Publishers should prepare for a cookieless future now, by Narratiive’s Marianna Rideg

By Marianna Rideg, platform solutions lead, Narratiive.

Google’s announcement to push the date of phasing out third-party cookies to 2023 was welcomed by a collective sigh of relief by the digital publishing industry, which has been scrambling to get ready for the future.

But even with an extended timeline, the day will still come when third-party cookies can no longer be used for targeting ads, personalised content, and tracking consumers.

In a study conducted by Google on the world’s top publishers, there was a close to 50% revenue drop on average when third-party cookies were disabled, highlighting how essential it is for publishers to boost their first-party data strategy.1

The eco-system built around third-party cookies makes it possible to personalize ads on websites, and also allows publishers to monetize their properties in exchange for content creation. Hence the upcoming changes could be more threatening to publishers than to other players in the industry.

With the increasing complexity of the data privacy landscape, publishers must be prepared to adapt to the changes in order to serve their audiences and advertisers better. Their role will be critical in reaching customers on the open web, as the data used for planning media buys moves to publisher cohorts, i.e., audiences created directly at the source of inventory rather than by third-party players.

We listed 3 key points publishers should consider going forward.

1 Implement an adequate first-party data strategy by organizing your tech stack

As a publisher, your audience relies on you not only for quality content but also to keep their personal information secure. Advertisers also rely on publishers to assist them in reaching their target markets in the most cost-efficient and successful way possible.

Implementing a suitable first-party data strategy at your organization can help you meet both of these goals while also keeping you competitive with publishers who have already started to use the benefits of this data.

First-party data allows you to understand your audience and helps you with tailoring your products to advertisers in order to enhance revenue in a cost-effective way. The critical first step in leveraging first-party data is categorising it using a robust taxonomy – of interests, brands and other relevant nodes – into which signals can be classified, ensuring you’re speaking the same language as your buyers. Once categorised, first-party data signals can be scored and applied to audience segmentation to drive higher value in your direct deals, PMPs and help with audience development. Additionally, first-party data is a lot more persistent than second- or third-party data.

As a publisher, you can focus on your core business — generating premium and trustworthy content that keeps customers happy and delivers engaged audiences to advertising and sustain value in the open Internet.

There are a number of products on the market today that can assist you with data management.

Customer Journey Orchestrator (CJO): This solution can help your business in reducing your reliance on third-party cookies by collecting first-party data via registration forms. The information gathered by your CJO can be used for more relevant targeting and to increase revenue and subscription rates.

Customer Data Platform (CDP): CDPs can help you segment and target customers at different stages in their lifecycle giving you a single customer view with rich insights.

Data Management Platform (DMP): A DMP is a unified solution for collecting, organizing, and activating audience data from any source. It’s the foundation of data-driven marketing, allowing businesses to get unique insights about their customers.

Revenue Management Platform (RMP): Going further than a DMP, a RMP is a real-time, first-party platform that consolidates revenue & audience analytics, data management and yield operations into a single, compliant solution. Revenue data is not considered by most platforms, adding this data in real-time gives a transformational understanding of both audience and context, enriching both first-party and third-party data at each stage.

Consent Management Platform (CMP): The CMP technology obtains legal consent from users to process their personal data, helps managing and streamlining the consent process and works to improve the user experience and protect consumer privacy.

2 Consider strategic partnerships with other publishers

Implementing an adequate strategy and technology are crucial steps but you might need a bit more to build a robust first-party data foundation. Being able to collaborate with other publishers in the future is also a key to success.

In a first-party data world partnerships will be more important than ever. Without the ability to collect data and profile audiences across their websites, it will be vital for most publishers to collaborate and create shared second-party data should they want to increase the volume of data signals they have on their readers as well as profile more people. Second-party data allows this to happen.

The Ozone Project2 in the UK is a great example of a strategic partnership where advertisers are connected to close to 50 million readers in a brand-safe quality environment.

By pooling their resources to create a digital ad network publishers can scale their audiences and offer advertisers large scale buys across brand-safe areas, shifting ad dollars from the triopoly.

Going a step further in a first-party data world, the goal of these partnerships should also focus on creating better and more data in addition to increased reach by creating and sharing second-party data of the audiences.

When the market is dominated by a few big companies, it’s essential for publishers to start working together to be competitive and stop looking at each other anymore as competition.

3 Stay up to date with the proposed identity solutions

Due to the increasing amount of devices and consumer touchpoints, currently, most businesses are unable to accurately identify their audiences consistently.

Most publishers find it difficult to accurately determine the value of their audience, which results in all readers being treated the same way, while it’s commonly known that personalization increases the bottom line. In a world without third-party cookies, publishers need tools to know who their users are and use this information to increase revenue and reduce churn.

Numerous identity solutions have emerged recently to replace third party cookies. Only time will tell which solution(s) will win out in the end, but with the recent announcement from Google there’s time to build and test these technologies properly.

Stay up to date on news within the ad industry3. Changes happen very quickly and having the latest knowledge will enable your business to make the right choices to increase your revenue.

Publishers have a chance now to take back some power and redefine their presence by shifting advertisers to channels where they can access the audience and insights and provide more context as to who their users are and what they are doing online. That valuable data asset can power their media buys going forward.

A first-party data future is an eventual reality. Publishers who start evaluating their business now, as well as their partners and resellers, and leverage new tech will be very well-positioned for success in the future.


1 Google, “Effects of disabling third-party cookies on publisher revenue”

2 The Ozone Project

3 Some initiatives and communities that provide credible updates: NAI, W3C, IAB, Adexchanger, The Mad Tech Podcast