The first-party data revolution

Publishers' new moat

By Guy Tasaka



Editor and Publisher


The first party data revolution ..... Nowadays, everyone is talking about how thirdparty cookies are fading away. Big platforms can’t track users across sites to serve up those ultra-targeted ads anymore. For publishers, this landscape shift is both a challenge and an opportunity. Programmatic ad revenue may dip without micro-targeted audiences. But the good news? First-party data strategies let publishers regain control of their customer data, improve user experiences and tap new income streams. Let’s explore what first-party data is, how to put it to work and why it should be priority number one. Defining first-party data First-party data is intel publishers gather directly from users on their owned sites and apps. This data is collected by tracking visits, article views, video watches, newsletter signups, registrations and other direct interactions. Publishers can capture this data with cookies, logins and analytics programs. Customer data platforms (CDPS) like Segment, Lytics, mediafocused Onecount and newcomer Mortarai play a leading role. They create unified customer profiles by ingesting info from all sources and matching identities across devices. This gives publishers a 360-degree view of each user. Tying this activity data to user identities in a CDP allows publishers to divide audiences into distinct groups based on interests, engagement, demographics, and more. These are first-party data segments. They offer detailed insight into a publisher’s most loyal users. These user records may also be “enriched” by adding information from external data sources like Linkedin or Zoominfo. Putting first-party data to work There are several ways for publishers to activate first-party data to enhance experiences and open new moneymaking avenues: • Personalized site experiences: Spotlight content and deals tailored to user behaviors. • Email newsletters: Send customized editions to subscriber segments. • Targeted ad campaigns: Sell inventory directly to advertisers pursuing specific groups. • Lookalike modeling: Use algorithms to find new users similar to current ones. Expand marketing reach. • Attribution tracking: Understand user journeys across channels. See which channels drive conversions. • Predictive analytics: Identify users likely to churn and engage them with special offers. Or predict which topics will resonate most. • Audience extensions: Use hash IDS to locate publisher audiences on platforms like Facebook and Google, then serve them ads off-site. • Enhanced programmatic: Construct targeted audience segments for privacy-safe programmatic buying without sharing personal data. The big win? First-party data lets publishers connect with users across platforms without sharing underlying personal data with third parties. Monetizing first-party data Publishers can generate income from first-party data strategies through: • Charging advertisers a premium to target tailored audiences on the publisher’s properties. • Optimizing creative and placement for each user segment, improving branded content performance. • Enabling platforms like Facebook to reach publisher segments off-site for a fee. • Selling data-fueled subscription products to users, like customized newsletters. • Crafting high-value data services to help advertisers enhance their customer intel. Packaging publisher data into differentiated products, segments and services beyond basic display ads is key. Users and advertisers will pay for the extra value. Why bet on first-party data? Prioritizing first-party data offers many long-term benefits: • Own the customer relationship instead of renting audiences from walled gardens. • Insulate against the end of thirdparty cookies and IDFA changes. • Market without sharing personal data with third parties. • Provide superior experiences that convert users into devotees. • Uncover richer insights to inform editorial strategies. • Build new offerings beyond advertising to drive subscriptions and commerce. Simply put, first-party data is every publisher’s most powerful asset. Investing to build that asset will pay off through larger, more loyal audiences and new revenue streams. Making the first-party data investment While the opportunities are exciting, seizing them requires investment. On the tech side, publishers need solutions like CDPS plus analytics, segmentation, modeling and data clean rooms. And they need data science and engineering talent. For publishers ready to take the plunge, first-party data will transform their business. Now is the time to formulate strategies and build capabilities that let publishers chart their own courses in a privacy-centric landscape. The winners will be those who start early and go all in on firstparty data. So, in summary, third-party cookies fading out is both a challenge and a chance for publishers. Activating highquality first-party data will let them thrive. With personalization, retention and new products that readers value — not to mention the powerful audience insights advertisers will pay for. First-party data brings publishers closer to users, gives them independence from platforms and unlocks new income streams. That’s why first-party data may be the single most valuable asset any publisher possesses. The time is now to start investing and refining this data into gold. Guy Tasaka is a seasoned media professional with a 35-year track record of leading change in the industry. He has collaborated with renowned organizations such as Macworld Magazine, Ziff-davis and The New York Times, where he honed his expertise in research, strategy, marketing and product management. As the former chief digital officer at Calkins Media, Guy was acknowledged as the Local Media Association’s Innovator of the Year for his work in advancing OTT and digital video platforms for local news organizations. He is also the founder and managing partner of Tasaka Digital, specializing in helping media and technology companies navigate business transformations using his extensive experience and forward-thinking approach. Guy can be reached at