Publisher audience development strategies in a cookieless world

17th March  |  
4 minutes

As the web evolves, a clear trend is emerging; people want experiences that are private, secure, and trustworthy. As people become more aware of the value of their data and the often-lopsided value exchange that occurs when they give that data away for free services, they are demanding change. According to one survey, 81% of web users say the risk of brands collecting their personal data outweigh the benefits. Now, thanks to regulation like GDPR and industry moves to end advertisers’ reliance on third-party cookies, a privacy-first model for the internet is emerging. As it does so, publishers will need to change their audience development strategies.

What is publishing audience development?

Audience development is essentially how publishers grow their audiences in terms of volume and value. But in the digital world publishers’ audience development strategies need to be finely honed. This is because digital publishers rely on ad inventory as a primary source of revenue, and this inventory can be sold at a premium if publishers can develop the right kind of audiences. Specificity is key – brands wish to engage with very particular audiences, and the ability of publishers to sell inventory at a premium rests on being able to verify these audiences for their clients.

Until recently, publishers have been able to develop and reach fairly accurate audience segments through third-party cookies. However, these types of cookies are inimical to the privacy-first internet that is being built today. By 2023 at the latest, publishers will need to find a new way to identify users to create the first-party data strategies that deliver audience segmentation. To a considerable extent, this in turn means finding new ways to verify known audiences.

User verification multiple devices

Publisher audience development strategies for anonymous users

In some respects, this will be an easy task to accomplish. Large “walled gardens” such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon will be able to leverage their first-party data from user logins to verify audiences. Similarly, publishers will be able to verify audiences when their users are logged-in to walled garden services or to their own sites.

But what about the rest of the time when users are not logged into these sites? This is the crux of the challenge facing publishers: how to come up with a user verification strategy that delivers known first-party audiences at scale in a world where most web users are anonymous.

Doubling down on first-party data

The key to this challenge lies in publishers’ own first-party data. Repeated content consumption provides publishers with a treasure trove of information on the likes and interests of their audiences. The challenge lies being able to be able to build 360-degree profiles of their audiences in real-time and across devices – and all without breaching that all important privacy mandate.

The solution to this challenge is to implement publisher-led IDs as a core component of an audience development strategy. Novatiq’s Zenith, part of our Fusion Platform, is a good example of this approach.

Specifically designed to help publishers and brands connect the dots within their own ecosystems, the Zenith ID provides a true 360-degree view of each individual user that publishers can leverage to grow their audiences and deliver safe and valuable first-party engagement opportunities to advertisers.

The ID can achieve this in a privacy-compliant way because the first-party data is consented for and pseudonymised before being verified by telco partners, who have the cross-device view needed to verify web users. No personally identifiable information is exchanged during this process, and as verification takes place behind telcos’ firewalls it is inherently secure.

The right audience development strategy for publishers

The benefits to publishers are clear. First, the Zenith ID enables publishers to extend their reach in both the authenticated web of logins and the anonymous web of “ghost” users. Second, they can command premium prices for their ad inventory, as they can continue to provide advertisers with guaranteed audience segments. Third, they can add value to their customers by providing relevant and personalised content.

The end of cookies represents a challenge for publishers and brands, but also an opportunity. Innovative approaches to audience development will allow them to continue operating personalised ad models but in a way that better meets consumer demand for privacy.

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