ADM Releases Standards – Where’s The Rest?


After much anticipation the ADM (Association for Downloadable Media) has released two proposed guidelines and standards: Advertisement Unit Standards and Downloadable Measurement Guidelines. Both documents (available here) weigh in at just 3 pages and are open for public comment. If the new media advertising space is important to you I suggest you pay attention, the ADM presumes to speak for you. That said, I have to tell you, I read them both and wondered where was the rest – the important part? Looking at the “Downloadable Measurement Guidelines” I can sum it up in three words “use Apache logs.” We’ve always know that, what a let down.

What the ADM completely avoided (and it appears this is intentional) is the huge elephant standing in the corner of the room: what counts as a listen/view? Does 33% file delivery count for delivery of a pre-roll? 60% for a mid-roll? Is 100% file delivery required to count as a “complete” view/listen? How are automated downloads counted, i.e. what discount metric is used for iTunes subscriptions to determine a consumption metric over delivery? How are multiple requests from a single IP address counted? All of that, the important part, is left up to the company or producer you are dealing with. Put simply, we are exactly in the same spot as before: use your Apache logs.

When I see “standard” and “guidelines” I expect just that but these documents completely miss the mark. I don’t know if they expect the producer community to provide the important part via the comment period or if they will just completely avoid it.

This is a simple leadership issue. There are some smart folks at the helm of the ADM, but I was surprised that they allowed these documents to be released as their first “official” step into the arena. The ADM has been terrific at PR, but that is not their core responsibility, this stuff is. Bottom line, the ADM needs to take a stand, put up with the flack and develop a complete standard. It won’t be friendly, people will have cross words and it might upset some of the “Board of Advisors” and “Committee Chairs” who have proprietary approaches but that is the real work that needs to be done. When it comes time for the heavy lifting – the ADM can’t drop the ball like this.

Now granted, I’m not a member and I didn’t run for the board. When asked, I chose not to, only so many projects I can do at one time. I take this stuff seriously and only agree to participate when I know that I can give something the attention it deserves. Believe me, this stuff is important. I know in some sense I’m being critical when I could have contributed. But to be plain, these documents are open for public comment – I hope they’ll consider mine.

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  1. says

    This is only a starting point. The ADM is a new organization in a new industry. We need your help.

    I challenge you and your readers to get involved and do your part to help build these standards so that we can all communicate with advertisers and speak the same language.

    We have to crawl before we can walk.

    Imagine if you were an advertiser and you were going to create an ad for an online video or an online audio what size would you make that ad so that it could go on every video or audio that you wanted it to go on?

    Please chime in and tell us what size you think these ads should be then we can move on to shooting your elephant.

  2. says

    Keep in mind that these are a starting point. To the committee’s credit, they are going to be re-evaluating these standards every 6 months. Also remember that the ADM is still only about 6 months old, so please be patient.

  3. says

    Hi Michael

    I think it is a real oversimplification to boil-down the proposed download measurement guidelines the way you characterize. Since I know you personally on a business level I know you are not intentionally trying to malign the group or its progress. Thanks also for disclosing that you are not participating in this standard process except through post-commentary, despite the fact that you were always invited to. And you still are.

    What I clearly take away is that you are not satisfied that the guidelines in the way that they address listens. You would like the ADM to establish a firm policy as to what is and is not a valid listen, and create a technical schema that supports that policy.

    I think this perspective assumes that this is an insurmountable problem at top-of-mind within the ad-buying community. Our conversations with the industry do not appear to bear this thinking out. The clear message we heard, was that buyers need to understand what measurement processes are being used today in our industry, as opposed to what methods should be used and pushed into the industry.

    Buyers today want to understand the measurement landscape. Currently, on average, they really don’t. So ADM proposed guidelines that lay-out the spectrum of measurement into two large buckets: analysis of files from native servers, and those from third party servers.

    The best analogy I can think of, is that buyers are asking “how does the engine work” rather than what I think you are looking to have ADM push, which is “what kind of engine should we all install.”

    ADM serves to facilitate higher, scalable transactions for downloadable media, with an emphasis on the ad-supported model. We do not think it is appropriate at this point in time, to leapfrog over the important education component within our industry, and unnecessarily disenfranchise members who have legitimate technical reasons for handling download counts the way they choose.

    If a buyer can understand the mechanics, and then ask a provider or publisher how those counts occur in their specific use-case, this arms the buyer with the information needed to make a confident buying decision. The buyer would adjust upwards or downwards to address the general issue of data “quality.” We have some members who only publish full verified downloads, this advanced standard is not only applicable in the standards schema, it is made more evident by virtue of the existing proposed standards.

    Our proposed approach does not shoe-horn parties into one method over another, but the end approach is that the market (not the technical provider) will determine what is, among the valid choices, the preferred listen metrics. And trust me we are paying attention very carefully to the online advertising industry’s needs as they relate to our initiatives.

    If our goal was to enhance the total amount of ad-supported transactions, why would we force toward a position that results in less (but theoretically preferred) transactions?

    What counts as a listen is extremely important to the industry. For example we can all agree that unfiltered IP counts is a non-starter, that is why ADM does not recommend unfiltered IP counts. But Michael, percentage of downloads equating to a delivery of pre-roll is an exotic detail compared to where buyers are currently understanding our market. You may dwell on these details as any responsible RSS media data provider should, but I can assure you they are not the issues triggering the average buyer. We are very conscious about making sure the industry understands us first, that this is far more important and effective than launching unnecessarily polarizing technical policies.

    Best regards
    Chris MacDonald
    Association for Downloadable Media (ADM)