Publishers build foundations for first-party data networks

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Over the last couple of years, publishers’ product and revenue teams have been working to develop their own first-party data alternative to cookies. With Google effectively killing off the third-party cookie in 2022, the search to find a replacement identity resolution system is likely to heat up.

The takeaways:
  • To bolster its first-party data position, Hearst has launched a single sign-in system, known as Mylo, which will work across any site that integrates it. A user who is signed in to read content on Esquire’s website, for example, would not need to log in separately to access content on Cosmopolitan.
  • Mylo is operated by Hearst subsidiary CDS Global. The subsidiary manages 200 million customer relationships for more than 1,000 total organizations worldwide and has been promoting Mylo to independent publishers.
Publishing’s first-party future
  • With six million subscribers, the New York Times holds a great deal of data on its audience. In June last year it launched a first-party data program for direct-sold ads using an in-house solution that controls data usage and audience targeting.
  • Vox Media launched its own first-party data platform, Forte, at the end of 2019. The company, serving about 125 million visitors a month across its 13 properties, expects to deliver the majority of its ad impressions this year from first rather than third-party data.
  • The Telegraph’s first-party data advertising solutions, Telegraph1,  are designed to support a “reader-first”, privacy-compliant future. The strategy is to protect the paper’s subscription success while giving advertisers ad opportunities with an increasingly engaged audience.

What about scale? With direct reader relationships at the core of what they do, publishers are in a strong position to take advantage of the death of the 3rd-party cookie. But there is one potential problem, particularly for smaller publications – DIY data solutions can lack scale.

  • The data held by individual publishers, even organisations like Hearst, can’t compare to the scale of data held by the biggest 3rd-party data networks. Publisher alliances may be the future for digital advertising.
  • Through alliances media owners can aggregate audience segments and enrich the data held. Broad publisher participation would also remove the need for advertisers to set up and manage campaigns with multiple media houses.
  • Publishers compete for audience and advertiser attention, and it may be a challenge to get potential competitors to give up valuable audience insight. But collaboration may be the only way to achieve scale and deal with rising privacy concerns and head off the threat of regulation.
What about Mylo?

The combination of audience data from Hearst and CDS Global’s client base creates a strong foundation for an identity solution that could help publishers head off privacy concerns and generate revenue beyond the disappearance of third-party cookies.

Without third-party cookies, authenticated web audiences will become very valuable, but it is still unclear what ID standards the industry will settle on. For now, Hearst’ Mylo project should probably be seen in the context of delivering a more convenient user experience, saving readers from multiple log-ins; reader satisfaction is a strong foundation for revenue.

The last word: If publishers can put aside their suspicion of taking on proprietary software developed by one-time competitors, and get on board with broader industry plays, there is strong potential to develop a powerful advertising platform based on first-party data aggregated across multiple audiences.

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