Magnite Team
11 min read

Everything Media Owners Need to Know About Activating First-Party Data

Note: This post originally appeared on the SpotX website.

We spoke with a few of our data management platform (DMP) partners — Nielsen, Neustar, and Oracle — to understand how media owners and publishers can activate their first-party data to attract advertisers. In our current landscape, advertisers are looking to media owners more than ever before for help in reaching their target audiences. Consumer behaviors and viewing preferences have shifted, and media owners are sitting on unique audience data that’s incredibly valuable to buyers. 

With so much of the data landscape changing rapidly, it is a challenge to know where to even start. These insights will help get you on the path to increased inventory value and higher revenues.  

1.  What are the benefits you see for a media owner who houses their first-party data within a DMP?

Nielsen: A DMP should, at its core, equip the publisher to generate more revenue. It does so in three main ways: 

  1. Increase the value of the publisher’s inventory;
  2. Facilitate monetization of a publisher’s audience; and
  3. Support the publisher in engaging its users.

Neustar: Media owners possess a wealth of unique and endemic data assets on their user base. By working with an identity data management platform (iDMP) such as Neustar, media owners are able to serve more relevant content and ad experiences to their user base. Furthermore, media owners are able to monetize their first-party data through the DMP’s data marketplaces.

Oracle: When thinking about how media owners generate revenue, it’s easy to see how a DMP is an essential tool for helping them achieve their goals. Publishers typically follow ad sales or subscription-based revenue models. Some publishers go beyond ad sales and take a more strategic approach, such as enabling awareness through education, securing enterprise partnerships through spotlights, embedded influencers in native content flows, or taking a broader persona-driven editorial focus.

Revenue comes in the form of gaining the highest yield possible with the most sell-through possible for ad monetization, or from subscribers paying a recurring fee to access content. A DMP enables publishers to do both with more insight, efficiency, and scale than perhaps any other data-centric solution. 

Publishers leverage data collection, segmentation, taxonomy, and marketplace functionality to capture, segment, and monetize their unique first-party audiences. They then also leverage deep insights, third-party audience data, and modeling to extend their first-party audience and use off-property targeting to find new high-potential subscribers to grow their top-of-funnel prospects and acquire more consumers of their content. 

It’s a continuous cycle where collection of first-party data leads to the ability to monetize and sell more ads, and the extension of first-party data leads to the ability to drive more eyeballs to the site to increase subscriptions.   

2.  How are you helping media owners sell against their first-party data? How do you help them activate it and improve their returns?

Nielsen: The very point of the DMP is to make a publisher’s data actionable. DMPs allow media owners to monetize their users by facilitating second-party data deals via audience extension, contributing to data-driven private marketplaces (PMPs), or directly selling data to advertisers. It’s important to note that in order to drive revenue and sales, an insights tool is essential to the platform. This tool allows the publisher to determine what attributes and behaviors their users exhibit which, in turn, informs how they prospect new advertisers, answer RFPs, and bundle inventory. Finally, the last fundamental piece of any platform is to give the publishers the ability to activate those audiences across the ad tech landscape.

Oracle: Publishers utilizing a DMP can expand beyond just linearly selling their content (e.g. selling sections of their site) to also monetizing the value of the visitors to their site. This applies to wherever the customer is engaging across any owned properties (web, app, OTT), as well as off domain. Traditional publishers sell ad impressions based on sections of their sites. What happens when their most valuable inventory sells out? A DMP enables the publisher to sell ad impressions targeting the same visitors who consumed content from that sold-out section, but reach them wherever they may be engaging with the publisher’s content. 

Publishers win as they earn a higher CPM for the impression that could have otherwise gone to a run-of-site buy, or even to a house ad. Advertisers also win since perhaps they reached their intended audience at a lower CPM than that of the sold-out section.

Oracle DMP goes beyond merely capturing first-party data for activation and monetization. We help publishers fully maximize the utility and value of their first-party data with enrichment and real-time portability — without sacrificing scale in the process. We find that enrichment is crucial. We help publishers unlock deep insights into their first-party segments to enhance their value proposition to advertisers, and to identify which visitors they should focus their prospecting efforts toward. They need data to visualize and articulate who comprises their audiences, the unique properties of their audiences, and how valuable they can be – both for monetization and audience extension purposes. Oracle DMP enables publishers to deliver their audience in real time to their ad server of choice without losing scale – and this is vital.

3.  For a media owner just beginning this process, where should they start?

NielsenIt’s important for media owners to first understand their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. Is it ad sales? Site personalization? E-commerce? Subscription management? From here, media owners can get greater clarity on what will drive revenue, prioritizing areas of growth potential. Once such priorities and goals are established, then set clear KPIs and a plan that holds all involved accountable.

When evaluating DMPs, it’s important to ask the following questions that speak to whether or not the platform is turnkey: 

  • Is it capable of ingesting most or all types of data from different sources, and can it integrate different endpoints for activation? 
  • Does it have an insights tool that understands the attributes and behaviors of a publisher’s audience?  
  • Does the platform natively come with O&O data to support your objectives for insights and targeting? 
  • Does the platform have robust cross-device capabilities?  
  • Does the platform include an effective solutions team to guide you through technical questions and business strategy?  

If yes, then you have an effective DMP.

Neustar: A good place to start would be evaluating your current data assets. A few questions to start the process are:

  •  What type of intelligence can you gather from your logged-in users? What about demographic, psychographic, propensity, geographic, behavioral attributes?
  • Are you aggregating your authenticated traffic to provide advertisers with user profiles that add value to your placements?
  • How many unique emails do you have visiting your site daily, weekly, or monthly?           
  • Is there a demand for this first-party data from advertisers and agencies? What differentiates your users from other sites?

Oracle: We suggest first gaining a clear understanding of your current ad yield to establish a baseline for ROI — before implementing a DMP. Then, start with your use cases and data sources to begin developing your unique strategy that will drive the most incremental value and revenue. You might ask: 

  • Do you need more insight into users? 
  • Do you need to customize content based on user behavior or interests? 
  • Do you need to set the hook on the first impression to drive on-site engagement? 
  • Do you need analytics or granular insights on content consumption? 
  • Do you need to transact on your IDs to facilitate and streamline content and conversations across all your site properties? 
  • Are you looking for help with identifying users across properties? 
  • Do you need to buy third-party data? 

Nielsen: Many publishers hope that login information will be the final solution to their woes. However, what’s more important is aligning the publisher’s business model (ads, subscription, e-commerce, events, etc.) with the customer’s expectations. While many publishers will try to do many things well, the most successful publishers will focus on one or two business models that are the best fit for their users, and then select the right solution accordingly. 

Regarding ad sales, logged-in users are a better fit for lower-funnel campaigns since the publishers have more information about them compared to non-logged-in users (who, inversely, are a better fit for top-of-the-funnel campaigns). A DMP, via its insights tool, should be able to find differentiating attributes between users that have created logins and users who have not.

Neustar: Neustar is able to sync identity with all media owners, publishers, and platforms with authenticated logged-in traffic to establish a robust ecosystem of actionable-first party data.

For those partners who do not have authenticated logged-in traffic, there are numerous ways that Neustar can help them be successful. We can identify and analyze anonymous site visitors to provide robust user profiles to enrich media impressions as well as help strategize against marketing tactics. We provide licensed identity data through the Neustar Customer Identity File, which provides actionable identity data that can be used for targeting, measurement, propensity scoring, and remarketing.

Oracle: Even in a cookie-constrained future, it remains critical for publishers to monetize their audience. Some publishers may choose to invest in adding authentication in exchange for content, thus creating their own identity collection that can be used to profile and target. Some may double down on systematic strategies to drive users to provide identities (e.g. asking users to provide their email for alerts on topics they like). Others may increase efforts to smartly classify content from their pages, making the content available for programmatic targeting achievable outside the third-party cookie, too. 

Additionally, there are several proposals formulating for the future of anonymous identity that can be used for targeting, and this is where some market-leading DMPs like Oracle DMP have been investing.  

5.  How can publisher-provided IDs (PPIDs) enhance data quality? Do you see this as an important implementation strategy in order to remove reliance on third-party cookies?

NielsenThird-party cookies helped publishers with two things:

  1. They tied together their users across multiple sites or channels; and 
  2. They enriched their user base with additional information they cannot get elsewhere. 

PPIDs help with the former, especially for publishers that own multiple properties. However, PPIDs can not help publishers enrich their user base without some form of identity resolution solution. Implementing a PPID infrastructure takes a lot of time and is costly, so publishers should first make sure that implementing such a solution aligns with their business strategy.

Neustar: Neustar is working with the top publishers to establish a personally identifiable information (PII) identity sync using hashed emails. The hashed email is replaced with a pseudonymous Neustar Identifier that is used to measure marketing impact at the user level. This process is predicated on the publisher collecting, storing, and providing authenticated (logged-in) traffic.

Oracle: One of the strategies to reduce reliance on third-party cookies has been underway recently across large-scale media owners. These companies often have, or are rapidly developing, their own private ID graph or PPID. The benefit here is that they gain a holistic view of their customers wherever they are engaging with them. 

These publisher private graphs can be used for analytics and activation use cases (e.g. easy access to desktop vs. mobile content, subscriber type). Then, they can maximize the value of that ID graph data by mapping these private ID graphs into the largest ID graphs across the globe, resulting in unprecedented insight into the behavior and interest of these visitors – a key capability which leading DMPs should have inherent in their platform. 

6.  With new privacy regulations and the decline of cookies, how should advertisers shift their data strategies? 

Nielsen: With the decline of cookies, advertisers will have to focus on working more closely with publishers, PMPs, or publisher consortiums and shift budgets accordingly, including shifting towards more mobile in-app and OTT environments. Advertisers should also become more comfortable with broader targeting or contextual targeting. And, lastly, advertisers should keep an eye out for unified ID solutions that are receiving wide-scale adoption.

Neustar: We believe it starts with an open and honest conversation with an advertiser’s customers about how they are collecting, storing, and utilizing their data to benefit their experience. Establishing trust should be the first step in building a lasting sustainable relationship.

The next step is to work with an identity resolution partner who can build a complete picture of identity by connecting offline and online data. We believe a comprehensive view of the impact of your market requires looking at the full journey, including both known-customer and unknown-consumer intelligence. We also encourage advertisers to think beyond the cookie, and even think beyond just digital, to identify all of the available and sustainable identifiers that can be collected and resolved to a viable and accurate customer identity. An identity resolution vendor can provide that view.

Oracle: Unfortunately, it’s our belief that there won’t be a single silver bullet. We believe multiple strategies will need to be implemented to profile and target known or authenticated users, pseudonymized customers and anonymous consumers. This likely will require advertisers to adopt a suite of solutions to address each user segment across the profile-ability spectrum (customers vs. prospects across known/pseudonymous/anonymous).  

But on the bright side, it appears data does and will continue to originate in offline environments, logged-in user states, and on-device IDs (mobile and CTV apps). The data can be activated in those same environments or across devices, leveraging existing people-based identity and new, emerging identity solutions.

7.  How do you see the importance of first-party data shifting over the next year for both publishers and advertisers? 

Nielsen: Over the next year, first-party data (in its many forms: emails, PPID, address, etc.) will certainly play a bigger role for both publishers and advertisers. The challenge will be figuring out the following:

  • How do we tie those different first-party data sets together at a person or household level?
  • How do we market first-party data actionable across the ad tech ecosystem?
  • Finally, how do we enrich first-party data with additional information about the user?

Neustar: It will continue to grow in importance as the cookie is phased out. We predict that publishers will continue to compete with the platforms and walled gardens that require authenticated traffic to access content. This will provide publishers with their own valuable asset that can provide sustainability and differentiation to gain advertising dollars. 

Advertisers have already realized the value of their first-party data, which is why we have seen a renaissance of sorts over the past three to five years with a heavy focus on customer data, data onboarding, and identity resolution to provide greater personalization, measurement fidelity, and campaign optimization.

Oracle: We have been seeing, even before the Google announcement, that disruptor businesses are those that are leaning into all the ways they can collect, derive intelligence from, and connect data. First-party data is gaining in importance, but third-party data remains relevant to provide a truly complete, rounded-out view of customers. CDPs are gaining in interest as a first-party toolset, but we find that our DMP customers understand that Oracle DMP still plays a role in the tech stack alongside the CDP. 

A DMP is key to expanding their understanding of customers using third-party data, anticipating the needs of and driving strong first impressions for new consumers, retargeting customers in any channel, device, or platform, identifying contextual audiences and opportunities for mindset targeting in cookie-less environments, delivering customer-aware marketing that suppresses recent converters, achieving more value and monetizing their first-party customer segments in a private, secure data marketplace, or attracting new consumers who look and spend like their best customers.