The Big Story: The Signals, They Are A-Changin’

The Big Story podcast

Building a path forward in digital advertising requires finding new signals – and making sure they don’t flicker.

Fingerprinting, for example, has long been a popular way to triangulate a user’s identity, even without a device ID or third-party cookie. But it’s fallen very much out of favor. In the lead-up to Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference this week, insiders wondered whether Apple would use the event as an opportunity to finally start cracking down on the practice and expand its Private Relay feature beyond iCloud+, which obfuscates the IP address of people who pay for it.

But, so far at least, Apple hasn’t said anything about turning on Private Relay by default for more users – and it dropped no other privacy bombshells, as it has at WWDCs of years past.

What Apple did do before its conference this week, however, was roll out a minute-and-a-half commercial parodying a programmatic ad auction and promoting its solutions as a way to ward off the sale of user data.

In the second half of the episode, we synthesize the industry chatter about signal loss.

Industry organizations, from the W3C to the IAB Tech Lab, want to move faster, recognizing that changing processes over the course of years isn’t fast enough when billions can evaporate from Meta, for example, after one sweeping (non-industrywide platform change) by Apple.

But even when standards do roll out, adoption is another matter. Although new solutions, like the “identity walled gardens” (aka first-party data platforms) on offer from publishers, can have value, they also require new compromises, like more manual work and a lack of scale. And only publishers of a certain size may find it prudent to share their data in larger industry consortiums, if at all. Moving forward requires cooperation – and some are dragging their feet.

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