Vox Media Extends Its First-Party Data Platform Across Concert

To make it easier for publishers to use its first-party data across a wide network of sites, Vox Media on Tuesday announced a new suite of tools for Concert, its publisher monetization tech, that come from the digital media company’s internal first-party data platform Forte.

The new products address brand safety, targeting and optimization. Brands can use automated contextual and brand safety features, an audience builder that creates groups based on readership trends across Concert’s publisher network as well as Vox Media’s first-party data. Finally, it includes a performance tool for brands, who can optimize campaigns based on metrics like product sales, video views or app downloads.

Consolidating programmatic measurement and targeting – not just for Vox Media-owned sites, but outside publishers that opt into the Concert inventory pool – is important for open web properties to compete with the attention that goes to major online platforms, said AJ Frucci, head of Concert and Vox Media’s SVP of media revenue.

Publishers must take the lead in building these tools. Advertisers won’t commit the time or money to build first-party data tools for the open web, since such sites comprise just 10% to 20% of the media plan, and more and more of the digital advertising pie goes to walled gardens, Frucci said.

“Advertisers might want to layer on first-party data features that are bespoke to individual publishers and their audiences, but the operational friction is difficult as a marketer to do that when those sites are a smaller share of the digital budget,” Frucci said.

Many advertisers are reluctant to advertise on news content. The brand suitability tool packaged in Concert gives publishers a direct line of communication with brands and agencies to better construct keyword or topic block lists, and understand what sentiment or content they want to target.

“We often hear from publishers that they want to avoid ‘news’, and this is a way to have a more thoughtful conversation about the unintended consequences of painting with too broad a brush in this context.”

One thing Vox Media’s Concert has going for it is the prospect of third-party cookies being phased out of programmatic.

The new Forte products don’t “recreate” capabilities from third-party cookies, said Megan Walton, Vox Media VP of product revenue.

For instance, the audience builder doesn’t use IDs that target individuals across a network of sites, since that practice has been nixed by Safari, even across a co-owned network of sites like Vox Media’s New York Magazine, SBNation and The Verge. Instead, it identifies browsing and engagement trends for target audiences, and identifies traffic with similar patterns, Walton said.

Advertisers have come around on the idea of cohort-based targeting and measurement since Vox Media started working on the Forte first-party data platform in late 2019, she said. Advertisers are also trying other non-cookie-based uses for publisher first-party data, such as the Forte audience builder tool that doesn’t collect IDs.

In 2019, only 5% of Vox Media’s inventory used first-party data in programmatic. By the end of last year, that jumped to 50%. This year, that figure is between 60% and 70%.

“We launched Forte only a few months before Google announced its upcoming cookie deprecation policy,” she said. “We’ve gone from [being] early to the conversation to the center of everyone’s attention in a blink.”

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