Digital Publishing Guest Columns
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How publishers can put first-party data to work using newsletters

An email newsletter program not only helps with distributing content. It’s also a valuable means of gathering first-party data, which can then be used for new revenue-generating opportunities. Adam Berkowitz, Chief of Staff, LiveIntent explains more…

As the industry is well aware, first-party data is crucial for targeting and reaching customers in a cookieless environment. In a challenging market where revenue is a top concern, having a first-party data advantage is key and can help support a publisher’s business in multiple ways.

Email newsletters provide a valuable opportunity for publishers to collect first-party data, giving direct access to opted-in email addresses and insights into audience behavior. Let’s explore how publishers can use data obtained from email newsletter programs to boost revenue, which is especially important now.

Using first-party data to boost ad sales

Publishers can and should use newsletter content and ad engagement data to create audience segments. By analyzing how their readers engage with the content, publishers can categorize their audience based on interests, such as sports fans, health & wellness enthusiasts, and finance experts. The newsletter content and ad engagement data can also provide insight into reader behaviors.

By analyzing metrics like clicks, publishers can determine which of their readers are likely to take action and segment those audiences accordingly. This first-party data is valuable to the email revenue team as it allows them to build deals centered around audience quality, or their likelihood to engage with specific topics of interest

This strategy helps to attract advertising partners by highlighting the unique features of the offering: engaging content and highly-engaged audiences. Using first-party data as the basis for direct-sold deals can also support target prospecting. For example, if the publisher knows that content and ads related to home and garden, and bedding and linens generate the most engagement from their readers, connecting with advertisers in these specific verticals and products will both increase revenue and maintain a personalized user experience.

This approach can also enhance existing advertiser partnerships. For instance, if a long-term advertising partner that produces high-end cookware expands into home essentials, the publisher, armed with first-party data, can offer the advertiser a chance to reach the right audiences and support their launch.

First-party data can enhance your email media kit, but its benefits don’t have to end there. The interest and behavioral data collected from your newsletter program can also be beneficial for your other channels. If you can identify site visitors, you can see which email readers engage with your website and compare their email engagement. This information can significantly improve your web ad sales efforts by allowing you to extend web campaigns to your top audience – those who engage both on the web and email.

Using first-party data to maximize marketing

You can leverage your first-party email audience insights on behavior and interest to enhance your marketing efforts by putting yourself in the advertiser’s shoes. Advertisers aim to reach and convert their target customers by using various marketing strategies, and the best way to support these efforts is by having knowledge of their customers’ interests and behaviors.

Just like using first-party data-based audience deals to help advertising partners reach customers through direct-sold deals, you can use first-party audience data to market your products and services, such as subscription programs. These programs are essential for business growth for many publishers, whether paid newsletter subscriptions, growing email lists for other newsletter products, or other content subscriptions like website access, podcasts, or apps.

To promote your subscription programs, you can use your first-party data in the following ways:

  • Identify who engages with your content and if they have a paid subscription. Target non-paying, highly-engaged subscribers with paid subscription promotions to increase revenue. You can also offer full access to your larger website property, apps, or podcasts.
  • Discover your reader’s interests and see if there’s an opportunity for cross-promotion. For example, if your weekly newsletter features various topics and you find that many of your readers engage with your tech content but aren’t subscribed to your tech-specific newsletter, promote the tech newsletter within your weekly newsletter to boost subscriptions.

With this first-party data, your marketing team can apply similar strategies for promotions across multiple channels, not just email.

Using first-party data for commerce revenue

The use of first-party data extends beyond ad sales and marketing, as it is a crucial aspect in the growing retail sector with the rise of retail media networks. According to a report by The Trade Desk, 74% of brands have allocated budgets for retail media networks, ranking it as the fifth highest in budget allocation behind digital video, paid social, digital display, and paid search.

In light of the growing importance of first-party data and the surge of ecommerce due to the pandemic, publishers such as BuzzFeed, New York Post, Daily Beast, and Hearst have diversified their business by starting their own commerce ventures.

By using the behavioral data from their email programs, publishers can determine the products that interest their readers and determine the best sponsored content or affiliate deals to pursue. For instance, if a high percentage of email readers show interest in golf-related content, the publisher can use that information to make golf equipment product recommendations or secure affiliate deals. Additionally, email can be utilized to promote the commerce business, either through a dedicated newsletter or product ads in other newsletters.

An email newsletter program isn’t just a means of distributing content. It’s also a valuable tool for gathering first-party data. When you harness this information and apply it to your business, it opens up new possibilities for growth and revenue generation. In a difficult economic environment, this can be a huge opportunity for publishers.

Adam Berkowitz
Chief of Staff, LiveIntent

LiveIntent, one of the world’s largest people-based marketing platforms, connects 2,500 publishing and advertising brands with over 250M logged-in users every month across all types of media. With the anonymized email address at the center of its identity graph, LiveIntent provides brands with solutions that help them monetize, acquire, and retain real people, even where cookies don’t work. LiveIntent is home to over 190 people worldwide with offices in New York, Berlin, and Copenhagen.