What is Dalvik and how does it affect me?

There has been a lot of techy talk in podcasting land over the past week about “Dalvik”, and some podcasting hosts announcing that they are not recognising some downloads. It’s not the easiest to understand how this affects you as a podcaster or podcast advertiser so we wanted to give you a step by step guide on what it is all about.

Podcast Listening

We all listen to our podcasts using different podcast players; the big hitters are Apple Podcasts and Spotify, but there are many more out there.

One of those alternatives is a content aggregator from Samsung called “Samsung Free”. It groups together interesting videos, tv, news and podcasts on the Android home screen of newer Samsung phones. It uses a standard piece of Android software called Dalvik to download audio like podcasts. Other Android phones and software (such as Google Pixel) also use Dalvik.

When we look at podcaster stats and see where the listener traffic to podcasts have come from, there has always been traffic from Dalvik based players, but it’s never accounted for much of the audience.

What changed with Dalvik in November?

Here are the Dalvik downloads for the Sport Social podcast network in November:

From November 1st to November 18th, Dalvik downloads on the Sport Social Podcast Network accounted for 2% of the network downloads. From the 25th to the 29th, that rose to 44%.

On the around 19th of November, the Samsung Free app was updated by Samsung.  In the new update, the Listen tab opened a player automatically. If not stopped within three seconds, the player would auto-play segments of featured podcast episodes and it also pre-downloaded other episodes for instant play. This resulted in a lot of downloads that weren’t initialised by listeners or where the pre-downloads never played.

Here is part of a chart that shows all the devices that have used Dalvik on the Sport Social Podcast Network. All the “SM” device codes are different Samsung phone models, which accounts for the bulk of the Dalvik downloads, but you can see a small number attributed to other players, like a Google Pixel phone.

How does the Auto play feature in Samsung Free affect download numbers?

All good podcast hosts, including Megaphone which we use for the Sport Social Podcast Network, are IAB certified – an external 3rd party who set standards on what is counted as a download and an impression of an advert.

Normally, this auto-play feature In Samsung Free wouldn’t be a problem; other podcasting apps have similar features, downloading a smaller amount of the podcast e.g. 15 or 30 seconds.

IABv2 standards say that a download is counted if 60 seconds of audio is consumed by a unique listener within 24 hours. If a listener was just flicking through podcasts that auto-played, hearing just a few seconds of each, then these downloads would be automatically filtered out of any IABv2 podcasting hosts data.

As the Samsung Free app was downloading for more than 90 seconds, this “passed’ the IABv2 criteria and shows as a certified download on many posting hosts. This also means that there are advertiser impressions that are also passing the IABv2 criteria as being delivered, but they haven’t been heard by human ears.

How is the podcast industry reacting to the Dalvik issue?

Some podcasting hosts and podcast tracking companies have taken the decision to discount all of the Dalvik downloads for the month – regardless of the type of device that is downloading the podcast – including the downloads from legitimate Dalvik sources, such as the Google Pixel phones we see on our data.

Megaphone are waiting for IAB guidance before making any decisions and the Dalvik downloads are currently (12th Dec) still showing in the download figures for the podcasts that they host.

What are Voiceworks doing about the Dalvik issue?

We at Sport Social have decided to identify the Dalvik downloads and impressions delivered on the 19th of November when the app was launched and then between the 25th and the 30th of December when we can see the bulk of the downloads. From these, the downloads and impressions that were delivered on only Samsung devices will be discounted.

This is the fairest way available to us to adjust for what we know hasn’t been listened to, but keep in as many downloads and impressions from other devices and on other dates where the Samsung auto-play feature wasn’t having an impact.

Some of our podcasters on the Sport Social Podcast network might see a different number of downloads on their statements for November 2022 compared to what they see on Megaphone – the Dalvik download issue hasn’t affected all our titles.

Our advertising clients may have seen that we have over delivered on impressions and/or extended campaigns to make up for the impressions that were affected by the Dalvik downloads.

Click here to listen to Andrea discuss the Dalvik issue on our podcast.