Publishers must lead the conversation on authenticated data

Publishers must lead the conversation on authenticated data
Zoopla is one brand that has achieved a strong value exchange with users to encourage authentication

Authenticated data is highly appealing to advertisers in a cookieless world, so publishers need to be more transparent about the value exchange with users, LiveRamp’s connectivity chief writes.

Google Chrome’s complete deprecation of third-party cookies, expected in the second half of 2024, represents the biggest loss of signal ever experienced and the news will no doubt have sent a shiver down the spine of many in the digital advertising ecosystem.

Publishers are facing a plethora of challenges when it comes to monetisation of their ad inventory and the decisions they make this year could be critical to future success.

Recent statistics from the Association of Online Publishers and Deloitte’s Digital Publishers’ Revenue Index indicate that publisher ad revenue is flatlining. This is partly attributed to the waning ability of publishers to deliver people-based campaigns in the same capacity as that of the walled gardens.

For publishers still relying on third-party cookies, they need to catch up quickly and join the cookieless future. Critically, this means strengthening the relationship they have with their users by leveraging privacy-compliant authentication strategies that support first-party data development and by educating users on the value they receive in exchange for consented data.

The value exchange

While there is no “silver bullet” for the deprecation of cookies, the most salient strategy for publishers to counteract signal loss is to establish and grow their authenticated first-party datasets.

These are highly valued by advertisers, as authenticated identity allows them to go beyond anonymous devices to reach real people. Brands can use this data to better target media investments and measure the effectiveness of their ad placements.

As part of collecting this first-party data, publishers need to obtain consumers’ consent — this is a critical opportunity to be transparent about the value that users receive in exchange.

While publishers on the open web are skilled at providing high-quality content and the digital experiences that people want, many haven’t always clearly communicated how the value exchange works or why it is vital to the shared future of a diverse, independent media sector.

That said, some major UK publishers have achieved this transparent value exchange, educating users on the benefits they gain in the form of more relevant advertising and richer personalised experiences, as well as more quality journalism and entertaining content.

This includes The Independent, which boasts more than 5m registered users, and the national and local news titles under Reach, which have a large bank of authenticated users between them.

This route is not just available to traditional media outlets either — classified publishers such as Gumtree and Zoopla have also achieved strong value exchanges with their users to encourage authentication.

Putting users at the centre

To recreate their success, publishers need to put users at the centre of their strategy. This means considering what users want and what they can offer to make users want to authenticate and share their information.

Start by asking a few questions. Why do readers come to a publisher’s site? What sort of content could the publisher be additionally providing for users to spend more time? In terms of collecting this data, while log-ins work, several approaches can be taken, such as newsletter click-throughs or commenting widgets.

Every publisher’s offering is different, but each has an opportunity to understand what they can be doing better for their users and subsequently convey that value to them as transparently as possible. Moreover, evidence has shown that when users are better-informed about their data usage and trust that a publisher has their interests at heart, they are more likely to authenticate.

Even if a relatively small percentage of a publisher’s audience is authenticated, these users will likely be the most engaged and generate the majority of ad inventory. It’s not uncommon to see 20% of a publisher’s audience representing more than 80% of its total engagement. What matters to a publisher’s unique audience must therefore be considered carefully.

The authenticated future

Increasing authenticated inventory is in everyone’s best interests, from the increased addressability and measurability it provides marketers to the improved relationships publishers can build with consumers, while also receiving a premium from their advertisers.

Publishers looking to successfully navigate the post-third-party-cookie era will need healthy banks of authenticated data, likely with identity solutions supporting these capabilities, to capitalise on brands’ increasing demand for authenticated inventory.

Powering authentications with a connectivity solution transparently communicates with users about their privacy wishes and how their data is being used. A connectivity solution can also help the broader ecosystem leverage these authentications — directly, through open exchanges, in private marketplaces, via direct deals and within every walled garden. This enables advertisers to engage the real people behind the authentications and create the personalised experiences that consumers want.

The loss of third-party cookies and other third-party signals is a chance for quality to triumph over the quantity, but simultaneously there’s a lack of control and transparency that third-party cookies provide.

Publishers articulating the exchange, and helping to build a relationship of trust and transparency, will lead to users better appreciating the content they consume.

Luke Fenney is vice-president, connectivity and ecosystem, EU and LatAm, at LiveRamp

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