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Getting to Know Your Readers in the Age of Privacy

By Ben Lang

Earlier this year, Google announced that it was going to “phase out” third-party cookies over the next two years to boost users’ privacy. “Users are demanding greater privacy — including transparency, choice, and control over how their data is used — and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands.”

This marked a significant change for the advertising industry that relied on the ability to track users across the web. Firefox and Safari had already blocked third-party cookies, but the announcement from Google, which makes up 65% of the web browser market, officially declared the third-party cookie dead.

For publishers, these changes present perhaps the most significant opportunity in decades. Publishers’ first-party data and their direct relationships with their audiences have become even more valuable than before. This makes knowing and understanding how your audience behaves on-site, essential. Here are our tips for getting to know your readers and how to make the most of your direct connection with your audience.

Register Your Users 

Converting anonymous readers into registered users is a vital part of getting to know your users. Once a user creates an account on your site, it’s instrumental in helping you shape and personalize your audience’s experience. A unique and personalized experience allows you to build value for registered users that other anonymous users would not get. It also helps you extract valuable information that will put you in a better position with advertisers. 

Talk with Your Readers

For users that haven’t completed registration, or even if they have, the most straightforward way to understand your users better is to open up a direct line of communication. The more you communicate with your readers, the more they will make a habit of reading and engaging with your stories — the more you can learn about them. This means asking them questions directly, responding to their comments and questions on your stories. If you are unsure of how to start the conversation, check out our guide to talking with your readers

Use Engagement Metrics Tools 

Dive into your engagement metrics tools to understand more about how your users behave on your site. When you increase ways for your audience to interact with your content, it also provides you with more data points to look at and inform your strategy. You can analyze what your users like, dislike, comment on, or read. These insights and real-time feedback can help inform your editorial decisions.

Don’t Forget About Email 

Email allows you to encourage your audience to come back to your site and stay up to date with your latest content. Through email, you can also understand what your registered users like or don’t like depending on what sampling of stories they engage with the most. 

Overall, by simply providing your readers with various ways to interact with your content, you gain powerful first-party data insights that can help you grow your business — all while keeping users’ privacy intact. 

In journalism, building trust with your readers is incredibly important. We believe one of the roles of online publishers is to uphold freedom of information and debate for society as a whole — therefore readers’ trust is fundamental. In 2019, 85% of Americans said they are at least “a little concerned” about how much personal information social media sites know about them. It is critical that readers don’t feel this way about the media sites they visit. Transparency about your users’ data and allowing them to opt-in to share information lets you continue to build trust with your audience. While this shift from away from third-party data is a big one, it truly provides an opportunity for you to be in command of your data and your audience.

Let’s have a conversation.

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