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Is Loyalty the New 1st Party Data?

By Mitch Hansen and Kristen Dunleavy

You’ve heard a lot about the need to have a smart first-party data strategy. The industry abuzz with ways to gather and utilize 1st party data—and we’re no different. Here on this blog alone, we’ve written about it no fewer than 5 times in just the last two months.

But have we all been putting the cart before the horse?

Yes and no: a smart 1st party data strategy is essential to a publishers’ ability to monetize, especially as we continue our march toward the end of third-party cookies. So this focus is definitely justified.

But the rich 1st party datasets that will support publishers well into the future hinge on their ability to attract and retain the transient visitors that come by their content, converting them to returning, registers users. In other words: if publishers focus on fostering loyal communities, robust first-party data will fall into place. It is then only a matter of delivering that data to advertisers as valuable audience segments, and using it to intelligently inform editorial strategy, to continue growing and ensure greater sustainability.

So, let’s take a look at how audience growth and audience loyalty generate 1st party data, and how publishers can get started.

Driving loyalty by focusing on value

If driving loyalty is the name of the game: how should publishers do it? There are a number of ways, but common to them all—and what we see from top publishers with whom we work—is a relentless drive to offer real value to the user.

This could come in many forms. Individualization—like notifying users through email or on-site when articles they might be interested are published—has been a breakthrough success when seamlessly integrated into the user experience. If a user must register to follow or be notified of topics they want to read about, this increases the likelihood of both registration and more frequent returns—i.e., loyalty.

Another common tactic among top publishers’ communities is a robust, lively comments section in which editorial staff participate. We’ve spent a lot of time across many other blog posts talking about how quality conversations lead to loyal, registered users who are likely to return over time—but that’s only because we see it continue to work. We still see incredible results, including up to 1/3 of new registered users originating through the comments at some of our top partners.

And all of this loyalty generates more loyalty: these 1:1 relationships provide publishers with the insights they need to create better editorial decisions for their readers. Publishers use information about trending topics and interests to provide more valuable content for readers—and that keeps them coming back for more.

Publishers who prioritize audience loyalty and growth will drive more registered users and, thus, the robust first-party data that everyone is after.

Ad strategies rely on loyalty, too

Though the cookie may be on its way out, digital advertising certainly isn’t going with it. But the future looks a little different than today.

“… Publishers with access to the largest pools of first-party data could wind up making more money under this model by cutting direct ad deals with brands,” said Nicolas Rivero at Quartz

Large pools of first-party data are created by large numbers of users with generating of interactions. So if the goal is volume, the best way to do that is through a large, loyal audience. Publishers who focus on their audience development and loyalty strategy now stand to see the benefits of robust first-party data sets—including increased revenue—much sooner.

Deliver personalization and privacy

Consumers want both: 92% of marketers say consumers expect personalization (including ad experiences), and 97% of consumers say they are concerned about data privacy.

There’s no reason for personalization and privacy to be at odds—but it’s important to consider a solution that can balance both. OpenWeb’s integration with LiveRamp helps publishers create a more contextually relevant advertising experience while maintaining privacy compliance. Learn more about the integration here.

Every publisher needs a loyalty and 1st party data plan ASAP

If you’re a publisher, there’s a good chance that sustainable growth and user loyalty are at the top of your to-do list.

So, where to begin? Our upcoming webinar with LiveRamp is designed to help publishers navigate the changing digital landscape. We’ll cover actionable strategies to drive loyal, registered readers and tips for forming your first party data strategy. Register here.

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