Blog Post

3 Steps Midsize Publishers Should Take Now to Prepare for the Cookieless Future

11/11/2021 - Sierra Ducey

As Google’s planned phaseout of third-party cookies approaches, publishers are being forced to adapt. For the most part, the industry’s largest players appear ready to shift to a first-party data model, and many major publishers have already made big strides toward the transition.

Vox Media launched its first-party data platform, Forte, back in 2019. Last year, it contributed to roughly half of the company’s display ad revenue, and as the publisher continues to roll out new tools for advertisers, that number will probably increase. Beyond that, Condé Nast’s Obsidian, BuzzFeed’s Lighthouse, and Group Nine Media’s IN-GeNuity are some other notable additions to the fast-growing list of proprietary first-party data platforms that big publishers hope will strengthen their relationships with advertising partners.

Big players from the demand-side platform (DSP) space will also likely be safe because these companies have the budgets and resources to provide some solutions designed to be a substitute for cookies. The Trade Desk, for example, recently introduced Unified ID 2.0, an open-source privacy-conscious identity solution that will make the company the exclusive third-party DSP provider for the Publicis Groupe’s data tech platform. Of course, the walled gardens of adtech — Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple — will be fine, as well, with their massive troves of proprietary consumer data and no need to rely on third-party cookies anyway.

Even niche publishers will be well-positioned to succeed in the cookieless future. They’re inherently less reliant on third-party data as-is and can offer direct buys to go after contextually targeted programmatic placements. Rather than woo advertisers with massive scalability across a multitude of online properties, they offer access to small, targeted audiences that are more likely to engage with ads. In other words, quality over quantity.

That said, not everyone is well-positioned for the change. One player, specifically, will face some obstacles: midsize publishers.


Overcoming Obstacles for Midsize Publishers

Unlike their larger counterparts, mid-range publishers don’t have the resources to build their own solutions to replace third-party cookies. They’re also often too big to outsource alternatives to smaller companies. Moreover, their reach just isn’t big enough to create the content depth and repetitiveness necessary for developing proprietary identity solutions.

Mid-sized publishers have long relied on technology and data providers to use first-party data (generated from major publishers), and when third-party cookies finally disappear, the value of that data will skyrocket. That means big publishers will likely charge more for it, or simply not share it at all.

Ultimately, if these companies can’t come up with a workaround, their collective slice of media revenue will shrink. Here are a few steps they can take to prevent that from happening:

1. Understand your audience profile.

Major publishers will become even more effective as their identity solutions and first-party data platforms allow them to learn more about their audiences. Niche players will continue to thrive since they already understand their audience profiles well. Mid-sized publishers must follow suit. That means investing in solutions that allow them to know more about visitors and viewers so that they can more successfully leverage direct buying, programmatic guarantees, or whatever other forms of media buying become popular in the future.

2. Increase contextually targeted advertising.

Rather than relying on behavioral, cookie-based content delivery, mid-sized publishers must learn how to target audiences based on context. If a web user is reading 10 articles a day on home remodeling, for example, chances are good that they would be keen on ads related to home improvement, interior design, and similar topics. However, without the ability to collect, analyze, and quickly act on contextual data, publishers won’t be able to capitalize on critical opportunities. As such, mid-range players should continually test and evaluate contextual data solutions to prevent that from happening.

3. Build relationships with advertisers.

Major publishers are hoping their cookieless offerings inspire confidence and trust in advertising partners, but technology can’t replace personal relationships. In some ways, mid-sized publishers can view their smaller size as an advantage, since they likely have more flexibility to accommodate advertiser needs. It’ll be key for them to continue to invest in existing relationships and try to continually create new ones, as direct buys might become more important when third-party cookies disappear.

The cookieless future is coming for everyone and ignoring that fact is simply not an option. Any publisher — no matter how big or small — that waits for an industry solution, rather than proactively searching for their own, will be at a major disadvantage in the year ahead. Now is the time to get ready and take action to prepare for the new future of advertising.

Preparing Your Digital Advertising Strategy for the Removal of Third-Party Cookies

At Digilant, we understand that the upcoming changes to third-party cookies can pose challenges for advertisers. We’re committed to keeping our clients informed and prepared for these upcoming changes and offering tangible solutions they can implement into their media strategies to continue to reach their valued consumers. Interested in learning more about Digilant’s digital advertising strategies in the wake of third-party cookie changes? Let’s talk.

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