Publishers & First-Party Data: Now & Next

Publisher data

In this feature article, Euronews’ Sophie Toth (programmatic and ad tech lead) and Duc Nguyen (consultant), in consultation with lawyer and ID-WARD CEO Dr. Mattia Fosci, discuss the importance of effective management and activation of publisher first-party data. Featuring additional insight from Ben Chivers, managing director, Silverbullet; and Morika Georgieva, customer success lead, EMEA, Permutive.

How can publishers bolster their first-party assets, particularly if they do not have access to logged-in user data?

It is important to keep the three key topics in mind: relevancy, engagement, adaptability.

Publishers should look to repurpose their contents for both organic and paid channels to drive user engagement across their sites. Content amplification and organic data sharing is essential for audiences to find relevant and engaging content in a privacy first eco-system.

A strong data strategy is also fundamental for data driven publishers to capture, analyse and leverage their first party data. Data teams can then utilise this data to segment and categorise users into cohorts to enable meaningful user targeting capabilities, by identifying the publishers’ core audiences. First party data is the building block of future advertising, but alone it is not competitive with walled gardens’ data pool. To make publishers’ data more attractive with additional technologies they could further enrich and extend their audiences such as: contextual intelligence , viewability and zero party data tools are some examples of how first party data can be further enriched.

How critical are publisher first-party data assets for brand and agency counterparts in navigating privacy-driven ecosystem changes?

They are extremely critical.

If we imagine the future without third-party cookies on Google devices we should take a look at what Apple did, but of course these giant platforms are less vulnerable than individual publishers. Why? The answer is simple: They have a much richer and broader first party data and therefore first-party audiences.

Having said this, publishers have been losing monetisation opportunities with highly valuable Apple audiences. They should definitely start exploring industry intermediary technologies such as data clean rooms for enabling brands to share and target their audiences overlaying publishers first-party data sets in an anonymised privacy-first way.

How can publishers effectively manage their first-party data? Are wholesale changes required to their data architectures?

Most of the DMPs are first- and third-party cookie reliant. After sunsetting third-party cookies on Chrome, these platforms need to adapt to the new norm and work with ID providers as a need to explore next-generation alternative solutions which empower publishers in their data strategy, and work together on first-party audience enrichment combining with other parties’ anonymised data.

It is important to highlight, meanwhile, publishers gave away their IDs in the “old world” . Now, this is an opportunity for them in the “new world” to partner with suitable technologies and selectively share information that can enrich other publishers' inventory in exchange for the same benefit. The other option is to extend their audiences on other sites (off domain), but more importantly in whichever process they would take they will remain in control over their main asset and prices.

As a result, customer data platforms (CDPs) and ID-based solutions allow publishers to build a unified profile of their users, not only to target users off site, but to offer a personalised experience to their users. In the near future, only privacy compliant second-generation ID solutions, which can be integrated easily with other industry technologies, will survive. This will definitely lead to a shrinking number of players in the market. In short, audience engagement and monetisation should go hand in hand.

Ben Chivers, managing director, Silverbullet, adds, “The death of the third-party cookie is providing publishers the freedom to shift their attention towards a first-party ecosystem rooted in audience engagement. This transfer to an advertising paradigm based on real identity is a huge opportunity for publishers.

“An easy way to think about it is, a publisher’s product is their content. If publishers are not selling access to this content - through subscriptions - then advertising is the only way to drive revenue. The smart application of first-party data into the publisher’s advertising value chain will increase the investment they gain per ad, and so arguably, guiding consumers to login is only going to make the publisher more money. And what’s more, publishers adopting this model are able to show a true value exchange for the consumer, allowing access to exclusive content, offering discounts or competitions, personalising the content and more often than not, limiting the number of ads shown.

“However, not every publisher will choose this route, and many will opt to show content for free without asking users to login, which is great for mass marketing.

“Whichever route a publisher takes, the key is to ensure they have a strategy built surrounding their data and technology architecture, to ensure the flow and management of this data is working correctly. For instance, if a publisher gains access to first-party data, or they are looking to increase the amount of first-party data, technology such as a CDP (Customer Data Platform) should be considered. In the same instance, if personalisation is key to the publisher’s strategy in keeping consumers engaged, a personalisation and recommendation tool would be useful.

Each publisher use case will vary depending on their individual goals, and so this is not a case of one size fits all. However, identifying a bespoke strategy that is going to drive the most value for the publisher and their consumers is vital as we step into a privacy-first, post-cookie era. “

How can publishers work with other industry constituents to activate and effectively monetise their first-party data?

They can partner with different ID solutions, establish publisher alliances, or use publisher provided ID solutions which can then be fed into their CDP while keeping current regulations in place. Portability is a sensitive area and needs to be consulted with lawyers specialised in data regulation. The retargeting would be limited and only would work with CDP and traditional ID solutions. Although new generation ID solutions will still use publishers’ data on a cross-domain basis, they will do it on a segment level.

Some publishers, who traditionally use logged-in technologies and collect consent for this data, will be able to establish a strong deterministic data pool and then, based on these, their data team could build lookalike models, but this approach doesn't fit all cases. On the other hand, collecting zero-party data could also help publishers to shape their strategy and offer. Most importantly, CMPs and communicating the right value exchange with the audience is the bread and butter of all these technologies above.

Morika Georgieva, Customer Success Lead, EMEA at Permutive, adds, “Privacy is causing seismic shifts to the way media is bought and sold. To succeed in a privacy-first digital advertising ecosystem, here are three things that publishers and advertisers need to consider to be immune to the disruption of global privacy regulation and browser changes — first-party data, direct relationships and a privacy-first infrastructure for digital advertising.

“In a world where third-party data is disappearing, first-party data is the new media currency. But publishers and advertisers need the right technology to surface, connect and action their first-party data. Publishers need to understand all sources of their first-party data, authenticated and unauthenticated, to build relevant audiences. For advertisers, it’s about auditing the first-party data they have available and understanding how to leverage it, and discovering the publisher audiences that drive value.

“To do this, publishers and advertisers will be required to form closer relationships, where ad tech acts as an enabler, not an intermediary, and where publishers play a critical educational role. Publishers, such as Business Insider, Future plc, and Vox Media, have built businesses from their first-party data, launching platforms that package up their consented audiences to advertisers, offering an innovative privacy-compliant solution to third-party data deprecation. It’s why publishers are well-placed to be strategic advisors to advertisers and their agencies as they discover and test publisher audiences and launch first-party data campaigns.

“To seize the opportunities of privacy-first digital advertising, the industry will need to rebuild on a stable and sustainable foundation — a privacy-first infrastructure without workarounds. This will enable publishers and advertisers to connect safely at a global scale, where no data is leaked, personalised advertising at scale is possible for first-party data owners, and advertising can still thrive.”

How will the privacy-first era redefine the relationships between publishers and other industry constituents?

There are four key areas:

1 - Collaboration - building unified profiles and segment definitions. Monitor and analyse user preferences, create cohorts of users. The key here is scalability. Now, publishers should use their one in the lifetime opportunity and their focus should move towards collaboration rather than competition. We can take an example from how big banks did it and achieved success out of it.

2 - Change of mindset, then simple ways of extracting as much as value as possible from aggregate data, and a critical mass that moves the needle in favour of publishers - making the market effectively supply-led. Publishers need a vision!

3 - Sharing data and information using data hubs/technologies.

4 - Privacy- and user-first ecosystem - Ultimately creating a healthy post-cookie environment, where marketers have standards and clear value exchange for their audiences and build the bridge between supply and demand with relevant well performing activations. This must happen in a privacy-first and user-centered way, where publishers will work more closely with demand and make their products based on their needs.

This is no longer a supply vs demand issue, it is a customer- first issue.