First-party data offers advertising opportunities for media

By Mark Challinor


London, United Kingdom


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?

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.

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.

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!?

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About Mark Challinor

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