Does your publication have an identity crisis? Your brand may be solid and your value proposition clear. But, for media owners that depend on advertising, the means of identifying and reaching audiences on behalf of advertisers is now in turmoil.


Identifiers in flux

Traditionally, ad targeting works by matching third-party cookies between publishers, ad tech platforms, and advertisers.  But, sparked by Europe’s GDPR privacy legislation and increasing consumer awareness, the use of such opaque mechanisms is crumbling.

Alongside the upcoming deprecation of third-party cookies, Apple implemented its AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework. This framework requires publishers to request permission to collect a user’s app data for tracking and accessing device identifiers, such as the IDFA. 

The consequence for publishers? In a world where identifying and reaching audiences is facing challenges outside of walled gardens, the perceived value of advertising on the open web is now in question. Whilst some publishers have pivoted to paid subscriptions, those reliant solely on ad-supported models for revenue have a problem.


Authentication rising

The solution does not lie in abandoning the model but rather, in re-tooling the way in which identity is both obtained and leveraged in publisher ad operations. Taking a page out of the premium publisher playbook, many have decided to replicate a reliable performance model by building a similar ecosystem based on authentications to enable people-based marketing capabilities.  

In people-based marketing, publishers don’t just offer advertisers their best guess at a visitor. Instead, they actively gather accurate data, with authentication provided voluntarily by their own audience and by incentivising users to create individual accounts. 

When visitors sign in, or authenticate, using email addresses or social logins, for example, publishers can build a first-party data asset that can enable the data-driven, people-based capabilities that advertisers seek.

In fact, authenticated first-party user data is a big upgrade on historic methods. While cookies work on a per-device basis, resulting in data dark spots, a user account login transports across devices and channels. Furthermore, it supports frequency-capping of ad exposures across channels – the kind of capability that allows publishers to sell inventory at higher yields than previously and advertisers to spend more efficiently. In fact, a new Forrester Consulting Total Economic Impact (TEI) study, commissioned by LiveRamp, found that advertisers who use LiveRamp’s authenticated solution in place of third-party cookies can achieve 343% ROI over three years, with payback within only six months of the initial investment.

It is easy to see why publishers – most recently, Microsoft Advertising, Dennis Publishing, IDG, Gumtree and Motors.co.uk – are increasingly embracing authentication.


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How it works

Implementing a people-based marketing approach depends on two things – first, a strategy for attracting authenticated, logged-in users and, second, technology to facilitate those relationships.

LiveRamp’s own Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS), which is used by more than 400 publishers worldwide, connects authenticated publisher inventory with marketer demand. And by authenticating themselves, this technology offers individuals a way to maintain control over the use of their data – something which had been a challenge with cookies. Every top DSP and SSP has adopted this solution, making it easy for marketers to reach high-value audiences without cookies or device identifiers and publishers to increase ad revenue, maximise addressability, and monetise inventory more effectively – all without cookies or other device identifiers.


Top tactics

So, how exactly can publishers gain these user sign-ups? The key is a strong value exchange – publishers must provide an engaging, premium experience – so consider these tactics:

  • Email newsletters: Audiences continue to value email as a channel. With expert writers, publishers are well placed to find a place in readers’ inboxes.
  • Product features: Create differentiation by granting authenticated users access to features such as story-commenting privileges.
  • Personalisation: If your publication is broad-based, allow signed-up users to personalise – for instance, by specifying a local-news region.
  • Offers: Prizes, discounts, or rewards on selected partner products may be the motivator readers need to become subscribers.
  • Utility services: Go beyond content alone, by presenting tools. For instance, sports publications can give users the ability to follow their specific team or play in a fantasy league, niche vertical publishers can send consumers new-product notifications in their category and publishers can offer things like emoji packs and achievements for forum participation.

To make these offers visible, make them obvious on your page. Make sign-up quick and easy for new users by enabling account creation using existing social network accounts.


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The future is bright

The ending of traditional digital ad identifiers may seem like turmoil – but it carries with it enormous potential for improvement. Users, whose trust in advertising has been eroded over time, will be guaranteed transparency, control and choice over how their ad data is really used.

After years of being displaced and disintermediated from their relationships with readers and advertisers alike, publishers are being put back in the driving seat. And advertisers will see a smoother path to cross-channel executions and measurement as addressable inventory transcends device limitations.

That sounds like something I’d sign up for.

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