We’ve reached a point where all of the major browsers have signaled a shift away from third-party cookies, with Google the latest to follow suit stating that cookies won’t be supported past January 2022. The disappearance of third-party cookies represents a great opportunity for publishers to change the way they connect with consumers and redefine the value exchange that powers the free internet. 

Publishers that are able to better articulate the value exchange – i.e., the provision of content or experiences in exchange for a consumer’s permissioned personal information like a phone number or email – will ultimately “win” in a cookieless world. Moreover, publishers ought to prioritize an authentication strategy that enables them to build and prioritize first-party relationships with consumers. These first-party relationships are vital for publishers wishing to achieve business continuity in a cookieless world. And while the importance of an authentication strategy cannot be understated, there remains confusion on how to deploy one effectively.

The Value of Authentication

Many publishers believe their authenticated user numbers aren’t figures to boast about. In a recent Admonsters webinar, when publishers were asked how much of their traffic was authenticated, 42% said it was pretty low, while less than a quarter (20%) said they achieved above 75%. Most publishers, however, tend to be in the 10-25% range in terms of how many authenticated users they have. Yet, even if publishers only have a small percentage of authenticated traffic, it can still be leveraged to create meaningful revenue. When advertisers adopt addressable solutions, programmatic CPMs can be 22% higher than a standard data-driven Chrome CPM and exponentially higher on cookieless inventory from Safari or Firefox.

There are also a lot of other myths around authentication. For example, many publishers often don’t realize that newsletter sign-ups or including an option to download a whitepaper from their site could be leveraged further for authentication.

Some publishers have huge subscriber lists, but are unable to leverage their subscriber lists to drive revenue. Contrastingly, a people-based data connectivity solution makes this traffic addressable, increasing programmatic revenue out of the gate. Furthermore, with newsletter readers representing a publisher’s most active users, they are more likely to increase their engagement with the publication by downloading an app or buying a premium subscription. 

But how do publishers achieve this? The answer is by putting the user at the heart of the strategy.

Providing Value through Authentication

Think about the user and why they come to a publisher’s site. Do they come for the content? Does the site experience match their expectations? Or is there some form of utility the publisher could be providing? Publishers should consider what they can offer users to make them want to log in and share their information.

Utility is something that walled gardens have successfully managed to demonstrate, and in return, users happily login and share detailed information. But while publishers have provided the content and experiences people want, they have been challenged in clearly communicating the value exchange and how it works. The tide is turning, however, and with the cookie crumbling, now is the time for publishers to readdress that balance and put the user back in control, yielding benefits for both parties. 

When publishers invest in building trusted relationships with their audience, it brings them incredible benefits. Both the Economist and FT have proven that it is possible to have a strong authenticated user base and as a result of their strong value exchange, they were able to move this content behind hard content walls that required a paid subscription for access.

Authentication strategies can include loyalty programs such as The Sunday Times Wine Club, which has data going back some 40 years, or The Sun’s £9.50 holiday club, which has been running for more than 20 years. These are beneficial value exchanges for their users and enable the publishers to stitch this first-party data together for actionable insight.  

Additionally, from a utility perspective, social logins offer a streamlined and easy way to build authenticated audiences, and publishers shouldn’t be afraid of experimenting with them, as long as the user is in control.

Finally, if you can think about what your user needs and wants and design experiences accordingly they will willingly provide their information. For example, a sports fan may be more inclined to give permission for a tool that reminds them about the next big game or that offers added content about the teams playing and push notifications ahead of the game. 

As such, refocusing on the people consuming the content and receiving the ads is the key to establishing a fair value exchange: Marketers want to buy on people-based, addressable inventory, and publishers need to make this as easy as possible if they want to command higher CPMs. Doing so requires a deeper relationship with their respective audiences and a privacy-first, data connectivity solution to link those audiences together.

Lastly, don’t see Google’s 2022 announcement as a deadline, change your mindset to see it as a timeline to get this right now, ahead of cookies crumbling. The value exchange is only going to become more important in the march towards better authentication by bringing marketers and publishers closer to each other and individuals, but only if publishers put their audiences at the heart of their addressability strategy.

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