When GDPR forced our entire industry to take a closer look at how we capture, store and leverage user data, Content Marketing predictions for how we’d move forward were dire. Nearly a year later though, there are signs that publishers’ efforts to develop innovative, cookie-lite (or cookie-less) ad businesses are starting to drive some growth in Content Marketing.
In a marketplace where consumer data protection initiatives limit third-party cookie access and increase browser restrictions, the data publishers can share about what’s actually happening on the page becomes far more valuable – and data-savvy publishers are starting to leverage it.
Has The “Age of Audience” Crippled the Content?
“Content is king” is a much-used phrase among publishers, platforms and advertisers alike — but if that’s the case, then the king has bowed to the “Audience Emperor” over the past 5 – 8 years.
But once cookies became synonymous with targeting and measuring users at scale to create audiences, buyers, sellers, and all the platforms in between started to focus on packaging and distributing third-party data. Marketers also wisely began to see the value of their own first-party data, often combining it with that third-party data to enhance its depth.
On paper, moving into this “Age of Audience” benefits the entire digital ad ecosystem. But as we’re witnessing, a media and publishing landscape ruled by the “Audience Emperor” has disempowered everyone involved — especially publishers.
The push for audience-based buying and targeting has created an over-dependence on cookies, left room for misuse and mishandling of user data, and ultimately, devalued the core business of publishing. The often-cited “race to the bottom” in terms of cheap, targeted eyeballs has negated much of the benefit of the quality content that media companies are creating.
From Following Cookie Crumbs to Mining On-Page Packets
Yet by removing access to cookies in many cases, initiatives like GDPR, the ePrivacy Regulation, and the imminent California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are forcing the Content Marketing industry to come up with ad solutions that don’t rely on cookies.
Publishers and ad platforms are rushing to develop new products, and while the innovation is good for the industry, even publishers that don’t have product development resources can benefit from the “assets” they’ve always had: content and context.
We now find ourselves entering an ideal state where user-based targeting can be combined with rich, page-level data that is not reliant on cookies. From basics like where an ad is placed, whether it’s viewable, and adjacent content, to newer stats like Share of Voice (SOV) and Time in View (TIV), there is a wealth of transparent, page-level data that can be passed in the bid stream and used to develop highly-effective media plans and campaigns.
As the quest for effective ad solutions in a cookie-less (or “cookie-lite”) world puts the spotlight back on quality content versus identifying and tracking specific users, publishers are finally in a position to leverage the power of their page. And in a market where publishers are getting squeezed on all sides, this may be one of the first signs in Content Marketing that the balance of power is shifting back in their favor.