Home The Sell Sider Building A Privacy-Conscious Publisher

Building A Privacy-Conscious Publisher

Sara Badler headshot

The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Sara Badler, senior vice president of programmatic revenue and strategy at Dotdash.

If ad-tech acronym overload was not seriously impacting your mental health two years ago, it certainly may be now. Geopolitical and big tech-led privacy initiatives have resulted in a whole new suite of regulations and corresponding acronyms.

CCPA, GDPR and IDFA have joined the old standbys as need-to-know terms, with their impact and implementation impacting all aspects of the buy and sell sides. A rigorous privacy strategy has become table stakes for any publisher or marketer.

For publishers, balancing privacy and revenue is not impossible. Through vigilant adherence to privacy guidelines, thoughtful data and content segmentation and intelligent partnerships, publishers can maximize revenue by leveraging the tools they already have available to them while still adhering to the ever-shifting privacy regimes across regions and platforms.

The privacy policy

First, a privacy policy cannot be written in a silo. A publisher’s strict approach to privacy should involve individuals across departments with a wide range of skills and expertise. Beginning in the legal department, internal counsel can determine the initial steps needed to align sites with the laws and regulations in every market.

From there, subject matter experts from the ad product or programmatic teams can determine the technical feasibility of the changes and the impact that consent management platforms or other technology would have on user experience, traffic and revenue. For example, the percent of potential readers that choose not to consent to a CMP prompt will have a massive impact on unique users, page views, impressions and, ultimately, revenue. Further complicating this is the fact that no firm opt-in rate is accurate, as different types of content are known to achieve different consent rates.

The final and perhaps most crucial piece of the internal privacy policy comes from the data and security teams, which should be consulted to ensure that any data that is changing hands is managed safely and securely. This multilayered and multidisciplinary approach should help publishers always err on the side of user privacy and security.

Once an initial strategy is in place, it is important to resign yourself to the fact that this strategy is not set in stone; a privacy policy must remain agile as media companies keep up with fast-changing and shifting policies.

Thoughtful data approaches


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Evolving privacy standards and targeting restrictions have predictably led to a resurgence in contextual targeting. For years brands have relied on third-party targeting as a crutch, but without that crutch we all have to relearn how to walk.

In my opinion, the move away from third-party targeting is a welcome change. Since publishers create and own the content that drives page views, they know their audiences best.

The way each publisher slices and dices their inventory and contextual segments and offers them to marketers should be compelling and unique. Content consumption can tell a lot about a person, and it is up to the publisher to take those learnings and package them based on sentiment, feeling, state of mind, purchase intent and a whole host of other attributes. No one knows the reader better than the writer (and the content owner), so publishers should always bring their learnings to the table when creating a sales strategy.

For example, a user browsing minivan content on an automotive site is highly likely to be in a different life stage than someone looking at sports car content. From an advertiser perspective, these two consumers are night and day, and a publisher should follow that lead and treat them as such.

Intelligent partnerships

Finally, forming smart partnerships with savvy and like-minded companies can help fend off some of the limitations from tighter privacy restrictions. Whether this comes in the form of multi-publisher consortiums, new partnerships or creative solutions to log-in or email sign-ups, there are numerous existing and newly emerging companies that can help out. Many are worth speaking to, so staying in the know on new product offerings can yield high returns.

In this new privacy-conscious world, having a tight privacy policy, creating new privacy-friendly data tools and partnering with the correct brands becomes paramount to a publisher’s success. Change can be scary, but it can also be good, as these new restrictions should leave our industry in a safer, more user-centric place in the long run.

Follow Dotdash (@dotdashco) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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