By Michael Silberman, SVP of Strategy
Regulations like GDPR and CCPA and Google’s joining with Apple and Mozilla to end third-party cookies have ushered us into a new era of consent-based personalization. Permission is now second only to cash as a valuable ask from users, and that’s a good thing for publishers. The currency of consent is the starting point for publishers to properly track users, using their direct relationships to build better customer experiences over time as third-party cookies fade away.
Identity is value
So how is the end of third-party cookies good for publishers? It’s true there’s risk in this transition. Without those cookies and the associated audience data, there could be a major drop in publisher programmatic ad revenue. A Google study back in 2019 forecasted an average programmatic revenue decline of 52%. That would be a big hit for publishers’ businesses. But chances are that money won’t disappear; instead it will shift to sellers who can provide quality context, quality first-party data or ideally both—which media companies are perfectly positioned to provide. And the truth is, third-party data was never accurate data. Just look at your own profile tracked in Twitter or by the behavioral ad consortium and you can see how far off third-party data can be.
Implicit first-party data and explicit zero-party data, on the other hand, is richer and fleshes out a more accurate, detailed picture of users, increasing the value of your audience. Zero-party data in particular typically comes with specific consent that travels with users. Connecting with known users and growing your pool of them has clear value over anonymous, drive-by audiences:
- Known users can be targeted with emails, personalized content and appropriate engagement and conversion messages
- Zero-party data from known users can be extrapolated to larger audiences via lookalike modeling
- Known users command higher CPMs, a gap that will only grow once third-party cookies disappear
Data self-sufficiency is key
Collecting this data starts with strong user relationships and trust. You can’t expect immediate signups from first-time visitors who might read a single article and then bounce. Media companies need to develop active, brand-loyal audiences—users who are primed and willing to provide consent and data. The simplest first step is to require registration, which is becoming more and more common on premium publisher sites, with many sites asking users to register to read more than a single article. Registration most often requires an email address at a minimum, though it’s possible to ask for more information—name, birth date and gender are common for consumer websites. Occupation and job title are often asked on business-oriented sites.
But it’s wise to limit the information you collect at first. Requiring users to fill out a long form depresses conversion rate, and simply capturing an email address is worthwhile. But once a user is registered, you can encourage them to fill out a profile and add data over time. Creating a clear value exchange—the benefit the user will get for adding that specific data—increases conversion rate. Being transparent about how that data will be used to benefit the business, and collecting explicit consent, is essential. As with a subscription business, a best practice is to understand users’ jobs to be done, create appropriate content or site features, then associate those features with data collection at the right moment in the customer journey.
Loyalty informs growth
Engendering trust and architecting the right value exchange for users’ data takes creating compelling reasons for them to register, log in and provide this information. Offers to incentivize users include premium content, personalized recommendations or unlocking additional functionality on your site. Improving the visibility and actionability of these offers is critical to growing and retaining the known audience you need to thrive in the post-third-party cookie world.
While permission can be hard won, it’s the foundation for this next era of personalization and one that you should prioritize to start harnessing the power of your own data and maintaining more loyal user relationships than ever before.