The Power of First-Party Data Beyond Direct Segment Monetization: A Conversation With Fandom’s Mike Racic

Publishers are overlooking their biggest opportunity as the third-party cookie slowly slips away.

Sure, a first-party data strategy is paramount for monetizing traffic once the cookie crumbles, but publishers should also be thinking long-term about how to position themselves to deliver on identity — and drive stronger demand for their audiences, both on and off their O&O properties.

Entertainment site, Fandom, took their head out of the sand long enough to get a jumpstart on their first-party data program and is now reaping unexpected benefits across the company. On Monday, August 23, Mike Racic, Global Head of Programmatic and Data, Fandom will join Jake Abraham, President, Audigent, and Rob Beeler, Chair, Advisory Board Admonsters will talk about Fandom’s Data Monetization Transformation at PubForum Vail, Monday, August 23, 2021.

Leading up to the event, we spoke with Mike Racic, Global Head of Programmatic and Data, Fandom, about the importance of turning users into consumers or fans, working with the right partners on robust identity solutions to future-proof your business, and the disservice publishers do themselves by just thinking of first-party data for the purpose of direct segment monetization.

Lynne d Johnson: It feels like third-party cookies made publishers a little lazy, leading them to think of their audiences as users and therefore they stopped building relationships with them. And now that cookies are going away they don’t know as much about their audiences as they should, which puts them in a bind with advertisers. Can you talk about the importance of turning users into fans and how that scales?

Mike Racic: It’s a little bit different at Fandom as we treat all users/audiences as “consumers” or “fans.” So the more engaged they are with our content and the more value they see, the more they are open to sharing information with us that will enhance their experience on Fandom.

This will allow us to better serve our advertisers’ needs as well, where we understand how/what/when/where fans engage with us and how that can be applied to deliver optimal advertising campaigns for both the fan and the agency/brands.

LdJ: With mobile identifiers, 3P cookies, and IP address tracking all positioned to go away, publishers are really nervous about identifying and targeting users across devices. How are all of these changes going to benefit publishers in the long run?

MR: First and foremost, you have to be working with the partners that can deliver robust identity solutions well into the future because in the long run, it will lead to a deeper understanding of how consumers are engaging with us, what platforms they’re using, etc.

This will allow us to be able to better focus on developing and delivering the best user experience possible and optimizing our ad stack to maximize revenue. It will bring clarity and focus, which will allow all publishers to better plan for products and content. Basically, it forces us to control and understand how and where consumers are engaging with us.

LdJ: A lot of publishers are talking about first-party data strategies in terms of monetization, but there are so many other benefits to being able to use that data across a media company, especially as the worlds of martech and adtech converge, and content becomes King once again. What are your thoughts about this? And also, how does that change the game for publishers when we talk about data monetization?

MR: It would be a disservice to just think of first-party data from the lens of just direct segment monetization. That is just one part of the puzzle. There are a number of different areas that are equally as important and also have revenue implications.  Some examples are how you use your data to inform the type of consumers you are trying to attract to your property. Types of content, formats it should be in, personalization, etc. Not to mention having a deeper understanding of what engages them with you and advertisers.

Another area is audience extension. i.e. you might not have CTV or in-app, but if you understand how your audience engages with your property and what they do off of it, it opens up another potential revenue stream. So I would say first have a robust data strategy, where data monetization is one of the outcomes you want.

What actual form it takes and how big it can be is purely based on having strategies that encompass all pertinent uses of data (each publisher will be different). Additionally, having a strong partner like Audigent whose technology and data strategy can power our efforts has made a big difference in this rapidly changing environment.

Learn more about Fandom’s Data Monetization Transformation at PubForum Vail, Monday, August 23, 2021, 12:10 pm – 12:40 pm.