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Publishers: Collect Data Safely; Trade it Mindfully

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By Babs Kehinde, Senior Director, Publisher Development, EMEA
April 15, 2020

Consumers have always ruled in the world of marketing. They are the gatekeepers of the pounds they spend and the data they share about themselves. Marketers want to grow their share of consumer spending, and the best way to do this is to use data to identify their best customers, find more like them, and build positive connections. This is known as audience addressability and the more precise it is the better – for brands, for publishers, and for consumers.

From playground to play-safe

Over the past two years, regulation and the blocking of third-party cookies, has transformed the online advertising industry from a data-filled playground to a tightly controlled series of safeguarded data sets. This is a beautiful thing, and the industry needed it. However, a major downside is the erosion of audience addressability and with it comes reductions in publishers’ revenue from digital advertising and diminishing return on ad spend. This leads us as an industry to question how we can work smarter to establish new, better, levels of audience addressability.

Firstly, let’s look at it from the consumer perspective and answer the question ‘do people really care about their data’? The short answer is yes, but there are nuances. The majority of people will automatically give consent to use their data without looking at the specifics of what data is being collected or how it is going to be used if a) it’s a website they regularly use, b) it’s a well-known/household name, or c) the website has been recommended by a trusted friend/acquaintance/family member. When a website falls out of those categories you tend to find people deny consent outright. There’s very little middle ground where people go through the details of a publisher’s privacy statement and police the data they share/do not share.

Once we move past the stage of caring/not caring what data is collected we need to look at data use, and this is where it gets interesting. The second a consumer feels their privacy has been violated and their data has been used in a way they’re not happy with they will pivot and withhold all data – something that no publisher wants to be on the receiving end of.

The starting grid

Now let’s look at it from a publisher’s perspective. By and large publishers start in pole position with consumers agreeing to cookies being used when hey browse content. Once they’re off the grid though, they need to fight to maintain the lead – which in advertising terms means collecting more data and turning it into tools that can be used to monetise ad space without eroding consumer trust.

This is where content becomes more important than ever before. Consumers will give more information about themselves e.g. by registering using an email address to access content only available to logged in users in exchange for interesting, unique content. Publishers with logged in readers can then build a picture of that individual by joining together data points about the content they engage in. This is the value exchange in action and it allows publishers to maintain their competitive advantage mid-race, so to speak.

Complacency is the enemy of success

Further down the line though, the value exchange needs to grow, and needs to continue to grow throughout the publisher-consumer relationship. In today’s information rich world, the reality is that consumers can access similar content via various sources – and one of the reasons consumers will choose to switch to a new source is irrelevant or intrusive advertising. Thus, advertising has to be considered in the value exchange.

In order to maintain their lead down the final straight, publishers need to resist the temptation to go full throttle on advertising and maintain stringent control over how they allow advertisers to reach their audience. One of the best ways to do this is to invest in an identity solution that allows publishers and advertisers to have the same, holistic view of a consumer which is the only way to ensure advertising is personalised, and optimised for that individual consumer – thus maintaining the value exchange for all parties.

The new publishers’ mantra

Going forward, regardless of how we dress it up, the fundamentals of advertising will never change. There will always be the same exchange: quality content, relevant advertising, consumer data, and publishers will always be the trading exchange in the middle. As long as the value remains fair on all three sides we will continue winning races.

Maintaining that value will be dependent on the richness of first-party data, publishers need to work hard to move readers from anonymous to registered to logged in status in order to boost the power of the data set they can use for personalisation, trade on, and build experiences on. At the same time, publishers need to be the best data custodians of data they can be. They should be looking for partners that offer transparency and a privacy-focused mindset whenever they handle audience data. Collect data safely, use it intelligently, be mindful of how you trade it. This is the mantra publishers need to follow in order to attract and maintain audiences and gain addressable, incremental ad spend.

Originally published in ExchangeWire