Publishers are adapting advertising strategies for a privacy-first world

Tina Iannacchino, senior publisher director, Seedtag

So much of the attention around the death of third-party cookies and its impact on the digital advertising industry is focused on the implications for brands and consumers, which is far from the complete picture. The digital publishing industry in the U.S. is massive and set to be shaken up as it heads into the cookieless future. However, for those publishers that leverage the right technologies, the death of cookies should be seen as an opportunity to generate new revenue streams and rebuild trust with their readers. 

According to Statista, the U.S. digital publishing industry is expected to be worth more than $11 billion in 2025 as digital audiences continue to grow. Publishers are naturally looking for new ways to monetize these billions of new impressions, but they need to do so in a future-proof way. For many years, these platforms have been using third-party cookies as a crutch for their advertising strategies, but now that they’re about to be taken away, what else do they have at their disposal?

Cookies replacements are falling short

Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies on Chrome by 2024 will represent the final nail in the coffin for the third-party cookie, though Google’s proposed replacements have not been without their troubles. Google had initially announced Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoCs, as their proposed solution, but this was soon dropped in favor of Topics

FLoCs faced many of the same criticisms as third-party cookies, as they were seen as not doing enough to protect users’ privacy. FLoCs also consisted of more than 30,000 user classification categories, which meant advertisers could still locate specific user information through reverse engineering. Topics attempts to solve this problem by launching with 350 categories and assigning users no more than five categories a week. User data will be stored for only two weeks, while it was to be stored indefinitely with FLoCs.

While many stakeholders see this as a step in the right direction, publishers need more to ensure they are best positioned to thrive in this privacy-first world. One option is to use the data consumers are already willingly sharing with them. Using first-party data or Unified IDs helps publishers deliver an enhanced user experience and effectively target consumers. 

Topics may also open the door for strategies more focused on contextual targeting, as the deprecation of cookies opens up new addressable inventory and allows opportunities to capitalize on millions of engaged readers. An in-depth understanding of the consumers’ wants, needs and interests enables marketers to curate relevant content hosted on the right platform. For many, contextual AI represents a path in this direction.

Contextual advertising offers publishers a cookieless solution

Contextual AI offers opportunities to publishers that no other solution is capable of providing. It works best on editorial content, often considered the most brand-safe environment. This makes publishers that adopt contextual advertising strategies much more attractive to brands, as they want to be associated with high-quality content in which they know their audience is interested.

Changing attitudes toward brand safety also unlock new opportunities for publishers. Consumers no longer expect brands to remain silent on current affairs and social issues, so publishers are offering ads on articles they previously would not have considered. Instead of block-listing keywords, the industry is adopting a much more nuanced approach that will allow publishers to make the most of their inventory.

Contextual ads give publishers and brands a reputation boost

In recent years, the reputation of online advertising has suffered as consumers have increasingly grown tired of the same intrusive, ineffective techniques. However, as these techniques are being phased out, publishers have a role in turning the perceptions of online advertising around. 

One of the great appeals of contextual advertising is its ability to create a positive association between brands and high-quality content that engages readers. Contextual ads have been proven to drive increased brand recall while improving the reputations of both the brand and the platform that host these ads. Hosting contextual ads opens up a new revenue stream for publishers, as advertisers are evidently more likely to keep buying inventory that allows them to reach their target audience more effectively and in a thoughtful, more understandable way.

Contextual ads also help publishers grow their readership. Because the ads they see are less intrusive and more relevant to their interests, consumers are more likely to enjoy a more pleasant experience, leading to improved consumer sentiment and positive word of mouth. These readers are more likely to return and introduce more visitors to the site.

Working with a top contextual partner that also offers total comprehension of an ad’s environment is the best way forward for publishers looking to thrive in a privacy-first world. These partners provide consumers with the most personalized and pleasant experience — as they only encounter ads they’re interested in — while offering advertisers the best possible environment for their content, growing their readership and positively impacting their bottom line.

Sponsored by: Seedtag

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