News publishers have an advantage in growing a zero-party data business

By Matthew Snyder

ResponsiveAds, Inc.

New York, USA


Approximately 99% of the time, users do not click on ads on a publisher’s site from standard IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) formats. Adding a responsive ad strategy helps increase results, but having a data-relevant strategy can definitely put publishers in the driver’s seat, as they are the direct point of aggregation of audiences.

It was also found that responsive ads have five times the click-through rate as standard display ads.

Another KPI that is highly relevant is engagements. Engagements are defined as interactions such as hovers, clicks, drags, taps, or other actions that happen within the ad by users, but they are not taken anywhere. Engagements may be used in a variety of ways to give users a chance to immerse in the ad experience.

Benchmark results from ResponsiveAds, Inc., with data across publishers comparing IAB formats with ResponsiveAds formats.
Benchmark results from ResponsiveAds, Inc., with data across publishers comparing IAB formats with ResponsiveAds formats.

When it comes to engagements, even though they may not drive users to the brand’s Web site or page, they offer the KPI of brand awareness. They can be very powerful as they show some level of interest or intent by the end user.

The philosophic question is: What could we do in the industry to flip this around so that 99% of the time users would want to engage or click on ads can be clearly shown when we look at engagements as a metric.

The answer: Ads must be extremely valuable and relevant for users.

Therefore, if we think about relevancy for users, there is no better indicator than zero-party data.

Engagement and zero-party data strategy

Zero-party data

Zero-party data is data that a user intentionally and proactively shares with a brand or advertiser.

Consumers who share with you enable you to collect zero-party data, and they do it for a particular reason. They feel they have an ultimate sense of security as they have control over their data and get value out of sharing their data.

Furthermore, because customers voluntarily agree to share data, the value of trust and transparency become such an important part of that end-user relationship. This is an area perfect for publishers to build with their audiences.

First-party data

On the other hand, first-party data is data collected passively as a result of user interactions. The publisher collects and owns the information about its clients. However, it must abide by the GDPR/CCPA privacy rules and regulations and, in the case of the European Union, follow the TCF 2.0 guidelines. This information can be compiled using software and systems owned by the publisher.

When collecting first-party data, the publisher has gathered the data themselves versus outsourcing it. Most platforms generate first-party data, such as your Web site, app, or social network sites.

The term “first-party” refers to the party who gathered the data first-hand for retargeting purposes.

When a publisher is building a monetisation strategy that even goes beyond advertising with paywalls or subscribing to activate access to the content, they give users the direct ability to interact. They also provide a place where they may access and control their own zero-party data.

The publisher opportunity

Zero-party data marketing was introduced several years back by Forrester Research when the scrutiny on ad tracking ramped up and was looked at as an option with Apple and the policies of iOS 14.5.

Now, with users significantly opting out and the effects of tracking cookies also being deprecated from browsers such as Chrome, it is a perfect moment to look strategically at methods that will not only bring value to the end user but offer an opportunity for the publishing industry to innovate on solutions that offer a monetisation advantage.

This is even more true as more consumers demand personalised experiences from the places they visit. If implemented correctly, it can be the way to give users a fully executable 360-degree personalised experience, from content and advertising to feeding into a publisher’s editorial roadmap.

How this works for publishers

There are several ways this can be achieved by publishers. These include:

  • Creation of accounts.
  • When users subscribe.
  • When users log in and set preferences.
  • Leveraging that zero-party data as a way to merge and grow all data strategies, including offering to filter ads based on those preferences.

Collecting data

Data can be collected through widgets on the site or included in the ads themselves. At ResponsiveAds, we give publishers the opportunity to collect zero-party data through the ads themselves by providing users value. This is achieved through things like quizzes, listings with preferences, conversational pop-ups, post-purchase surveys, social media pools, product onboarding (with personalization set-up), and contests.

This is an example of a listing with preferences. There is a two-way conversation with the user so they can provide preferences to receive value. This can be done with any kind of listing, but this example, for Caviar and The Infatuation, is food-related.

Users have the opportunity to select a food category they like. They have the option to share a location or use settings from the publisher (their preferences). Restaurant listings are then provided to them.

First, categories are presented to users.
First, categories are presented to users.

In the second step, preferences and location are shared.
In the second step, preferences and location are shared.

The power of user “engagement” gives value to the user with listings that are relevant to them. Not only can local restaurants be delivered, but think of all of the possibilities of offers catered to the user. There were close to 100,000 restaurants in the database, so optimising with the user providing preferences and choosing is relevant.

As a result, this was a breakthrough campaign for Caviar and The Infatuation.

About Matthew Snyder

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