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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Content and context make premium publishers’ audiences addressable

August 29, 2022 | By Aarti Suri, Global Strategy Manager, Publisher – Permutive @Permutive

Increasingly, consumers are opting out of targeted advertising, leaving publishers searching for ways to continue serving marketers’ desire to reach relevant audiences and to optimize ads for audiences. A significant part of the answer for many will lie in publisher content, context, and the savvy application of first-party data. To do this, publishers must capture powerful insights they have available to monetize the most relevant, high-value consumers – all without compromising their privacy.

Much of the adtech ecosystem has kept their eye trained on when Google will or won’t deprecate third-party cookies. There’s also a great deal of focus on existing and pending privacy regulation. While these are valid concerns, we do need to work in the here and now: Safari and Firefox already block third-party cookies and Apple’s ATT makes opting out of tracking incredibly easy. And in Europe, consumers already have the ability to “reject all” cookies via Chrome.

The reality is consumers are already opting out of advertising more than ever. However, publishers can still make those audiences available for advertising. With their content and their unique, direct relationships with users, publishers are the keyholders in re-establishing a connection with unreachable consumers.

Advertising powered by content and first-party data

Publishers are the keepers of a crucial component of advertising: content. Visitors to publisher sites certainly continue to engage with content, even when they’re not traditionally visible or they’ve opted out of third-party cookie tracking.

Publishers have access to a wealth of traditional first-party data. Not only is this first-party data more reliable than third-party data, but it’s also more powerful. And, because the data is owned by the publisher, they can target these known audiences on behalf of advertisers. Beyond that, they also possess a great many applicable insights from page signals created by users around categories, concepts, emotions, sentiment, keywords, and entities. The power of these data points ensures that publishers can maximize both addressability and revenue.

Traditional contextual targeting is often as simple as placing sports ads on sports pages, but that’s not enough. With the right technology, publishers can build next-generation contextual targeting that not only builds bridges between their own content but provides additional value to advertisers in terms of scale and accuracy.

Beyond simple context, publishers can learn from consented users’ data and create an affinity score for each piece of content, based on page attributes. This can then be matrixed with a publisher’s cohorts to predict how likely a given cohort is to engage with a page, compared to the site average. By leveraging their own content and the rich first-party data they have access to, publishers can deliver accuracy and scale to advertisers from first page-view. And, critically, they can do all this while respecting user consent.

Direct advertiser-publisher relationships

Advertisers are preoccupied with evolving timelines for the depreciation of third-party cookies or new regulations. However, the reality is that without the right publisher partners, they already cannot reach large swaths of audiences. The California Consumer Privacy Act, Apple’s Hide My Email and App Tracking Transparency, and Safari/Firefox are all impacting consumer choice to opt-out of invasive data collection – and even advertising altogether.

Things are different when advertisers partner directly with publishers that have consented first-party data from their audience, particularly when it is paired with contextual signals. These publishers are uniquely equipped to activate users and make otherwise unreachable audiences available to advertisers – without compromising consumer privacy.

These direct relationships provide another pathway for publishers to make desired audiences available to advertisers. They also shift power away from the data-driven duopoly and place the power back in the publishers’ hands. Publishers’ position to maximize their trusted relationship with audiences provides a viable alternative to third parties that exist only to commoditize publisher content and data.

Consumers’ increasing methods of protecting their own privacy are, ultimately, a positive for the industry – especially for publishers with strong first-party data practices. But this brighter future can only be embraced if we acknowledge the need to invest in those practices and ensure consumer data is treated responsibly.

About the author

Aarti Suri is a Product Marketing Manager at Permutive. Aarti has worked in the marketing, advertising and communications space for over 10 years, this includes experience working with OOH, Media Owners, Ad-Tech and in SaaS businesses. An advocate for a more inclusive industry, Aarti is a mentor and member of Bloom.

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