A Publisher’s Dilemma: How To Collect First-Party Data Without Compromising User Experience

A Publisher’s Dilemma: How To Collect First-Party Data Without Compromising User Experience

With so much focus on the demise of third-party cookies and the importance of first-party data, publishers now face a unique challenge – how can they gather as much of this information as possible without negatively impacting user experience.

In theory, a publisher could gate all of its content and require users to share this information whenever they visited the website. Such an approach, however, could risk sending users away and as a result, could spell a decrease in traffic.

And this seems to be something these publishers are aware of. A recent study from Teads found that of 419 publishers around the world, 65.3 per cent are not planning on increasing the use of logins, with the majority pointing to a disruption of user experience as the reason behind the decision.

For PubMatic’s regional director, ANZ & Head of Audience, APAC Peter Barry, it’s time to rethink the way in which these logins are framed.

“I don’t think asking for an email in exchange for content is risking user experience,” he told B&T.

“When you go to the cinema you have to pay for a ticket, which then needs to be scanned before you can sit down.  Is this a poor experience?  No, it’s not.

“Any time I use public transport I have to scan my Opal Card.  When I rent a car I need to fill out paperwork.  The first time I sign up for an Uber account I need to input my details.

“I don’t see how doing this to access content is such a big ask. If a user is not paying for that content via a subscription, then the content is paid for by advertisers.  In order to ensure the best ad experience, a user is generally asked to give their email address.  To me, this is a fair value exchange.”

Think value exchange

Much like how a value exchange occurs when a user scans their Opal Card or purchases a ticket to the cinema, publishers are offering users a value exchange when they access their content.

However, this value exchange is not always made clear – creating issues for the wider industry.

“A few years ago we had the ad blocking apocalypse – as an industry we’d done a bad job at explaining that the internet was free because advertisers pay for it, and consumers rushed to deploy ad blocking technology,” said Barry.

“Now that message has been lost again – publishers need to be clear with consumers that quality content has to be paid for and it can be paid for by subscriptions or advertising. Digital advertising needs addressability – so if they want to keep quality content free, and have a more relevant ad experience, they need to log in.”

Collecting data in a frictionless way

Regardless of concerns around user experience, publishers still need to be thinking about how they can collect first-party data for a post-cookies world.

For Interplay Media managing director James Spinks, there is no best way to collect this first-party data. Rather, it is most effective to take a ‘horses for courses’ approach.

“Every publisher and their audience is different and what works for one publisher may not work for another. The user has to see value in giving their data and the challenge for publishers is to come up with data capture strategies that offer their users value,” he told B&T.

“For a sports publisher, it might be collecting an email at the end of a sports quiz in order to reveal the quiz answers. For a publisher producing family health content the value could be in collecting an address to send samples to the user.”

Barry, on the other hand, advocates for a specific approach.

“Here is what publishers should be doing right now: Build first-party audience connections to authenticated IDs through registration or sign-in; build customer connections with email newsletters, and provide a level of meaningful and applicable customer insight with contextual data,” he said.

“If only a portion of the website experience can provide valuable contextual targeting, put that portion into play, even if it’s as little as 10 percent. Publishers should also consider letting their users know why they are looking for their email.  In order to keep producing the content they love, they need to ensure that monetisation via advertising continues.  This should all be done whilst respecting the users’ privacy boundaries.”

Image: iStock/fizkes




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