First-party data, newsletters offer ad revenue opportunities to media

By Mark Challinor


London, United Kingdom


Greetings from London. Welcome to this latest INMA Advertising Initiative newsletter.

In this edition, I will focus on some the questions I have been asked about in recent months with regards to what happens now re: the imminent demise of the third-party cookie.

As publishers focus on shaping their first-party data strategies accordingly (and with it, I believe, many new advertising revenue and marketing opportunities), there are still many questions being asked from inside media houses as to how it will all work. I will tackle some of those questions here and try to dispel some of the myths and concerns about the matter.

Also, I will touch on the very subject you are viewing this content on today … newsletters. E-mail newsletters have an important part to play when increasing reader loyalty and engagement. I will take a look at the commercial opportunities available to us all and how we can involve our advertisers.

Cookies or no cookies — that is the question!

I have collated some of the questions I have been asked recently by media companies the world over. Below are those questions with my answers. They are mainly around what we can do right now, what do our advertisers want from us, and is this all a threat or an opportunity?

INMA members have many questions about what the demise of third-party cookies means to the industry.
INMA members have many questions about what the demise of third-party cookies means to the industry.

I hope my answers provide some insight and direction.

“What can media do right now to allow for this cookie-less future?”

Third-party cookies already play a huge part in the overall digital eco-system, so it will equally be a huge challenge for many media companies to adapt to a cookie-less future. Google has, of course, delayed its plan to get rid of third-party cookies until next year, so it’s really important that media companies use the period up to 2023 well in constructing their first-party data strategy now rather than wait.

First-party data will be crucial in understanding who specifically is consuming your content and making sure your advertisers can easily and intelligently target different audience sectors. Media should speak with their tech providers about ways to enhance first-party data assets.

This seismic change will see much market innovation, so the more liaisons you have with those tech suppliers — and advertisers — about the implications for them, the much more likely they are to appreciate your insights and knowledge on the matter and give them new ideas and positive ways of working with you.

How can media use their first-party data to raise advertising revenue?

As trusted, valued, premium publishers in our marketplaces, we should realise fully that we have incredible content, channels, assets and environments to create impactful, bespoke, targeted, and contextual advertising and sponsorship opportunities for our clients.

Advertising agencies and client brands will no doubt continue to benefit from the expert audience targeting and segmentation we offer, even without third-party cookies. Our own first-party data will be really valuable in assisting advertisers reach the right segments of our audience for specific ad campaigns.

Don’t forget: From a technology point of view, we live now in an age where we can advise/work with advertisers to help them best shape their CRM data to target existing customers (all within a GDPR/privacy compliant environment). There are significant revenue opportunities for us all with a tech stack that is constructed appropriately.

The first-party data news media companies are compiling will be of great value to advertisers.
The first-party data news media companies are compiling will be of great value to advertisers.

“How can media companies use their first-party data to keep hold of existing, loyal readers?”

It will be affected mainly on your business model, i.e. how you intend to use your first-party data to retain those readers. It is largely about using insights into the audience(s) behaviour to make sure readers access the specific content they both want and value highly. It might well be that certain content will only be available to readers who have given permission to access their data. Other media might want to create very targeted, personalised user experiences and/or curate their best content into other channels such as e-mail newsletters.

We are still at base ONE here, so I’m sure new methods, new channels, and varying strategies will begin to come to the fore.

“What job does media play in educating consumers and advertisers on privacy and data?

When the Internet first became a force in the late 1990s, we made, in my opinion, a big mistake. Worried about losing our audiences as the world started to go digital, we in effect gave everything away for free online. In doing so, we devalued our own content in the readers’ minds.

It was also very difficult to take payments online in those days, so we tended to ignore it and created a free environment instead, thinking that we could monetise it later. However, today, as the media industry spends millions of dollars on creating and crafting high-quality content (as well as managing things like consent, data privacy, etc.), we have to make sure our audiences understand our content is not free.

It’s really valuable, and we have to get across that they are getting real value with our consultative approach and understanding of such things — be it highly targeted, data access, or indeed to the content we produce — as we find the most appropriate and professional ways to utilise such. We therefore need to be much better at communicating all we do to ensure that, for example, our data is held both securely and via privacy compliant methods.

What we do has a value. Never lose sight of that.

“What are the main opportunities in all this for media … and the downsides?

I believe there are big opportunities with first-party data as we seek to grow digital audiences and utilise new technologies. However, new tech and new platforms can also be threatening! There seems to now be somewhat of a “rebalance” in the relationship between media and some of the main social media platforms (stress “somewhat”), which is welcome and a step in the right direction. But that is an ever-changing environment that we will always need to keep monitoring.

Overall, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for media over the demise of the third-party cookie, but it’s definite that everything will involve the smart application of new technologies. Where our sales teams can assist is by listening more, talking more, collaborating with all the experts in particular fields, and gaining a fuller understanding of the things our advertisers want to know.

What will be most useful is helping them to work out the profitable and creative ways ahead and, in the process, endear ourselves to them for future mutual growth … together. Win, win!?

Further reading

Newsletter advertising monetisation

I mentioned newsletters earlier. They are indeed playing a more important job in building loyalty and engagement with our readers. But where are the commercial opportunities?

Let’s take a look at how you can involve your advertisers and generate new revenue for your media company.

Newsletters are the solution to many challenges at news media companies.
Newsletters are the solution to many challenges at news media companies.

The beauty of newsletters is they allow you to undertake many tasks at the same time. Maybe your media company is searching for tools to create reader habits or maybe increase the overall value of subscription offerings or even to reinforce loyalty.

It could be to increase Web traffic to your site, or encourage registrations, or increase the profile of a media “personality?”

All these factors make for a plethora of reasons why newsletters are an important part of your content and channel mix in terms of reaching specific audiences — plus they create opportunities for us in associated advertising. Newsletters can be a significant revenue stream, maybe via sponsorship, promoting events, and “straightforward” advertising.

That is why media companies across the world are investing so much time and money in such. 

Newsletter types 

There are varying types of newsletters, two of which are:

  1. Converting/subscriptions newsletters. Targeted content with an offer/special deal as an enticement into becoming a subscriber. Could be a specific vertical re: the content and sent just to people we know like the topics covered, with more of the same/similar “goodies” open to you if you subscribe, some of which will already be behind a paywall.
  2. Free-to-all newsletters. In effect, a shop window for more generic content, encouraging future engagement. Possibly personalised to the content viewed by the registrant already, e.g. content about a specific area where they live or a specific content vertical.

The trick is getting the content right/relevant to the target reader and in the right volume (not too many, which may annoy). 

Good, recent newsletter examples are:

  • The Washington Post’s “The 7”: concise news round-up via app, audio … and their newsletter.
  • Yahoo’s “The Yodel” newsletter, targeting 18-21 year olds with daily news with a slant on irreverent humour. (The subscriber take up has risen by a factor of eight in just one year. Impressive).

So, how can we best make money with newsletters? Two obvious ways:

1. Selling your ad space. Ads in newsletters can be annoying. However, delivering e-mail newsletter ads that are relevant to your readers is how to balance that. Your monetisation strategy should always be a balance between your revenue stream and your user’s experience. You therefore keep readers engaged while enhancing their experience. Simple!

Relevant ads delivered via a newsletter in an effective space, like mobile, should be part of your ad revenue strategy.
Relevant ads delivered via a newsletter in an effective space, like mobile, should be part of your ad revenue strategy.

And just like any Web site or maybe mobile app, newsletters can truly, effectively display ad space. An efficient and easy way is to use a dedicated solution to do your bidding for you. Hence, you can leverage existing technology to deliver more relevant ad content with multiple platforms. 

The real key to newsletter monetisation is native advertising. The more native and seamless they are, the more impact they will have as they can be seen to look like editorial content. For media companies, native ads in newsletters can be in the form of a sponsored article, a recommendation of a content piece, custom in-feed placements, and more. Just don’t overdo it. Test and re-test all you do first, and try to make it all contextual.

Then, another plus is the perceived value of your target audience. By providing content that is personalised (i.e., exclusive, relevant offers, promotions, discounts, etc.), you will be seen as a go-to authoritarian on the subject matter. Readers will feel as if they are getting exclusive deals.

2. Newsletters including affiliate links. Being an affiliate is straightforward. You are paid commission on any sales generated for an advertiser or brand. BuzzFeed has been doing this for years via a newsletter aimed at driving sales with the likes of Amazon and other retailers. 

Affiliate links are easy to execute, but success rests with your ability to select only those affiliates that share your values (just like selling ad space) and are appealing to your audience. It’s important to work with brands that your readers will most likely buy. What data insights do you have here about their preferences?

In conclusion

It’s obviously vital your media messaging reaches the target audience. To monetise your newsletter well, you must remember your readers are only there because they like your content. 

At the end of the day, it’s all about one thing, the content … and how you go about complimenting it. Newsletter monetisation is worth pursuing. You just need to make sure you are smart about doing it.

Further reading 

About this newsletter 

Today’s newsletter is written by Mark Challinor, based in London and lead for the INMA Advertising Initiative. Mark will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global news media advertising. Sign up for the newsletter here.

This newsletter is a public face of the Advertising Initiative by INMA, outlined here.

E-mail Mark at with thoughts, suggestions, and questions or follow him on Twitter (@challinor).

About Mark Challinor

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