lack of access on the client side apps. This used to be done in adhoc/proprietary ways, which resulted in each platform having a significant deltas in numbers when looking at the same logs. The podcast measurement guidelines were developed to get everyone to at least a common starting point around how they were looking at the logs, de-duplicating downloads, etc.
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What are the metrics included in the guidelines?

There are 4 metrics defined in the guidelines - 1. downloads 2. listeners 3. ad delivered 4. client-confirmed ad play. Out of these, the first three are all based on download log analysis, while the 4th is a forward looking one that requires client side support.
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Why “downloads” and not “listens”?

After a robust discussion on this topic, the podcast technical working group discussed the term “downloads” because “listens” has the implication of actually having listened to the downloaded podcast. This is not something usually available to the analytics platforms.
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Why Certification?

What does it really mean to be certified via the IAB Tech Lab Compliance Program?

It means that the product has been audited in depth and has addressed the set of issues and directions provided in the guidelines (or alternatively, has known areas of divergence from the guidelines, which are indicated in the report).
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Who can/should get certified?

Any publisher/podcaster or tech platform that has implemented podcast metrics can get certified. That said many publishers/podcasters will not need to be certified if the tech vendor / platform they use is certified. This makes certification an important feature that the platform vendors can tout.
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Are there different types of certifications?

At the moment no. There has been some discussion about having a light weight publisher certification if the platforms they use allow publishers to turn off certain features resulting in the guidelines not being followed (for example the window size check). If we see that as a need, we will explore that later - but even that is expected to be a light weight certification that will be done in partnership with the platform vendor.
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What is the Certification Process?

How long does it take to get certified?

The certification can be done in 6-8 weeks. Companies might take longer than that to get certified - either due to difficulties getting the right resources available for calls or because they need time to correct any potential issues.
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Why does it take so long to get certified?

The process is very intense because this isn’t just a matter of testing a protocol/message for its structure. This is a guideline defining a set of issues that need to be covered – which means that every implementation is different, and so each certification is bespoke, and has to be done as a detailed audit of the product.
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What is the pricing for the program?

Pricing is $35,000 for members and $45,000 for non-members. This does not include any travel costs and we expect all the work to be done remotely. If a company prefers to have the auditors onsite, that would be a separate expense.
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Will all certified compliant companies end up generating the exact same numbers in their reports?

No. Each platform’s implementation is still its own and has their own “secret sauce” in what they do. Getting certified provides a level of transparency around what their implementation does regarding the topics listed in the guidelines. It is important to note that this is not unique to podcasting and is common in the media industry in general. This is the reason why there are multiple 3rd party measurement / verification companies who each provide their own algorithms. That said, the goal the podcast technical working group set out to achieve with the guidelines was to reduce huge discrepancies between the various implementations. The stories of 5x / 10x deltas should not be possible if everyone implements the guidelines.
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Why does the program say “compliance” (and the seal say “compliant”) instead of certification/“certified”? Will that cause confusion?

The IAB Tech Lab Podcast Compliance Program was established to differentiate companies within the market that undergo third-party compliance attestation to the companies that merely self-attest. Responsible participants within our industry understand that self-attestation, without a compliance program or impartial third-party attestation and certification, is subject to interpretation and even bias. A neutral third party helps ensure that guidelines are followed fairly and consistently across different proprietary platforms and technology approaches.
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Some companies are saying they are “compliant with the Podcast Measurement Guidelines”. How do I know if they are certified compliant? If not, how does a company getting certified differentiate themselves from companies that merely claim to be compliant?

There are companies who have self-attested compliance, based on their interpretation of the guidelines. If they are not listed on our Certified Compliant Web page and do not display the Tech Lab certification seal, then they are not certified compliant. The IAB Tech Lab Podcast Compliance Program was established to differentiate companies within the market that undergo third-party compliance attestation to the companies that merely self-attest. Responsible participants within our industry understand that self-attestation, without a compliance program or impartial third-party attestation and certification, is subject to interpretation and even bias. A neutral third party helps ensure that guidelines are followed fairly and consistently across different proprietary platforms and technology approaches. Our participants understand that a compliance program is only as good as the enforcement of its community. We ask our community of certified compliant companies to use the terms “certified as compliant”, to display the certification seal, and to make us aware of companies falsely implying their own certification in the market. . We will reach out to such companies to ask them to change their language to say “implemented” - and also direct them to our compliance program.
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Can a company end up not getting certified?

While it is not impossible to completely fail the criteria, given that the certification is based on the guidelines, we think that is highly unlikely. What is more likely is that a company will get certified with notes on which areas they are not fully compliant with the guidelines. Also, the certification process is iterative to help companies get to compliance of the guidelines.
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Why do you use a 3rd party auditor to do the testing?

This is an involved process and the work needs a more specialized set of resources (compared to VAST or MRAID testing). In addition, members had expressed concern about protecting their IP. The use of a neutral 3rd party to actually run the audit and look at the implementations addresses those concerns.
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We cannot state for sure that any particular platform’s number will be lower (or by how much) since it depends on what implementations were doing previously. That said, we have heard that many platforms have seen a reduction in numbers. The feedback however has been that while it is painful in the short term, they are ready to take the hit and understand that in the longer run it is better to reduce the discrepancies across the industry.
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Are there any other concerns being raised by members?

We have heard concerns raised around the window size and minimum download sizes for smaller podcasts - and how that might not be accurate (the concern being that different window sizes might result in under counting a second download, and requiring smaller podcasts to fully download was not fair). The working group had settled on 24 hours as a good compromise between a second download vs a duplicate download, and that the 1 minute download threshold as reasonable. We had data presented in the working group around that too when picking those values. That said, we are certainly open to having a discussion in the working group and update the guidelines if anyone brings in data that shows the guidelines should be changed.
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How does certification work for platforms that only support redirects?

If those platforms come in for certification, they will be tested against the same guidelines. The areas that do not apply to them or cannot be supported by them will be marked as such.
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How often does a platform need to be certified?

The certification is not time based at the moment. Companies need to get recertified only if the guidelines change - or if they change their platform in the analytics area.
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Are there any updates planned to the guidelines and will that require recertification?

No updates are currently planned or expected. The Podcast Technical Working Group will meet after a few more companies have been certified to discuss learnings and see if an update or clarifications are needed. During that discussion we will also discuss whether those changes will require recertification.
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How many companies can you accommodate at one time?

The process is not one where there is a continuous engagement. For example, we currently have 6 companies in the process.
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How do we determine the order in which you certify?

We start the process immediately. After that it is really up to them to respond and go through the details. Different companies go at different pace.
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