Advertising Guest Columns
4 mins read

3 ways publishers can prepare for the cookieless future  

TL;DR: Publishers have historically considered one ad tech partner as one revenue opportunity. Today, publishers want partners who can offer access to multiple revenue streams and can help them monetize emerging opportunities such as gaming, digital video and podcasts, says Lucy Zakrzewska, Senior Director of Supply, Azerion.

Despite Google extending the deprecation of third-party cookies into 2024, publishers should continue to consider how they will monetize their content and maximize revenue effectively in the new ‘privacy-first’ landscape. While unquestionably a positive move for consumer privacy, the loss of third-party cookies will impact negatively on the targeting and measurement capabilities of many popular ad platforms.

Consumers now value their privacy more than ever before. Recent research by MediaMath revealed that 51% of consumers were not comfortable with websites tracking online behavior and capturing personal information. For brands, this means they need to find alternative, privacy-compliant ways to reach their target audiences and track the performance of their ads. 

Now publishers have a crucial role to play in creating a new, improved digital advertising ecosystem that delivers results for everyone; advertisers, consumers and publishers alike. Research has shown that publishers’ margins will come under threat in the next 24 months, but there’s also a chance for them to take greater control over the process. So, what action should publishers be taking right now to prepare for the cookieless future?

Less is more?

In recent years, the digital advertising landscape has become more and more complex, with a dizzying array of ad tech vendors launching, merging, or devouring one other. The publishing industry itself is seeing similar levels of M&A activity, further heightening the concerns of many small-to-mid-sized publishers.

Being stuck in a hugely complex ecosystem means publishers can’t always deliver a quality media experience to the end-user, resulting in low-quality placements and shrinking real-time bidding (RTB) returns. As a result, many publishers are now looking to rationalize the number of ad tech partners they are working with. In the past, publishers, keen to reach as wide a potential pool of advertisers as possible, have been willing to juggle demand from multiple supply-side platforms (SSPs).

In 2022, however, more publishers are asking whether the ads being hosted are actually helping them from either a financial or consumer perspective and are beginning to optimize their relationships. Publishers have historically considered one ad tech partner as one revenue opportunity. Today, publishers want partners who can offer access to multiple revenue streams and can help them to monetize emerging opportunities.

Get in the game

One such opportunity is the massive popularity of digital gaming. Since the first lockdown in the UK, gaming and metaverse audiences have exploded. There are now an estimated 3.24 billion gamers worldwide. For publishers keen to provide advertisers with scale, repeat visitors, and an engaged audience, gaming represents one of the more interesting revenue diversification opportunities available to publishers, both from a ‘content’ and an ‘in-game ad’ perspective.

“Instant gaming” companies can build white label gaming experiences and portals for publishers, who can then offer an immersive gaming experience to their audiences in-site.

A high-profile example of this is the New York Times’ recent acquisition of Wordle, which has enabled the publisher to drive valuable increased engagement and dwell time. Tying this sort of gaming experience into an SSP platform allows publishers to offer advertisers in-game display ads.

The message for publishers is clear: it’s time to take gaming seriously.

Show and tell

Another notable trend in digital advertising since 2020 has been the sharp upward trend in viewer interest in digital video.

TikTok, for example, made huge gains in users and brand awareness, helping to popularise the short-form video as a media format. In response, digital video ad spend is continuing to eat away at traditional online display and TV ad budgets. As a result, many publishers are now producing their own video content, adapting their video players, and generally evolving their video offering to better match consumer and advertiser demands.

Similarly, audio podcasts have exploded in popularity over the past couple of years, providing publishers and advertisers with another exciting channel to explore and experiment with. As a format, podcasts offer an unusually high level of listener engagement (as podcasts are often consumed via headphones) and interesting contextual targeting possibilities. For publishers, already skilled in the art of creating content, podcasts offer huge potential as a new ad revenue opportunity.

In summary, publishers need to future-proof their titles to meet the demands and upheaval of a ‘cookieless’ ad ecosystem. As such, they should be working to refine their ad tech ecosystem this year. The key goal should be to work only with partners who can help leverage multiple revenue streams and, ideally, provide guidance on emerging channels, such as gaming, video, and podcasts.

Lucy Zakrzewska
Senior Director Supply, Azerion

Azerion is a leading global media, technology, and entertainment company which delivers meaningful outcomes to brand challenges. It enables advertisers to connect with some of the world’s leading publishers and gaming platforms.

Content creators, publishers, and advertisers work with Azerion to reach millions of people via its market-leading technology, advertising and gaming solutions. Founded in 2015 by two Dutch entrepreneurs, Azerion has experienced rapid expansion thanks to organic growth and strategic acquisitions. The company employs more than 900 employees across the world and is headquartered in Amsterdam, with 21 further offices across Europe including London, Paris, and Dusseldorf.