How publishers’ first-party data strategies are maturing

Via Unsplash

The end of third-party cookies is on the horizon and pressure on protecting consumer privacy is mounting. A number of publishers are already seeing success with their first-party data strategies. 

At a glance:
  • UK news publisher The Telegraph launched a suite of first-party advertising solutions called ‘Telegraph 1’ as part of a reader-first, privacy-compliant strategy.
  • The Wall Street Journal has its own new ad product called ‘Trust Direct’, which allows clients like Delotte to self-publish adverts quickly.
  • The New York Times is using contextual data to bolster its own ad offerings, moving beyond basic sections and keyword tagging.
Background check:

Google’s decision at the start of 2020 to join Firefox and Safari in phasing out third-party cookies has pushed publishers and advertisers to find alternatives. While some are working on trust tokens and conversion measurement, publishers are banking on their direct relationship with readers to add value.

Let’s go deeper:

The Telegraph has been planning for a world without third-party cookies for a few years. The biggest push for them was Apple’s launch of the latest iteration of its Intelligent Tracking Prevention Feature (ITP 2.3) in late 2019.

  • Senior Director of Innovation, Karen Eccles, said that announcements from Google and Apple had actually prompted a sense of relief. It had given both the publisher and their partners a time frame to plan around.
  • The publisher also has a “Metrics that Matter” campaign designed to help encourage and educate advertisers and internal teams on the new measures.
  • Telegraph 1 had already driven a 136% increase in targetable inventory with their new cookie-free and privacy-compliant solution.

The Wall Street Journal

Their digital ad business has helped them gain momentum, reporting to Digiday that they’ve seen growth for the last four out of six quarters. 

  • The publisher has focused on bolstering its advertising offering as a whole with high-touch custom solutions through virtual events. Branded content, as well as data-driven programmatic, has also been driving change.
  • Their private marketplace revenue has grown 50% in the last year. This is a result of a multi-year focus and investment in first-party data collection and ad tech.
  • The WSJ has also focused on talent, removing traditional sales roles but adding programmatic and content creation specialists.
The New York Times

The publisher already had plans to move away from third-party cookies. These were accelerated by the severe effects of the pandemic.

  • “It ripped the Band-Aid on some hard decisions”, The Times’ SVP of Ad Innovation Allison Murphy said. “It has accelerated us moving into the ad business that we want to be in.”
  • The Times took the decision to take open programmatic ads out of their app. Ads there were unappealing and caused technical delays. The move had some revenue impact, but the growth of their subscription business gave the teams room to make changes.
  • In 2018, the publisher started working on a contextual data strategy. This involved the data science team creating contextual classifications of content such as the emotional tenor of a story, topic targeting, and more.

The bottom line: It’s never too late to start on a first-party data strategy, whether the decision is driven by privacy, platforms, or the pandemic.

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