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For podcast hosts, what does 'IAB compliance' mean?

November 29, 2018 · By James Cridland · 2.4 minutes to read

ESPN Podcasts has released their monthly podcast figures, quoting "43.6m IAB compliant downloads" from RawVoice, and "6.3m US unique audience" from Podtrac.

The use of two data sources is worth highlighting. Podtrac also measures ESPN's downloads, and claims ESPN Podcasts did 59.7m downloads in the same month - a figure 27% higher than RawVoice. Podtrac also claims that the company is "IAB compliant". Two companies claiming "IAB compliance", but a disparity of 27% between the two.

The IAB Podcast Measurement Guidelines v2.0 offer technical guidance, says the IAB, "in order to reduce the discrepancies currently seen across podcast publishers and tech vendors."

Ryan Granner, Director, Digital Audio Operations for ESPN, confirmed that both Rawvoice and Podtrac are measuring virtually the same data. He told Podnews: "Rawvoice is measuring every download in every show we have available, but the shows that are included in the Rawvoice download number which are not included in our Podtrac numbers wouldn't amount to even a rounding error to the aggregate numbers we publish."

In spite of claiming it is "IAB compliant and then some", Podtrac does not use server logs to measure downloads, and instead measures by using a redirect mechanism. Robert Freeland, CTO at Podtrac, told us: "The IAB standards present a reasonable "starting point" algorithm, but they specifically allow for more sophisticated algorithms like ours. The IAB's simplistic algorithm at least gets everyone within 50%."

ESPN's Ryan Granner is clear that the company favours RawVoice for total download numbers. "We have a number of data sources that measure our podcasts and believe that Podtrac gives the best available measurement of audience size and Rawvoice provides the most accurate download measurement that is compliant with IAB standards. Rawvoice has access to our server logs and is able confirm everything meets the criteria set by the IAB."

So, what's the difference between "compliance" and "certification"?

"We are not involved with the reporting or measurement that companies utilize. Unless certified, we have not examined their practices," Jennifer Lane, Industry Lead at the IAB, told us. "We establish guidelines, we do not police them."

Amit Shetty, Sr. Director, Video & Audio Products, IAB Tech Lab, added: "Our certification program is how companies can prove that they are compliant with the podcast measurement guidelines. That is where we have auditors look at the implementations in detail and run tests to determine whether they are satisfying the requirements of the guidelines. Companies that are certified will get a seal and will be listed on the website."

Todd Cochrane, CEO at RawVoice, who also own Blubrry, said to us: "We just went through an extensive IAB certification audit over the past 3-4 months with the report and we hope IAB Certification is due any day now."

Opinion — An "IAB compliant" podcast host is just a self-made claim. Anyone can claim it - without any third-party checks on whether a company is, in fact, operating within the IAB guidelines. "IAB Certification", when it appears, is what to look for. We understand the first two IAB Certified podcast companies - including RawVoice (and their Blubrry subsidiary) - are to be announced in December 2018.

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