Last year proved to be another turbulent one. With continued economic turmoil, publishers are beginning 2023 with a great deal of uncertainty about what the year will bring. And, given the slow but inevitable depreciation of third-party cookies, many publishers are seeking out alternative ways to reach their audiences with increasing urgency.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Industry innovations promise to provide publishers with the data – and critical insight – they need to continue demonstrating value to brand advertisers seeking to leverage their platforms.
Let’s take a closer look at the publisher trends we expect to take hold in 2023.
1. Widespread adoption of attention metrics
Despite a growing mindset shift towards attention metrics in 2022, viewable impressions are still the primary metric used by publishers to analyze ad performance. However, we are likely to see the balance tip in 2023.
Attention metrics give publishers deeper insight into ad performance – moving beyond how long an ad is visible, to a space where publishers can accurately measure the level of attention an ad receives.
Research into the attention economy shows attention metrics are 200% more effective at predicting the performance outcomes of ads. This gives publishers a much clearer understanding of how users interact with their content, which is of course an invaluable part of the buy-in process with advertisers.
2. A growing focus on first-party data
Ever since Google’s first announcement to end support for third-party cookies in Chrome, publishers have started to seek alternative targeting solutions. Indeed, Google’s own deadline extension was driven in part by the need to further test their Privacy Sandbox initiative, which was proposed as a less intrusive solution for delivering targeted advertising.
Publishers are already busy future-proofing their marketing plans with the development of first-party data strategies, and we expect to see a growing focus in this area in 2023.
3. The rise of data clean rooms
Clearly, first-party data provides the basis for a solid targeting solution. However, many publishers are beginning to realize their data can be further enriched with second-party data.
By entering into second-party data partnerships, publishers can share aggregated (and therefore anonymous) data for mutual benefit. Not only does this give them a clearer picture of how readers engage with their content, but in turn, demonstrates value to prospective brand advertisers.
Of course, these partnerships ideally take place in data clean rooms, which allow multiple parties to match user-level data without actually sharing personally identifiable information (PII). This is incredibly powerful for tracking ad performance and cross-platform user journeys without the need for third-party cookies.
In the past couple of years, clean rooms have gained a great deal of traction. This has been driven primarily by the concept of walled gardens, where media giants such as Google, Amazon, and Meta provide access to event-level data held within their platform, to enrich their own first-party data.
More recently, we’ve seen a rise in publishers entering into private, more mutually beneficial partnerships using independent clean rooms. And in 2023, we expect this trend to continue.
4. A shift towards contextual targeting
Over the years, behavioral targeting has been the primary mechanism for online engagement. It has allowed marketers to deliver greater ad relevance, informed by a user’s browsing habits, and powered by third-party cookies.
Of course, openly following a user around the web is no longer acceptable to consumers, nor will it be possible once third-party cookies disappear completely. As a result, we’ve seen a marked shift away from this method. Enter the improved ad relevance that contextual targeting brings.
By serving ads that are highly relevant to the context in which they’re placed, publishers can create a user experience that better resonates with their readers. This approach cuts through the noise of up to 10,000 daily ads to increase brand recall by 70%.
Recently, we’ve seen more and more publishers experiment with contextual targeting as they get to grips with cookieless approaches. But in the year ahead, we expect to see them implement far-reaching contextual campaigns with growing confidence.
5. The jury’s out on NFTs in publishing for 2023
Originally viewed as the next fad in the cryptocurrency space, NFTs struck a chord with publishers in 2022. They created opportunities to connect with new audiences, offer unique experiences to readers, and build added value into content subscription models.
At DC Comics, we saw the launch of the NFT Universe as a way to enhance readers’ comic book collections and unlock exclusive fan experiences. Meanwhile, TIME is working on a community-building initiative with its TIMEPieces project. And education publisher Pearson plans to turn its textbooks into NFTs to create a new revenue stream from secondhand sales of its titles.
However, after recent headline losses, publishers are likely to proceed with caution in 2023. It is important that they take the time to learn from the success and failures of previous investments before they take the plunge.
As we embark on yet another uncertain year, publishers will be seeking out and testing a range of new innovations. Only by working out what performs best with their readership, and what doesn’t, can they start to take engagement to the next level.
About the author
Navid Nassiri joined Switchboard as Head of Marketing in 2021. Switchboard’s powerful data engineering automation platform aggregates disparate data at scale, reliably and in real-time, to make better business decisions. In his role at Switchboard, Navid is focused on driving growth and brand awareness through innovative marketing strategies. Navid is a seasoned entrepreneur and executive, including leadership roles at PwC and NBCUniversal.