DAAST Might Change Digital Audio Measurement, So What’s Apple Waiting For?

daastWhen the IAB set out to craft a set of standards for digital audio advertising seven months ago, it wanted to address the challenge of consumers shifting to mobile and to organize the fragmented digital audio landscape.

The effort resulted in the Digital Audio Ad Serving Template (DAAST), and many in the industry welcomed the guidelines.

Having a standard like DAAST could keep competing brands – Coke and Pepsi, for instance – from airing consecutive ads. For streaming audio, DAAST also provides a standard way to record what percentage of an ad was actually consumed.

“We see a rising demand for audio content in general because of the rise of mobility and mobile devices,” said Scott Cunningham, general manager at the IAB’s tech lab. “That’s why we know DAAST will get traction. It’s a no-brainer.”

Triton Digital was one of the first companies to announce DAAST compliance.

“There’s an eagerness throughout the industry to adopt the standard as quickly as possible,” said Benjamin Masse, SVP of advertising. The audio industry is fragmented, he explained, with different players delivering content for digital music and podcasts.

But while some of the largest audio firms like Pandora, iHeartMedia and Triton Digital were heavily engaged in the creation and subsequent adoption of the standard, tech giants like Apple and Microsoft haven’t implemented it, and that’s left others scratching their heads. 

“It’s very difficult to penetrate Apple’s mind, but they’re definitely starting to get into it,” said Alexis van de Wyer, CEO of audio/video ad server AdsWizz, a participant in DAAST’s creation. (AdsWizz had a partnership with Apple in March through which Apple connected to AdsWizz’s marketplace.)

Several sources said representatives from Apple, Microsoft and other large tech firms listened in to early DAAST discussions, but didn’t contribute.

One reason why Apple and other large tech firms haven’t adopted the standard could be due to what Cunningham calls “technical debt.”

“Some companies are not as quick to adopt certain things because they’ve been more mature in the market,” he said. “In order for them to adopt that protocol, it takes longer because of the technical debt they’ve accumulated over the years.”

But there are pros and cons to the fact that DAAST came into a relatively mature market, according to Cunningham. The committee members who created the standard had a technical eye on what the proposed measures would mean from a deployment perspective.

Unfortunately, he said, those who backed the standard from the start want money to flow quickly into the ecosystem, and are disappointed when industrywide adoption lags.

Typically, the adoption timeline for IAB standards can take six to nine months, according to Cunningham.

“With audio, my instincts tell me this is probably a 12-month timeline before we see a large enough adoption from a tech perspective to see the dissemination flow,” he said.

In line with that prediction, Masse estimated that all the major platforms will be connected and DAAST compliant by October.

And to back those predictions, Van de Wyer said Apple’s participation through partnerships could signal its growing interest.

“I don’t want to speak on behalf of Apple,” Van de Wyer said, but added that for Apple to partner with an external party to make some of its mobile inventory available is a pretty big tell. “It’s not something they do very often.”

“That, to me, is a pretty clear sign that they want to work much more with the ecosystem,” he said. “For firms like Apple to say digital audio is important is a sign that the industry is coming together.”

The Problem With Podcasts

According to Masse, the industry is “far from sorting out the podcast world.”

Though DAAST helps to address measurement in a live-streaming ecosystem, podcast measurement is a world apart. The challenge is that post-download metrics for podcasts don’t exist, and the majority of podcasts are downloaded from iTunes. Once downloaded, there’s no way to ensure listeners engaged with the content long enough to hear an ad.

“Podcasts are typically downloaded on a ‘dumb’ player, or a ‘dumb’ device,” explained Jim Kott, VP of products and marketing for online radio and video advertising and analytics vendor Abacast, which was acquired by WideOrbit last year. Podcast players need a standard way to record ad impressions, he added, in order to attract more ad dollars to the medium.

According to digital audio executives, anyone that doesn’t support DAAST isn’t viable in terms of integrating into the ecosystem. So while Apple’s iTunes store may drive a ton of downloads, it’s a black hole in terms of metrics. That makes Apple less desirable to digital audio advertisers as a consumption platform.

“Advertisers want an independent, third-party vendor validating ad impressions,” Kott said. “If you don’t have good metrics then the ad dollars won’t flow as quickly into the industry.”

“If Apple were to establish DAAST, podcasters or other publishers of audio would embrace them even more,” he added. “We would encourage them to look at it. It would really help grow the whole industry.”

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

 

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