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Why publishers need a first-party data strategy now

Digital campaigns are a key part of publishers’ revenue streams. Brands used the digital inventory to run branding, traffic and retargeting campaigns. To find the right audience, they mostly relied on one thing: Third-party cookies.

First-party data vs. third-party data.

Now, change is happening. Apple has already limited tracking possibilities for its safari browser and its IOS devices. The same happened for other browsers such as Firefox. And while Google has delayed the phase-out of the third-party cookie for Chrome by a year, this should not fool anyone. Change is already here and will continue.

For publishers, this poses a large change to their business model. Without the third-party cookie, using targeted audiences and tracking is basically impossible. Not having such drives a lot of brands away, as performance and advertising effect significantly drops.

But does this mean that the death of the third-party cookie is a disaster for publishers or does it also offer opportunities? We see a lot of opportunities, requiring that publishers are actively working on a strategy utilizing their own first-party data.

What is first-party data?

The exact definition of first-party data often varies depending on the context. But overall, it can be defined as a collection of different types of data that a publisher or brand has collected about their own users. Examples include names, email addresses, locations, user behaviour, etc.

What is first party data? Names, Behaviour, Location, Demographics.

Publishers can utilize first-party data in two ways. On the one side, the publisher’s first-party data can be offered for targeting options to brands. On the other side, advertisers can get the possibility to upload their own first-party data which is used for retargeting.

Both solutions offer clear opportunities to publishers, depending on the use case.

What is the opportunity of using first-party data?

While Google has postponed the Chrome phase-out of the third-party cookie, performance has significantly decreased across channels already. This change is mainly caused by less ability to track across Apple devices and limitations of certain browsers. Offering quality first-party data, therefore significantly increases the effectiveness and ROI of campaigns. When advertisers have access to quality data or use their own data, they reach the right audience that will convert to the desired action.

Another important aspect is the client relationship. In the past, advertisers have chosen publisher inventory mostly based on performance, especially when buying programmatically. With the switch to first-party data, publishers can differentiate themselves from each other based on the quality of data available and improve their client relationships. This enables them to bind advertisers more and create an advantage in a competitive market.

Creating that competitive advantage is crucial, as the digital advertising market becomes more competitive. With new platforms entering and advertisers cutting media spent, publishers must redefine how they are positioning themselves to stay relevant and continue to grow. This includes both existing clients and new market segments. As a result, having a good first-party data strategy is a crucial tool to stay competitive in 2023.

How should publishers utilize first-party data?

When it comes to utilizing first-party data, publishers have two main solutions at hand.

How to utilize first-party data? Improved direct sales to large brands, new self-service solutions to SMB clients.

The first solution is to utilize its own audiences for direct sales across existing customers. Often consisting of larger accounts, publishers should utilize their first-party data to deepen the relationship with these accounts. If possible, brands should have the opportunity to utilize their own data which improves exit barriers and helps attract new larger brands.

A second solution is to create a self-service solution for SMB advertisers. Traditionally, SMBs have only been served through programmatic channels, such as Google Ads. Publishers should, individually or collectively, create self-service solutions that allow SMBs to benefit from the new first-party audiences. With that, SMBs get direct, premium access to publishers’ inventory with better performance, while publishers can add a new growth segment and increase direct sales. A success story of this motion is Denmark’s Publisher Platform.

Overall, it is clear to say, that the time is right to utilize first-party data as a strategy for success in the future. While at first, the switch to first-party data seems frightening, the opportunities tied to utilizing such are substantial.

With first-party data, publishers create better advertising performance, strengthen client relationships, and become more competitive. First-party data also allows accessing new segments like the SMB segment, when offering self-service solutions. A key growth area for publishers.


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