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How media companies can evolve their first-party data strategy

August 14, 2023 | By Jeana Garms, Vice President of Marketing – Arc XP @arcxp

With third-party cookie deprecation looming on the horizon, first-party data is becoming increasingly important for media companies. Advertisers have grown accustomed to the granular targeting that cookies offered and seek solid solutions underpinned by strategy and technology that will deliver attention and engagement from a brand-suitable, high-quality audience.  

At Arc XP’s recent customer conference, Ryan Gladstone, Director of Product Management at Arc XP, and Nick Nyhan, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Upside Analytics, shared strategies that media companies can employ to leverage their first-party data most effectively. Here are the key takeaways:

Why should media companies care about first-party data?

First-party data is considered the highest-quality data available because the information is willingly provided directly from the source: your audience. Unlike second- or third-party data, first-party data is proprietary and more accurate and updated than when it comes through other sources. Moreover, you can use it on a granular level to improve how you serve and grow engagement, even creating bespoke audience segments unique to your market and content. That flexibility, coupled with accuracy and the ability to respond to browser changes and evolving privacy laws, makes first-party data a critically valuable organizational asset.

Strategically, first-party data is particularly important to gather and use to enrich both audience and advertising revenue models. When effectively deployed, the collection of first-party data leads to higher audience conversion rates. Organizations that gather first-party data are more valuable to advertisers and, therefore, are able to charge higher rates. Audiences are also more willing to provide first-party data if they see you as a trusted information source, if they hear it helps them have a smoother login experience, or a more relevant and personalized experience. When explained well, it is a win for you and your audience.

Start where you are: Crawl, Walk, Run

When developing your organization’s first-party data collection strategy, it can be helpful to conceptualize the journey with a three-level model. You have to crawl before you can walk, and you have to walk before you can run.

Level 1: Crawl

Segments are the key to driving more sophisticated business strategies with your audience. At level one, you’ll introduce some basic segmentation principles and practices to your organization’s data strategies. Start your journey by gathering data and creating easily addressable audience segments that you can use to advance both your audience revenue and advertising revenue strategies.

  1. Gather email addresses: If you’re not sure where to start, this is where to do it. Putting together an email list is a basic priority of first-party data. This single piece of information is the most important piece of data to many systems – from CRM (customer relationship management) to advertising and registration. If you’re going to ask for anything, ask for email addresses.

  2. Set up segmentation: Once a user has provided you with their email address, they’ll be more likely to provide you with other pieces of information, too. You can use this opportunity to ask questions of your audience that will help you begin to create audience segments.

  3. Start connecting the dots: Once you have email and basic survey data collection in place, you have almost everything you need to start creating simple but powerful addressable segments. All you need to do now is start tracking engagement. There are a lot of different ways to do that, but Google Analytics is a great place to start.

Level 2: Walk

When you enter the next stage, you should already have established the basic building blocks of your first-party data collection infrastructure. At this point, you can start to introduce new layers of sophistication to extend, fine-tune, and refine your existing strategies.

  1. Roll out progressive profiling: To extend the number and type of audience segments that you’re able to create, you’re going to need to gather more data. This will help you build out your profiles and get a more complete picture of your audience.
  2. Implement A/B testing: At this stage, one of your main goals should be to refine and optimize the systems you established in the Crawl stage. When considering changes to your website, for instance, it’s a great idea to run A/B tests on your audience to determine the most effective path forward. 
  3. Tailor your offers: The more data you have, the more explicitly you’ll be able to be target. However, you choose to segment your audience, try using the data to share relevant offers.

Level 3: Run

At the Run stage, you’ll be implementing greater levels of sophistication into your first-party data systems and using the information you collect to enable more complex long-term initiatives with more precision.

  1. Personalize your site: With enough data to work with, you may be able to tailor your entire site experience to each audience group. You might opt to show fewer ads to dedicated subscribers. Or you might advertise your own organization through in-house advertising to higher-propensity audience segments, but not others. That can make a huge difference and presents much larger revenue opportunities.
  2. Blend and extend your data: No matter how much you know about your audience, there are always opportunities to learn more. So in addition to progressive profiling, data can be potentially sourced from what is already resident within your CMS system or email systems, adding context about interest areas and times of engagement, further enhancing your knowledge and how to serve different segments.
  1. Share your knowledge: It’s not uncommon for media organizations to enter into an alliance with one another to share their permissioned first-party data. It’s as if you and your peers are each bringing a piece of a puzzle to the table and combining them to make something bigger.

Following these strategies can help you successfully build an audience segmentation strategy that navigates the impact of the third-party cookie deprecation while building a sophisticated approach that delivers advertisers genuine engagement with highly-desirable audiences.

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