The power dynamics in digital advertising are set to change dramatically. That is if publishers are ready to reassert their power. And change how they think about their strongest asset – their audience connection. Just maybe not in the way you think. AI helps level the playing field for them, and it’s time for them to jump on board.
Certainly, first-party data continues to rise in value. And publishers should do all they can to collect more of it, responsibly. But realistically, beyond some of the biggest news and business-focused sites in the world, most publishers are not going to be able to turn the vast majority of their readers into free registered users, let alone paid subscribers. That doesn’t mean they should throw their hands up. Or settle for using editorial sections as a proxy for audience targeting like in the old print days.
Instead, publishers have an opportunity to piece together a richer picture of their users, interests, complete web surfing history, and even intent at a given moment – in a way that can be more useful for brands than cookies ever were. As long as they are willing to accept that they can’t pull this off on their own.
Indeed, this new future will require new partnerships and will require a multi-pronged approach to data collection. Specifically, publishers will need to:
- Find a way to understand their visitors beyond their activities on their own sites. This requires working with a powerful AI technology provider that is able to map out a significant portion of the internet audience at scale.
- Embrace a multi-signal approach to replacing the third-party cookie, one that includes all the tools at a publisher’s disposal, including cohorts and advanced forms of contextual targeting.
The first step – finding the right AI solution – is crucial. This is because the scope and volume of data needed is massive. And only a few companies in our industry are truly capable of executing at this level.
The second step likely requires more experimentation but is increasingly accessible today. There are several companies developing viable tools for ‘classifying’ more of the web that goes beyond basic content categories. The same goes for contextual ad products, where there has been far more innovation than many might realize of late.
Ask the Right Questions
When figuring out which companies to lean on for getting smarter about your site’s users, it’s important that publishers ask the right questions. It starts with making sure such providers can both gather and make sense of the trillions of data points necessary to get this right. At the same time, it’s crucial that publishers find an AI solution that has made real advancements in understanding both content nuance, and user intent. Lastly, these partners need a track record. The more first-party data they have, the more of the web they ‘see,’ and the smarter they get over time.
AI helps level the playing field and the potential here is massive. It won’t happen overnight. But the sooner publishers come to grips with the role they’ll be able to play in reshaping the industry and taking control of their destiny, the sooner they’ll start reaping the benefits.
And that’s when we start spending a lot less time grumbling about third-party cookies.