How Publishers Can Boost Revenue In The Pro-privacy Revolution

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On the first day of this new decade a seismic piece of legislation came in to force: the California Consumer Protection Act.

The state-level law follows less than two years after the European Union’s own privacy push (GDPR). With federal and other privacy legislations movements becoming commonplace the world over, a paradigm shift is no longer debated or uncertain, but assured.

This, doubly so, with the world’s biggest browsers pitching themselves as consumer champions, promising to restrict, remove and block the data that websites can use to track users across the web.

Third-party tracking cookies are rapidly losing their worth – and beleaguered publishers have been amongst the worst hit, with many reporting immediate revenue downturns after GDPR was implemented in April 2018.

Subsequent releases by Apple of its Intelligent Tracking Prevention (now at ITP 2.3) and Mozilla Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection, both of which block third party cookies by default, mean a publisher can see yet even less of their audience on the web: around half of the web (and growing) is effectively hidden from them.

This means that advertising built on third-party cookies no longer function across great swathes of the internet – the data can’t be connected, users can’t be identified and ads can’t be optimised.

So far, so bad, but what if the cookie’s demise turned out to be publishing’s salvation?

Historically, the market for third-party data has left publishers short-changed – already at an apparent disadvantage and unable to drive real revenue from their own data as third parties make it widely available across the web.

By switching to a strategy focused on first-party data, a publisher is able to leverage its unique and valuable audiences in deeper and more nuanced ways for advertisers. And all in a privacy-compliant way.

For advertisers and their agencies, such an approach is more tailored and targeted: they can reach the audiences they really want in the environments best suited to do so – more brand safe and transparent than the platforms that hoover up almost all of the global digital ad revenues.

Savvy advertisers and agencies are increasingly looking for value-added opportunities over the convenience of commoditization that technologies such as programmatic currently offer; about the longtail over short-term thinking alone.

So how can publishers take control of their future and monetise their first-party data in a privacy compliant way? Here are seven tips for success:

The industry is being forced to change – so evolve to take advantage

Anti-tracking browsers are impacting revenue and attribution, meaning that agencies are changing their buying habits. Moving spend away from anti-tracking environments (40% of the web) is only postponing the inevitable, so savvy publishers should think ahead of the curve. First-party data is the new currency and publishers can benefit by focusing on building direct relationships with agencies wherever possible.

Make the most of your quality consented data

Regulations like  GDPR means consented data is important to buyers, who are worried about hefty fines from the likes of the UK Information Commissioner’s Office. CCPA has induce the same worries in the US. As the source of quality consented data publishers should take advantage of legislation by leveraging the quality and privacy compliant benefits of it, compared to third-party data.

Educate your sales team on your biggest differentiator – your unique data

Publishers have everything to gain from the cookie crumbling. Third-party data has put publishers at a disadvantage and diminished differentiation, while established buyer relationships with third-party data providers has weakened the publisher bond. Publishers must prepare sales teams to feel confident in educating buyers on the increasing challenges  with third-party data, and the benefits of first-party data.

Justify your direct relationships – and the advertiser benefits they bring

Moving from open to private marketplaces is becoming a common practice to ensure better quality data and targeting. However, many buyers are very tied to the open marketplace and there remain issues around cost and trust in PMPs – so publishers must prove the benefits above and beyond curated data on the OMP. Publishers need visibility of potential revenue streams, bid pricing and buying patterns in order to encourage better pricing for open inventory — or identify and prioritise communication with buyers who might benefit more from a direct or private partnership.

Know your audiences inside out

Publishers should focus on building a foundation with the right stakeholders within buyer organisations by communicating differentiating nuances in data. Transparency into how buyers are buying, insight into KPIs, and learnings about buyer strategies help publishers work out how to align — a good niche fit can bring amazing value. To do this, publishers must also know their audiences in rich detail, so they can then communicate clear, transparent descriptions of each audience to buyers through confident sales teams.

Be clearer about data quality – show what you’re selling, in detail

Publishers should prepare for questions about how audiences have been created and provide as much transparency as possible to help buyers understand choices and offerings. Buyers can hold preferences for demographic data, finding it more objective. To encourage trust in interest and intent data, publishers must be open about the composition of these segments and reassure buyers of quality and relevance. A good place to start is by building out first-party data segments that can scale and are transparent in terms of composition.

Choose technology that is fit for purpose

 Data management platforms and tools can make it harder for publishers to target users and harness their first-party data, and hard to respond to RFPs. Publishers need the technological means to activate and analyze their own first-party data in real-time. They should seek out tools that will guarantee audience scale, allow real-time activation of all types of data, and allow quick, easy extraction of the insights buyers want to see – without having to rely on cookies. Such tools should provide clarity on the source and quality of data in datasets, and visibility of performance and revenues to allow for optimisation.

Publishers are ideally placed to help shape the pro-privacy revolution by leveraging the relationships they have with their readers to advertisers wanting to reach them, allowing them to offer more relevant content in more contextually relevant ways.

It requires a fundamental reimagining of their very business models and the tools, techniques and technology they choose to use, but in doing so they can boost data-driven revenues and regain their rightful prominence in an advertising ecosystem that has hitherto failed them.



Kristy Schafer

Kristy Schafer

Kristy leads Permutive’s fast growing North America business working with the region’s leading publishers including BuzzFeed, Penske, Bell Media, Business Insider and Penske to help them better understand and monetize their audiences. Prior to joining Permutive she held a number of successful roles at companies including Wildfire, acquired by Google, where she built the New York office from the ground up.


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