PubForum Wrap-Up: An Internet of Individuals

“Let’s not talk about users anymore,” commented WarnerMedia’s Amit Chaturvedi during his Tuesday morning Publisher Forum keynote on thriving during momentous shifts. “Let’s convert them to fans.”

That may have seemed like an interesting comment to make in front of a room full of publisher revenue specialists. It sounds like the kind of thing you’d say to pump up an audience development team.

But revenue teams these days are for more interested in audience development—as well as analytics and even editorial, all of which wormed their way into Publisher Forum Scottsdale conversations. The future of monetization requires thinking about audiences less as faceless users, cookied or not, and more as individuals. Anonymous individuals, of course, but ones with interests and intent.

Because guess what? With the collapse of the third-party cookie, that kind of information is about to be more valuable than ever. The opening keynote conversation with Goodway Group’s Amanda Martin alluded that buyers are already far more interested in contextual signals—especially in Europe, which might be a tasty preview of a post-privacy regulation United States. Joetta Gobell, VP of Research and Insights at Dotdash, illustrated how publishers can crunch contextual data and build intent segments for maximum gain.

And even on the privacy front—as CCPA and its Jan. 1, 2020, launch date loomed large over the conference—understanding the user as an individual is key. Working groups noted that CCPA offers the chance for publishers to evaluate the usefulness of all the third-party code running on sites, but also to open a dialogue with visitors about business models… And the possible expansion of those models: the tools are available to enable choice in how individuals compensate you for the content or other value you provide, whether that’s transacting with cash or data.

Looking back, the consumer data privacy crisis isn’t about people that hate personalized content or targeted advertising—it’s really been about the methods. So-called creepy ads chasing people as they venture across the Internet, thanks to surreptitiously placed trackers (and often dubiously amassed data).

Publisher Forum attendees didn’t seem all that worked up about the cookie apocalypse because they saw the opportunities, and potentially the end of cherry-picking RTB advertisers chasing third-party cookies. The solutions vying to replace cookies—including identity resolution, shared IDs, contextual targeting, and AI-based matching—honestly seem like better options for publishers, consumers… arguably even advertisers.

They also make more sense as a greater amount of ad spend hits the ultimate cookieless environment: connected television.

However, there is a gap created by the cookie’s downfall in third-party measurement for viewability, verification, and other metrics. Buyers and sellers alike are still waiting for agreeable, post-cookie solutions, but Martin did suggest that in a third-party data vacuum, advertisers would have to trust their publisher partners more—which I’m sure was relieving for many in the audience to hear.

Next Publisher Forum is in Santa Monica, March 8-11, 2020, but now’s the time to grab a season pass (or two… or three!) for your team. Learn more here!