Media Rating Council issues digital audio measurement standards

The Media Rating Council (MRC) has published its Final Version 1.0 of its Digital Audio Measurement Standards. The MRC is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to evolve valid and reliable criteria and technical standards for audience measurement.

The newly released document is a free PDF document.

The MRC partnered with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB), and the NAB Committee on Local Radio Measurement (COLRAM) in the creation of this work. Underlying that team is a group of over 60 “key contributors” that includes Triton Digital, AdsWizz, Nielsen, Pandora, Spotify, iHeartMedia, NPR, AccuRadio, Radionomy, ESPN, Podtrac, and several big radio groups (not Entercom).

The standards put forward here cover audio streaming and progressive downloads — the type of podcast downloading that behaves like a stream even as it executes local storage of a file.

The paper starts out with a glossary of terms, on of which is Audible Ad Impression, the definition of which includes the stipulation that it be played for at least two seconds in a non-muted mode. In other words, the ad must be audible to the listener for it to be counted as an impression — important considering the extent to which people mute and unmute their listening.

With that particular measurement standard in mind, the MRC puts a strong emphasis on client-side measurement, contrasted with server-side measurement. When Pandora (for example) spins a song stream to a user, that spin is logged on the server, and could be counted that way. The listener is hearing it through an app, or on the Pandora website player (which are both “clients”), and a measurement of the spin can be taken from the client. The client “knows” whether the audio is muted or audible, whereas the server log does not. Pandora is one-to-one streaming, but the same preference for client-side measurement goes for broadcast radio streams, which are mainly one-to-many.

While the MRC “requires” client-side measurement, it also acknowledges the acceptability of server logs in some situations, notably “pure streaming environments” — as distinguished from download scenarios.

MRC accreditation is a seal of approval for methodology resulting in media ratings and rankings of various kinds. to our knowledge, Triton Digital and Pandora are both MRC-accredited.

“These new standards will advance the state of digital audio measurement, and make it more comparable with measurement of other media types,” said George W. Ivie, Executive Director and CEO of the MRC. He went on to add, “As measurers step forward to be audited and ultimately accredited against these standards, buyers of digital audio advertising will be able to gain assurance that the measurements on which they evaluate their digital ad investments—whether those ads appear in streaming audio, audio podcasts, or other relevant digital audio environments—serve as a true reflection of the exposure of these ads to audiences.”


Brad Hill