Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
4 mins read

Publisher strategies to grow 1st party data

The value to publishers of growing first-party data increases with each new disruptive technology or regulatory trend.

For years, digital marketers and publishers have relied on 3rd party data as a way to track and target consumers.  As they say, the times they are a-changin’.  Besides Apple’s recent privacy push which blocks identifying email open rates and IP addresses, significant changes are happening in the digital space, including:

  • Google’s ad targeting changes
  • Chrome dropping 3rd party cookies
  • Safari intelligent tracking
  • Growth of Digital Identity Industry

Every one of these limits the use of tracking to different degrees and provides stronger reasons to grow 1st party data for publishers.  85% of marketers today believe increasing their use of 1st party data is critical.

How Do Brand Marketers in Western Europe* and the US Feel About Data and Walled Gardens? (% of respondents, April 2018)

While changing the rules, the privacy push creates an opportunity for publishers that hasn’t existed in quite some time.  Publishers can reduce the impact of big tech platforms and ad exchanges and reclaim more ad dollars for themselves— by leveraging and growing 1st party data and developing deeper relationships with visitors.

The Benefits of 1st Party Data

  • First party data can improve user experience (UX). The more you know about your users, the more you can tailor the experience to their feedback, and for known users you can personalize experiences. First party data helps you gain deeper insight into interests, preferences, behaviors, and characteristics to help you craft more engaging and relevant content, marketing, and advertising.
  • First party data is more accurate. It comes directly from the source. It’s relevant to your content, your business, and your visitors’ site experience.
  • Known users are more valuable. You can leverage first party data when negotiating with advertisers to drive premium ad revenue, and known users convert to subscriptions and offers at a higher rate then unknown users. 
  • You own the process to ensure consent and transparency. Studies in the EU have shown consenting visitors earned higher CPMs. Additionally, your consent practices are an opportunity to reinforce brand trust and loyalty with your visitors.
  • First party data is cost effective. It comes at little cost. As you engage with customers for email signups and other touches, the cost to you is just asking for their consent. Consent-based engagement platforms make it easy to try various offers and engage with diverse visitor segments.
  • First party data helps you predict future visitor behaviors and trends. By developing a truth set of users that you know and have first-hand data from, you can better inform marketing decisions that affect visitors at large. An increase in known users from just 5% to 10% of  provides a great deal of useful data.
  • A first-party data strategy is a hedge against disruptive trends in advertising. Publishers cannot control the major platforms like Google or Facebook, identity management is an unsettled industry, and the privacy regulation landscape is bound to get more complex for years to come. Within that perfect storm, publishers that build a reliable 1st party relationship approach will have a competitive advantage.

Your 1st Party Data Strategy

Developing a 1st party data strategy means more than just tracking the data you already have — although that’s a good place to start.  You should analyze your data platform to ensure you are capturing the important data you need.  You also want to be able to combine customer data points to provide a more complete picture of the customer journey.

Here are four areas that publishers should consider when building a first party data strategy.

1) Engage with Web Visitors and Offer Value Exchanges

As consumers become ever more conscious of privacy and how their data is used, getting people to voluntarily offer personalized data will become more difficult.  Publishers and companies wishing to grow their first-party data can do so effectively by offering something of value in exchange.

Here are a few examples of this strategy in practice:

  • Enhance your email acquisition strategy by offering a week of ad-free content in exchange for an email newsletter signup.
  • Grow authenticated users with a registration wall (regwall) for a more personalized, improved user experience
  • Increase paid subscriptions using a paywall to offer premium experience
  • Run a donation offer campaign to support content creation
  • Offer a discount for visitors to follow/like your brand on social media
  • Offer gated content (Whitepaper, eBooks, additional content) in exchange for email collection

Similar strategies can help establish user identity, create authenticated users, build a truth set, and grow your 1st party data.

2) Take Inventory of Your Existing Customer Data and Capabilities

Publishers should audit existing platforms and databases to understand how much first-party data you are already collecting, where are the touchpoints that you could leverage better, and what technical tools do you need to drive insights from the data. Pull together the team across your organization that can identify where data is collected and stored, and what the current state is for those systems. Map out the first-party data collected by your organization currently.

Evaluate the quality of the data you have in hand, and decide if any data cleanup or purge is necessary to maintain accuracy and relevance. Review any current data collection touchpoints to remove any friction in the UX which might limit collection.

3) Ask for Additional Data Points Over Time

If you ask for too much upfront, you’ll likely limit your conversions, especially for the privacy-minded online audience.  Slowly integrate additional data as users navigate your site, build comfort and trust, or in your email nurturing process.

The more consumers engage with you directly, the more data points you accumulate, which can then be turned into more effective relationships, UX, and revenue opportunities.

Some effective strategies to learn more about your audience, in a consensual, transparent way, including tactics such as:

  • Social media polls
  • One-question surveys
  • Loyalty programs
  • AI web assistants or chatbots
  • Targeted offers and landing pages

4) Test and Optimize

In sales, they say you should employ the ABCs:  Always Be Closing.  In terms of marketing, it’s ABT:  Always Be Testing.

Testing can help you determine which content, calls-to-action, and offers resonate best with your target audience.  Publishers should also test frequency of the web offer or engagement, time of day, creative, and copy variations.

Michael Yeon
VP Marketing, Admiral

By Admiral
Admiral helps digital publishers grow visitor relationships via adblock recovery, per-site subscriptions, multi-site subscriptions, email subscriptions, social subscriptions, privacy consent and more, powered by Admiral’s one-tag, one-vendor, one visitor experience Visitor Relationship Management (VRM) platform.