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Third-party cookies: Google’s latest reprieve is not a time for complacency

With Google delaying its decision to sunset third-party cookies until late 2023, publishers have more time to investigate the identity and data solutions available to them – but the countdown has begun.

In January 2021, Google’s cookie announcement prompted us to explore the implications for the publishing industry, which we presented in our report, How publishers can swap out the cookie jar in 2021.

But it also spurred a number of developments within the industry, and before we completed the report, the landscape was changing before our eyes. As a result of these developments, publishers have been scrambling to adapt their strategy, and in some cases, their entire business model, in preparation for a world without third-party cookies.

In another dramatic turn of events, Google recently took the decision to delay cookie deprecation from early 2022 to late 2023. On the face of it, this extended period is needed for Google to implement commitments to its proposed privacy sandbox replacement, following the antitrust investigation by the UK’s CMA (Competition and Markets Authority).

But one underlying reason is that publishers simply aren’t ready with alternatives. In a recent survey, ENGINE Media Exchange (EMX) found that while 98% of publishers plan to implement cookieless solutions, less than half have taken steps to do so. Google itself says, “its become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right.

Meanwhile, a Teads survey of over 400 publishers and media companies across 52 countries reveals that more than half admit they are unclear as to how cookieless solutions will impact their business. In fact, only a quarter (24%) say they have a strong understanding of all the new initiatives and their benefits and drawbacks. 

This article is an extract from our free-to-download report, Which Way Now? Publisher Options For The Ending Of Third-Party Cookies

As Teads’ Chief Supply Officer, Eric Shih, sums up, there is a “lack of clarity that publishers are facing when it comes to the death of the cookie. Despite being the ones most likely to suffer from impacted revenue streams, they’re relying on spontaneous, and often confusing, updates from tech giants … A set of future-facing targeting solutions is an essential part of that ecosystem.”

He believes there should be “a concerted effort of collaboration and consistency from all parties involved to ensure … privacy demands are respected, whilst still allowing free access to some of the best content on the open web.” 

But while it might be true that publishers need more time, this is not a time to become complacent and put off the search for alternatives. So, what is their best bet? 

In our last report, we looked at a number of cookie replacements, such as identity solutions, collaborative solutions (and clean rooms), edge computing, behavioral targeting, contextual targeting, and subscriptions.

In this follow-up report, we revisit some of the most significant industry developments, including the two elephants in the room – Google’s privacy sandbox and Apple’s walled garden.

We then look at the platform solutions which appear to have advanced most significantly during this period of transition: identity solutions, contextual targeting, and edge computing.

Finally, we ask industry experts whether their advice for publishers has changed during this time, and how proactive they should be in light of the delay.

To revisit the solutions available to publishers in light of recent developments, and advice on the best strategies to reach and engage publisher audiences before it’s too late, download What’s New in Publishing’s latest report, Which Way Now? Publisher Options For The Ending Of Third-Party Cookies

Hazel Broadley
Author, Which Way Now? Publisher Options For The Ending Of Third-Party Cookies