While we all know the end is coming, we’d usually rather not contemplate it. That’s the approach most media and adtech companies have taken toward cookies over the past year or two.
These companies have long used cookies to monetize their content. Yet we all know the end of cookies is near. However, Google drove the final nail in the coffin with the announcement that they won’t support alternative identifiers after they kill cookies across their stack (including Chrome).
Really, this should come as no surprise to anyone. Content companies have been looking down the barrel of this gun for a long time. A few years ago, I was at a Google summit for adtech leaders when the company announced it would do away with third-party cookies in Chrome. You could almost feel the panic. Without cookies, how would adtech platforms grow revenue? And without adtech, how would media companies monetize their content?
After Google’s most recent announcement, adtech stocks, which have been on a tear in 2021, took a hit. But in all likelihood, the market will stabilize and rebound. Many of the stocks already have. Content companies that already shifted their attention to strategies that are less cookie-dependent (CTV, subscriptions, curated communities, etc.) are thriving.
However, content companies that don’t have a cookie-less strategy need to get one, fast. Relying on contextual advertising or alternative identifiers is far from a panacea. The good news is that many media companies already have good customer understanding, or the tools to get there.
These days, we live in a subscription-based world. Many sites require registration — if not payment — before accessing content. Gartner has predicted that by 2023, 75% of B2C companies will offer subscription services, and for good reason: The success rate of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% compared to 5-20% for new customers.
Without the cookie, content companies are now “forced” to create a direct, permission-based relationship. A positive side effect could be a level of personalization and customer engagement that the cookie could not provide.
As content providers and publishers shift from cookies to a new paradigm of permission-based services, here are three areas of focus for content companies:
- Create a better customer experience. Admit it: the cookie spoiled you. You were tracking that visitor to your site with a focus on scale and not quality. However, a better, truly omnichannel experience will drive behaviors that your advertising customers will appreciate. Consumers will gladly subscribe to your content and give you permission (and declared data) to help you better serve them. And their increased engagement will drive up page revenue.
- Have a data strategy. The cookie made you beholden to your ad/martech partners. Now that you have formed a relationship with your customer, own that relationship. Build the right product tools and platforms, and don’t leave it to someone else to determine your success (or failure). The first-party relationship you are creating with your readers, viewers, and customers gives you direct data on their habits and interests. These are things that third-party platforms could only infer.
- Build more digital products. Be everywhere. Host virtual events, like Complex Networks ComplexLand. Create curated members-only communities, like Fortune Connect. Embrace new ways of generating revenue. Experiment! Be agile (and Agile). Don’t be afraid of fragmentation. Own your relationships and customer experience by having an omnichannel strategy.
The death of the cookie isn’t the catastrophe you might think it is. It is a necessary evolution. If you embrace it, it can actually set you up for long-term customer engagement and sustained higher revenue. Change has come … and it is good.
About the author
Chris Hansen is senior vice president of 3Pillar Global’s media and information services client service vertical.