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  • Writer's pictureSammy Major

Privacy, Death of the Cookie and iOS14 : How will this affect podcast advertising

By Sammy Major

If you work in media and marketing then the issue of privacy is certainly on your radar. Major tech players Apple and Google are implementing changes that will have more stringent privacy protections on user data, changing the way advertisers and app developers do business. How will the iOS14 update and Google’s phase-out of 3rd party cookies affect podcast tracking and attribution?

The current model

First things, first: podcast ads are not tracked like traditional digital display ads, where the pixel or tag typically ‘fires’ on the user’s device as the ad loads, sending back information to verify the ad was served. The cincher here is the fact that when these tags or pixels fire on the user’s device, the impression tracker can gather information about the user who was served the ad.

You can see why many in the advertising industry are scrambling for solutions, because the incoming changes restrict access to some of that information and third-party cookies can’t be left on the users’ devices anymore. Data that is still available however, includes IP address, user agent, and the content requested by the user, which happen to be the foundations of podcast tracking.

How are podcast ads different?

Podcast Ad impressions are measured by downloads; specifically, how many times an episode that contains an ad is downloaded. The advantage to a download count is that it is first-party data reflecting observable user behaviour. The disadvantage is that we can’t with one hundred percent certainty say that the impression was actually served (but that’s a whole other article for another day!).

Podcast players retrieve files and data from RSS feeds, including things like text-based episode details, artwork and the episode’s audio file. The player then displays that data to the listener. There is no communication between the podcast app and the podcaster’s servers, so no listening data is reported.

Fortunately, the death of the cookie doesn’t affect impression tracking in Podcasting.

How will the new changes affect attribution measurement?

So, we have established that due to the very nature of how podcasting has been set up, a cookie-less world will not impact the way we track and record impression data for podcast campaigns.

Tracking podcast attribution is a different beast altogether and the effect to tracking will ultimately depend on who your AdTech partner is in the space. If you have read to this point, I would strongly suggest you read Podcast AdTech Whizz, Bryan Barletta’s article “Podcast Attribution in a Privacy-first world” who provides a very detailed scope of possible effects to the podcast industry in this regard.

To keep things a bit more simplified here, I’ll focus on our partner in attribution, Podsights. Podsights uses multiple signals to statistically attribute downloads to visits, one of which employs third-party digital identity graphs.

I’ll let Podsights explain, “Imagine you download a podcast at home, listen to it on the way to work and then visit the brand’s site at work. Podsights, through these identity graphs, can properly attribute your actions back to the home IP and to the podcast.”

Podsights defaults to using a javascript tag which places a first-party cookie on the domain (not Chrome) and subsequently, their partner Tapad (their cross-device identity software partner) also uses javascript tags when informing their household and individual linkages.

Ultimately, the iOS14 changes and Cookie retirement will have minimal impact on the current model.

What can you do to ensure your campaigns are as effective as possible?

If you are a planner/buyer of podcasts, ask lots of questions about how the AdTech of your partner performs tracking and attribution!

It is worth mentioning that these changes are likely to have the largest impact on social media ads. Early opt-in rates are currently averaging at 10 per cent.* A tactical move here would be to diversify your media buy and take some of those Facebook dollars and re-allocate them into other mediums, perhaps even into podcast advertising.

If you’d like more detailed information on anything podcast AdTech, please refer to Bryan Barletta’s newsletter “Sounds Profitable” where I source a lot of my own understanding!

If you would like to discuss how to get started in the world of podcasting, please contact me,


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