IAB Tech Lab Issues Guidelines for Podcast Advertising

An Effort to Set Some Ground Rules for the Emerging Medium

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More consumers are listening to podcasts, but the terms and standards around podcast ads are just being defined.
More consumers are listening to podcasts, but the terms and standards around podcast ads are just being defined.  Credit: iStock

Podcast advertising, like podcasting, is a fast-evolving medium, and one that faces questions about measurement and ad effectiveness. In an effort to "improve standards and increase buyer confidence" in the medium, the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Tech Lab released a set of podcast ad metrics guidelines on Tuesday.

"This document is the first attempt to bring IAB members together, describe common practices and provide a common set of metric definitions," the document reads. "With a consistent set of podcast advertising metrics, buyers and sellers can engage in a conversation about campaign strategy with confidence."

The document provides definitions for content downloads, such as "unique file request," which refers to "the number of file requests for a single file originating from a single user or client within a specific time frame." The phrase "complete file download" refers to a file request that was fully downloaded, while "partial file download" refers to one that was not.

These content metrics tie in with a set of ad metric definitions, including "ad delivered" and "client-confirmed ad play." For a podcast ad to be considered "delivered," server logs must "show either all bytes of the ad file were sent or the bytes representing the portion of the podcast file containing the ad file was downloaded." Ads must be delivered in order to be counted as "served ads."

Under the guidelines, which received input from IAB members including NPR and Slate, ads are considered "client-confirmed" when an ad "was able to prompt a tracking beacon from the client when the file was played." This metric, according to the document, "represents the most accurate count for ad plays in a podcast." While client-side tracking is considered vital, the document notes that the major platforms for downloading, storing, and playing podcasts "prevent the technology needed for client-side counting."

"Even with its inherent challenges, some advertisers are already fans of podcast advertising, since their ROI is based on direct response," wrote Rockie Thomas, an AdsWizz executive and the co-leader of the IAB's Podcast Technical Working Group, in an introductory blog post that was shared with Ad Age. "Other advertisers, mostly brands, are keen to invest ad dollars against this audience, but need data parity found in other digital mediums to transact programmatically."

The guidelines are not binding on the industry or IAB members, but the document suggests that "account managers should be familiar with and use metrics as defined in this document when negotiating ad packages with buyers." The IAB Tech Lab also wants "podcast ad operations teams" to adhere to the metric definitions.

In an effort to capitalize on industry interest in podcasting, the IAB on Wednesday is holding a podcast UpFront, a "special one-day marketplace designed for advertisers and media buyers to preview the latest in innovative podcast programming from some of the biggest names in the digital audio arena." Well-known podcasters like Ira Glass and Marc Maron will be in attendance for the event, which is being held at Time Inc.'s downtown Manhattan headquarters.

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