Where next for podcast measurement?

“Common measurement practices are like oxygen. When they are absent, everyone notices immediately and the result is painful. When they are present, the industry evolves and flourishes.”

Not my words, but the words of the IAB, when launching the IAB Tech Lab’s Podcast Measurement Guidelines in 2017.

It’s easy to forget how needed the IAB’s guidelines were. Every major company had different ways of working out a download: reminiscent of the early days of the internet, where we talked about server hits. Instead of companies working on slightly spurious methods of achieving ever-higher numbers, the IAB laid down clear guidelines about how to count a download, and work out how many listeners you had.

Many companies raced to certification, and many more claimed they were compliant. And, while the guidelines aren’t, actually, a standard (with significant differences between implementations), they were welcome: a download was a download, whoever you hosted with.

The IAB’s podcast measurement guidelines were - for advertising, at least - when the industry was seen to have matured. 2024

Today, though, we appear to be at a bit of a critical moment.

Many podcast companies were certified under v2.0: and in spite of being asked by the IAB to complete certification for v2.1 by December 2022 - over twelve months ago - ten companies still haven’t done so.

The IAB also requires companies to re-certify annually. Yet, of the 28 certified companies, only 6 have recertified in the last twelve months.

If 80% of the industry doesn’t see enough value in the IAB to maintain certification, it begs the question whether the IAB’s offering is the right one.

Perhaps podcasting might take its cues from radio overseas. Whether it’s the UK’s RadioCentre, Australia’s Commercial Radio & Audio or Finland’s RadioMedia, these industry associations have educated advertisers as to the benefits of radio advertising, lobbied on behalf of its members, and helped set editorial and technical standards for the whole industry. In each case, their effort has improved revenue for everyone.

An unbiased body, a ‘Podcasting Advertising Bureau’, which promotes the benefits of podcast advertising to advertisers while maintains measurement standards, could be a viable alternative.

Or, the industry could get on with getting their IAB certifications up to date.

This was published (in email only) in the Podcast Business Journal.