5 Benefits Publishers Stand To Gain With A First-Party Data Strategy

This cannot be overstated: the shift from a third-party to a first-party ecosystem will be challenging but it also presents the first opportunity in 20 years for publishers to reclaim their power among ad tech and social media giants. Media companies that move into 2022 focused almost entirely on producing superior content will attract genuinely engaged users, and win. 

And, how refreshing! Death of the third-party cookie is giving publishers the freedom to shift their attention towards a first-party ecosystem rooted in audience engagement for the first time since digital marketing and programmatic media forced their hand. 

The “clickbait” era pushed publishers and media companies to diverge from content-first strategies with misaligned incentives that benefitted nobody in the ecosystem. Publishers have focused on quantity over quality at the expense of user experience and the perceived value of their content. The quality of audiences reached by advertisers plummeted, and users lost trust in media titles they used to have delivered to their doorstep. Publishers have been stuck in a negative feedback loop since 1996 and have a chance to rethink everything in 2022. 

The shift to an advertising paradigm based on real identity, not cobbled-together proxies from a bunch of third-party cookies, is the future of advertising and a real opportunity for publishers. Audience engagement is a critical driver of conversion and first-party user data, and the lowest-hanging fruit for media organizations to implement in preparation for 2022. Automated technology makes audience engagement significantly more cost-effective and viable for publishers to collect first-party data than it ever was in an analog world. 

Here are five profits that publishers stand to gain with a first-party strategy:

The Power To Collect Fully Consented Data

First-party data is fully consented data. It’s authenticated by users who create “logged in” profiles so they can comment on articles or register their user preferences to receive more personalized notifications from a publisher. In a first-party system, publishers are transparent with how and why they are collecting first-party data, and users opt-in with full consent. Fully consented data is high-quality data, a huge improvement for publishers seeking incremental revenue from ad placement.

The Opportunity To Build A "Known" Audience

Converting users from “unknown” to “known” will be a crucial focus for publishers seeking to bridge their first-party data with the advertising ecosystem. When users feel motivated to opt-in by an attractive value exchange and become “known” to a publisher, they willfully supply first-party data that publishers can use to identify their audience segments and serve personalized ads, and experiences.

The Ability To Drive Community Engagement

Two benefits of building an active community are subscribers and ad revenue. Publishers that implement community engagement tools will dig deep into their core audience’s behaviour and interest through user engagement, behaviour, and preference data. Publishers can then plug that raw data into their paywall, business intelligence, CRM and data management platforms. 

The Benefits Of Better Content Performance

First-party offers publishers a considerable opportunity to grow their content performance with personalized recommendations (push notifications) informed by data collected from logged-in users. Personalization gives users what they want (and ask for) and leads to higher engagement while respecting opt-outs. Investing in personalization tools will pay off with serious rewards.

First-Party Data Ownership

First-party data ownership will save many publishers’ faltering ad businesses by giving them exclusive possession of their audience information. Ownership will become increasingly important when publishers pitch advertisers their first-party data sets and soon become the pillar of programmatic advertising sales. The sooner that publishers begin developing their first-party data sets, the better (and more significant) their programmatic ad sales outcomes will be.

The Bottom Line:

When one door closes, another one opens. Death of the third party cookie is giving publishers the freedom to shift their attention away from the third-party programmatic ad model towards a first-party ecosystem rooted in audience engagement for the first time in over 20 years. The media business is returning to a golden era of great content and growing audiences.

How To Leverage First-Party Data To Activate Your Audience

The days of social media companies profiting from publishers’ communities are over — and that’s a beautiful thing. Leaving behind the necessity to chase volume for ad impressions is pushing the publishing industry in a positive direction and presenting media companies with the chance to reclaim their positions of power for the first time in 20 years. Publishers now have the freedom to focus on producing great content and engaging audiences without being at the mercy of an algorithm or cookie.

The move towards a first-party data and revenue model relies on highly valuable content and incredible user experiences. Building a proprietary and high-resolution first-party audience that will attract advertisers and marketers, based on contextual and behavioural signals, is how publishers will reclaim their audience and generate new revenue opportunities in a post-cookie world. One of the best things that publishers can do today in preparation is to focus on increasing the volume, accuracy and recency of their first-party data gathering activities. 

Let’s break down the values of data volume, accuracy and recency: 

The value and volume of first-party data is clear; the more data that a publisher has to make available to buyers, the better. The value of data accuracy is also immense; it’s collected when users declare their interests, either directly or by their actions, and stored on the server-side regardless of how browsers or regulators evolve their privacy restrictions in the future. Finally, user data has a very short half-life, so media companies with audiences that return frequently will have an advantage with data recency — bringing users back to your website frequently will help to ensure that your audience data is fresh. 

Now, let’s review some of the ways that publishers are collecting first-party data today:


Newsletters have emerged as one of the most popular tactics for collecting first-party data. It’s a great strategy because newsletters capture registrations in a user-friendly way and provide a clear value exchange for readers. They also cement a direct relationship between the publisher and the user.

Registration Walls

Registration walls are becoming increasingly popular both as standalone tools and as a step along the paywall meter. Registration walls can be very effective in collecting first-party data but they can also undercut the relationship-building process with your audience and put a damper on data collection so they should be implemented carefully. As the value of first-party data increases, publishers may want to consider rebalancing their registration walls to ensure they’re maximizing the perceived value exchange for users.

Community Engagement and User-Generated Content

Community engagement and user-generated content (UGC) represent the most comprehensive and sustainable ways for publishers to build their first-party data stores. While some publishers previously shied away from community engagement and UGC in fear of the costs traditionally associated with managing online communities, modern automated moderation technology is making this process highly cost-effective — creating new and scalable opportunities for publishers to promote community engagement and generate valuable first-party data. 

We mentioned earlier that authenticated users allow publishers to store and track their activity on the server-side regardless of how browsers or regulators evolve their privacy restrictions in the future. Viafoura data shows that even the simplest implementations of audience engagement tools drive between 30 to 50 percent of all user registrations on our customer sites. 

Here’s some compelling data from Viafoura on how user engagement tools drive user engagement and retention: 

  • Engaged users spend three times as much time onsite than non-engaged users. 
  • Engaged users have a fifty percent retention rate in month two, versus three percent for non-engaged users, and even after six months, engaged user retention rates only dip to forty percent.
  • Registered users generate twenty times more page views and monthly time spent on site than non-registered users. User retention and frequency is crucial, and engaged and authenticated users are much more likely to return. 

Here’s the clincher: 

To leverage first-party data to activate their audience, publishers must offer value in exchange for the effort it takes for a user to register, and for their consent to collect. At Viafoura, we call these “value exchange moments” and we design our products to easily integrate these moments into your site. The landscape has changed. Building a value-driven relationship with your audience by creating a series of engagement opportunities is how you will reclaim your audience and revenue opportunities in a post-cookies world.

To learn more about how to build your first-party data strategy download The Publisher’s Guide to First-Party Data today.

Four Exciting Reasons for Media Leaders To Be Optimistic About the Year Ahead

2020 was disrupted by a deadly virus, shrinking budgets, nonstop work and misinformation, challenging even the most well-established media organizations. Thankfully, change is on the horizon. 

Media companies that have powered through this chaotic and unpredictable period are now well-positioned to embrace a brighter future.

“While the pandemic has not changed where the industry was heading, it has cut the time to get there from years to months, with the virus rapidly accelerating trends like a move to digital and working from home,” two writers state on FIPP’s website. “And even though such quick transformation has come as a shock to publishers, it presents plenty of opportunities to bounce back strongly in 2021.”

Industry leaders must now take a step back to identify and take hold of new opportunities to succeed and get excited in this strange, new world. 

To get started, here are four reasons why the year ahead will help to revive your sense of optimism in the future of your business.

Benefiting From Larger Audiences

Due to the pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and U.S. election, media organizations saw their digital audiences climb in size throughout 2020. 

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center even revealed that digital news consumers now prefer catching up on the news by visiting media websites directly. 

Entertainment-focused media companies, like Netflix, also saw their audiences increase last year as more people sought to escape from reality and stay busy at home.

Between the internet users looking for trustworthy news coverage and those seeking entertainment, media organizations have larger audiences to nurture and monetize. And companies that can prove their ongoing value this year will benefit from sustainable reader revenue.

More specifically, the coming months will be an opportunity for media companies to engage and convert their visitors into long-term, profitable brand supporters.

The End of Trump’s Reign

Media companies have a love-hate relationship with Trump. On the one hand, the past four years and the 2020 presidential election were extremely eventful thanks to Trump, which made for excellent news content and led to a boom in news subscriptions. And yet, Trump popularized the belief that media promotes fake news and reduced trust in media. 

“The last four years have been marked by a deliberate and systemic attack on the press by the president of the United States,” explains Gabriel Escobar, editor and senior vice president of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It has — I suspect — contributed to the lack of trust in journalism which was not great to begin with.”

The transition to Biden’s presidency means that news media companies can finally begin rebuilding their relationships with audiences, restoring trust in the news.

The Rise of First-Party Data

Anyone who deals with audience data will know that third-party cookies are crumbling, triggering an industry-wide shift from third-party to first-party data strategies. 

However, the elimination of third-party cookie usage isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

First-party cookies allow media companies to learn more about their audience members and personalize experiences directly on their websites or apps.

In fact, Kayleigh Barber, a senior reporter at Digiday, highlights how Future plc “has seen a range of 50-70% better performance on campaigns that use its first-party audience segment data than campaigns that rely on third-party data.” 

By refocusing on first-party data, media companies can understand the identities, habits and preferences of their digital community members and serve them better in the future.

Moving Toward Virtual Events

Virtual events have completely replaced in-person events over the last few months. Gradually, media leaders have discovered that virtual events are cheaper and easier to organize, have no attendee limits and lend themselves better to interactive discussion sessions. 

“As we enter 2021, the era of virtual events — even in a post-pandemic world — is here to stay, at least as one way for news organizations to hold these gatherings,” says Rick Berke, the co-founder and editor of Stat, a news media company. 

It’s clear that even in-person events in the future will need to be supported with virtual elements to maximize attendee engagement. 

Although recent months have created a series of hurdles for media companies to jump over, organizations that have survived until this point are stronger than ever. Media leaders can now look forward to forging strong connections to their audiences with their newfound knowledge in the year ahead. 

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