4 mins read

Opinion: Minding the GDPR Gap Between Publishing and Advertising

The deadline for GDPR compliance is only weeks away. Come 25th May, website owners that want to deliver personalised content or advertising will need to obtain “unambiguous” consent from consumers to use cookies to collect their data, and will need to be transparent with exactly how that data will be used.

These changes are a significant milestone in the digital era, adding to an increasingly complex and competitive environment for publishers. We have already seen major shifts across the sector as traditional media have adapted their models in response to changing consumer habits. In the UK, for instance, The Guardian’s digital redesign and The Telegraph putting investment into email newsletters both stem from this need to react to behavioural shifts.

However, the industry needs to connect the dots around GDPR in order for all this hard work to count. Not only through a thorough examination of their own methods of user data management, but also those of their advertising partners.

The heart of the challenge

For publishers, the sharing of ‘pseudonymised’ audience data (like IP addresses) across their digital advertising supply chains has become common practice. The increased relevancy of digital advertising enabled by this sharing drives campaign engagement and improved results for brands; it’s one of the reasons why advertising now represents up to 80 percent of revenue for digital publishers.

However, the challenge of GDPR risks putting a strain on this relationship. From 25th May, publishers and advertisers relying on consumer information collected via cookies and the like will need a clear data trail. This trail will need to demonstrate transparency given to consumers over the collection and use of their data, as well as proof of the consumer’s approval for the use of these cookies. If this proof isn’t available when asked for by regulators, there could be significant fines to pay for the worst offenders.

This burden of proof may cause some publishers to question whether they should be sharing user data with advertisers at all. There are two major issues with this thinking.

First, cutting off advertisers from accessing data risks undermining the ad-supported revenue model that many publishers have come to rely on. If advertisers have fewer points of reference to work from when targeting their campaigns, those campaigns will become less effective at reaching interested audiences. As such, brands will not be willing to pay as much for the inventory.

With many publishers relying on advertising revenue to survive, many could experience added pressure on already struggling business models. Fewer publishers will mean less choice when it comes to sources for news and entertainment for consumers.

Second, it risks channeling more power and control into a small number of large internet platforms or ‘walled gardens’. Social media and search engines already control much of how we experience the internet as consumers. With their brand awareness, direct relationships with consumers and user agreements, they’re well-placed to acquire widespread consent where smaller publishers or lesser-known emerging competitors are not. This imbalance risks impacting innovation, competition and, ultimately, choice for consumers.

It’s therefore more important than ever that we commit to closing the gap between publishers and advertisers as we ramp up to GDPR and beyond. Publishers must actively engage the various organisations they may rely on to deliver relevant online ads to their readers, ensuring that everyone across their supply chain is aligned on GDPR strategy.

A one-stop solution to advertising under GDPR

For publishers, there are three choices ahead of them to continue funding themselves through advertising: build their own consent solution, buy a commercial solution, or adopt the industry solution rolled out by the IAB Europe.

In the case of GDPR, building a solution would mean starting from scratch. This approach requires significant resources while assuming all of the risks of non-compliance. Buying an off-the-shelf proprietary solution may enable certain features without the upfront development cost of building it yourself; however, it can be expensive, hard to determine whether it meets legal requirements and there’s no guarantee it will adequately evolve as the law continues to be interpreted and enforced.

Enter IAB Europe’s open-source Transparency and Consent Framework, which is the only GDPR consent solution that has been built by the industry, for the industry, and provides the comfort of knowing that you are among your peers in using the industry standard approach. This standard framework is helping publishers, technology vendors, and marketers become GDPR-ready ahead of the deadline.

With it, publishers will be able to continue funding themselves through relevant online advertising and brands will be able to continue reaching their audiences, while protecting consumer privacy and ensuring free access to news and entertainment for consumers across Europe and worldwide.

Consumers will see a banner or pop-up on participating sites clearly informing them which companies are asking for permission to use information about them, and for what purposes. Unlike the cookie banners that European internet users will be familiar with today, these new pop-ups go a step further. They give consumers the ability to selectively choose what use cases they are ok with and with which companies, of those asking, they are comfortable sharing their data.

For publishers, The IAB Europe Framework offers the flexibility to tailor it to their needs (including using their own branding to match their wider site experience) and communicate who they do and do not want tracking users on their sites. As such, it ensures that publishers only work with partners they can trust while protecting their digital revenue streams long into the future.

GDPR presents an opportunity for publishers and advertisers to improve the experiences they offer to online users, as well as grow their businesses through strong partnerships. Collaboration, communication, and transparency will be key to effective brand growth in the new era of data privacy.

Ghita Harris-Newton, Chief Privacy Officer & Deputy General Counsel, Quantcast


About Quantcast 

Quantcast owns and operates the world’s largest audience insights and measurement platform on the open internet. Founded in 2006, Quantcast is headquartered in San Francisco and employs more than 700 employees in over 20 offices across 10 countries.

Quantcast is making the IAB Europe’s Transparency and Consent Framework available for free to advertisers and publishers as Quantcast Choice.