The digital giants had a bumpy ride in 2019, facing fines for anti-competitive behavior and continued scrutiny over data privacy. But this doesn’t appear to have hindered the big three, Facebook, Amazon and Google, which are expected to account for 70% of digital advertising spend in the US in 2020.
For media owners, competing with the mega-platforms has always been a challenge. Many elected to work with the big players; and now find themselves dealing with tighter and tighter browser restrictions.
Alternatively, with the hope of achieving inventory and data to rival the Goliaths, others have looked for increased scale through alliances and shared audience IDs.
The question is: are coalitions enough to secure the future of publishing?
Competing with the major platforms historically meant relying on third-party data to enrich audience insight and advertising offerings, but now collaboration presents an alternative.
By connecting their audience data and ad inventory, publishers can reduce the need for external cookie-based data — thereby reducing regulatory risks — and seize greater advertising opportunities.
With unified pools of owned inventory, media owners can bundle the most valuable audience segments to boost their media appeal and CPMs, and offer better multi-environment targeting.
In fact, attempts to leverage these advantages have already seen some success. Setting the alliance ball rolling in 2012, France’s La Place Media enjoyed a 70% jump in programmatic CPMs in the first two years of operation.
More recently, the UK’s Ozone Project has added Stylist Group to its portfolio of titles, extending its weekly UK reach to over 44.5 million readers.
But to realize full collective strength, there are still some challenges to overcome; while alliances show potential, publishers looking to launch new co-ops face logistical, regulatory and legal headwinds.
Effective collaboration requires open insight, but many publishers remain keen to keep their data in lockdown. In part this reflects a desire to protect their most valuable assets – their knowledge of their most loyal customers.
As independent entities, publishers are rivals for consumer and advertiser interest, so it’s also understandable that few are willing to directly hand over their valuable audience knowledge to competitors. But this reluctance is also the result of rising concern around data control, and privacy regulation.
Typically, making data accessible has also meant centralization – where information is located, stored, merged and managed in one place; frequently locking that data into a vendor’s ID structure.
The problem with this approach, however, is that it takes data out of individual publisher jurisdiction. Information is stitched together, standardized, and maintained by a data lake or warehouse vendor, potentially presenting issues around trust.
Clearly, systems that require all data to be centralized may not be the best foundation for successful publisher partnerships. But this doesn’t mean co-operation progress has to stall.
Instead, publishers have the opportunity to embrace next generation technology and to shift their focus towards decentralization systems, also known as federated computing.
The core principle of federation is simple: it enables publishers to share data insights and audience analysis, without actually sharing the raw data.
This means publishers keep control over their own data and minimize the compliance challenges that come with moving data around. The safest solutions also enable privacy-safe identity matching using anonymized identifiers.
Collaboration has often enabled publishing players to maximize media scale, but alliances must look further ahead to challenge the tech giants and appeal to advertisers.
As well as increasing breadth, they need to rival major players on depth; utilizing knowledge to make audience buying easier and more precise for advertisers — and this will mean a change of attitude and direction.
Instead of dismissing data sharing as too great a risk, cooperatives should be embracing alternative ways of connecting their insight. By incorporating a decentralized, federated approach to Identity and audience, they can enable secure sharing opens up digital advertising horizons and a brighter future together.
Richard Foster’s role as Chief Revenue Officer at InfoSum involves building the business so it can power data collaboration at increasingly greater scale. He has a demonstrable history in achieving challenging objectives and a digital-first business skill-set that covers deep data expertise, data/privacy platforms and advertising solutions. Richard’s career spans two decades of experience in digital, including four years as UK Managing Director at leading data onboarder, LiveRamp.
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