When third-party cookies on Chrome come to an end in 2022, advertisers will lose access to a huge amount of the data they rely on to serve consumers with relevant ads online.
They urgently need new ways to understand and target individual consumers — and it looks like first-party data will come to the rescue. (A quick primer: First-party data is data collected by individual domain owners about user activity across their own site, and is typically used to optimize the user experience.)
That creates a huge opportunity for publishers — especially publishers who operate large sites that attract thousands of users each day. Data about who those visitors are and what kind of content they consume has huge value for advertisers, and we’re already starting to see publishers developing new commercial models based on first-party data they collect.
First-party data can help to reclaim audience relationships
The best first-party data comes from users who can be understood as individuals, rather than fleeting visitors whose real-world identity is unknown. When you know exactly who your visitor is, you can serve them highly relevant content and ads, driving up revenues.
That creates a big incentive for publishers to convert casual readers into registered users. And that presents another intriguing opportunity: to start building a community of readers who interact with the content on the publisher’s site itself, rather than on social platforms.
It’s a chance to reclaim audience relationships, in other words, and build an engaged community that makes people want to participate and come back.
And it gets better. The more people register and interact with the content, the more the publisher learns about what they like and don’t like. That can inform editorial strategy, so readers get more content they like, which keeps them on site for longer and drives more participation in discussions.
In turn, that produces richer insights into their lives, thoughts, and feelings, which is just the kind of data that cookie-deprived advertisers need in order to deliver relevant ads.
An engaged audience is more willing to share personal information
The virtuous cycle doesn’t even end there. According to Jay Gloglovsky, Executive Director of Revenue Analytics and Operations at the New York Times, when readers feel they’re part of a community, they’re happy to share more personal information.
“Our readers want to tell us about themselves,” he told a roundtable hosted by Publicis Media. “Readers who subscribe and register are highly engaged and come back frequently. And the information they’re sharing is only going to be more accurate — and ultimately result in better campaigns for our advertisers.”
The caveat is that audiences are only happy to share personal information when they trust the publisher will use it in ways that will benefit the reader. There’s a fine balance to be struck between respecting user privacy, creating personalized content offers, and serving relevant ads — but there are significant rewards for publishers who can get it right.
Some good advice comes from Karen Eccles, Senior Director of Commercial Innovation at The Telegraph. “We’ve flipped from being an advertising-first business to a business that puts our readers at the heart of everything we do,” she told What’s New In Publishing. “If we’re doing anything because it’s convenient for our advertising teams, but it’s not the best possible experience for the audience, we have to go back to the drawing board.”
Better audience engagement starts with signing up registered users
With the demise of third-party cookies just around the corner, publishers should start preparing for the first-party data shift now.
For many, a good first step is to start converting casual visitors to registered users — and that’s where OpenWebOS Identity and OpenWebOS Experience can help. They give publishers a set of tools to inspire casual readers to sign up as community members — and start providing granular insights into who they are, what they do on the site, and what they’re interested in.
Once users are signed up, they tend to stick around for longer and participate more in discussions. With OpenWebOS as the conversation and moderation platform, online comments can become a rich source of first-party data that enables publishers to:
Optimize editorial strategy: Knowing what kind of content readers value means the publisher can create more of it, spurring readers to return more often and stay for longer.
Deepen audience relationships: First-party data enables publishers to intelligently personalize content for individual readers, delivering value that drives reader loyalty.
Attract even more engaged users: When casual visitors see quality conversations taking place in the community, they’re more likely to sign up to participate.
Align advertisers with audiences: With the appropriate consents in place, first-party data can be used to tailor ads to relevant individuals.
With first-party data, think reader-first rather than revenue-first
While publishers may be thinking about first-party data as a path to more ad revenue, there may be a smarter way to approach it. By using first-party data to create a high-quality reader experience, publishers can reclaim audience relationships from social platforms and build a valuable community of engaged users that just keeps growing — in turn driving more and better advertiser partnerships. Read more about harnessing first-party data with OpenWeb.