For well over a hundred years, publishing and advertising have worked hand in hand. Local newspapers gave local businesses an effective advertising platform while providing readers with a qualified source of news and entertainment. Over time, publishers found ways to group readers into more valuable addressable audiences—for example, sports enthusiasts or home seekers—and giant publishing empires like Condé Nast and Hearst were born.
Today, in the light of data privacy concerns and subsequent regulation, this symbiotic relationship between ads and content is under pressure. In a webinar hosted by Digiday, LiveRamp’s Steve Francolla and Jeff Sutton from Advance Local discussed the challenges publishers are facing and effective strategies to overcome them.
First, publishers need to ask readers to tell them who they are. Although they may not have been incentivized to do so in the past, publishers are realizing that first-party authentication is critical to increasing inventory value without the use of third-party cookies. By developing a strategy around user log-in, publishers can identify audiences, and because authenticated directly identifiable personal data can be translated to encrypted identifiers which can then be leveraged by the programmatic supply chain across the open internet, publishers can enhance addressability even across previously inaccessible inventory, including Safari and Firefox.
Of course, without trust, readers may be reluctant to provide their data. So the second strategy publishers need to embrace is an enterprise-level preference and consent management platform. With this in place, readers are given enhanced transparency and choice, so if they prefer to opt out, they can do so once across the publisher’s entire ecosystem of owned and operated sites, and not be forced to opt out of each property separately. Offering readers a clear and compelling value proposition and keeping an audit trail that guarantees full transparency helps to build trust around the publisher’s collection and use of data, and enables compliance for regulations like GDPR and CCPA.
So what about the value of content? Content is the product. Publishers who have enabled first-party authentication are better able to explore different paywall types that may appeal to different people—from hard and soft paywalls to dynamic models that are behavior-driven and adaptive. By packaging content in compelling ways, they are able to find a balance between ad-generated revenue and subscription-based revenue, and allow the reader to make an explicit choice between providing data or paying for the content they value most.
Reaching over 50 million people domestically across multiple platforms, Advance Local is setting a strong example for the industry. As Jeff Sutton explained, “we are committed to finding new ways to delight our readers and build strong relationships that completely redefine the value exchange in a privacy-first world. Funding quality journalism has never been more important, and we are evolving to maximize the revenue potential of our network of high-quality, award-winning local news and information sites.”
So the news is in! Publishers that have relied on third-party cookies and programmatic advertising have options for maintaining and growing revenue. And those who succeed in adapting can continue to focus on creating quality content for their readers for many years to come.