How publishers can leverage first-party data to drive revenue

Online privacy is more important than ever for users. With new regulations, the rise of tracking prevention and the death of third-party cookies, it’s become harder for subscription-based publishers to collect data. Those reliant on third-party cookies were given a reprieve in June when Google announced the end of cookies will be delayed until the end of 2023. This gives some breathing space, but these publishers must use this time to ensure effective first-party data strategies are in place by then. Here, we explain what first-party data is, how to collect it and harness it for your business.

What is first-party data?

First-party data is the information publishers can collect directly (online and offline) from their users. It can be obtained via your website or app, through social media, surveys and includes:
  • Personal data such as name, age and location
  • Analytics data, including visited URLs and browser/device used
  • Specific on-site actions and behaviour
  • Payment and purchase history.
As it’s collected directly, first-party data is considered very valuable. There are clear benefits – it’s normally free, and as you know where the data came from, and you own it, it adheres to privacy laws.
Many companies are waking up to the value of first-party data. eMarketer reported that in an April 2018 study by online advertising company Sizmek, 85% of US brand marketers and 75% of European counterparts said increasing their use of first-party data was a high priority. Its importance has only grown since then.

How to collect first-party data

  • Create incentives – get visitors interested in sharing data via access to premium content, offers and discounts.
  • Frictionless sign-up experiences – publishers who allow subscribers to sign up using existing social accounts make joining more attractive. The easier the process, the better.
  • Interest-based newsletters – multiple newsletters tailored to specific interests and needs collect more emails and enable publishers to package and put premiums on segments.
  • Interactive content – quizzes and challenges can create opportunities for interaction with subscribers.
  • Selective content locking – use Google Analytics to find out which pages have the most views on your site and the highest time-on-page average.
  • Progressive profiling – it’s very important to establish trust with users and not overwhelm them. Gather data over time, across multiple touchpoints.

How can publishers harness first-party data?

Subscription-based publishers are in a great position to collect and use first-party data. Subscribers’ onsite behaviour provides valuable information and the content they consume provides powerful first-party data. Discover the best ways to use it.

Use personalized experiences to improve engagement

Personalized user experiences are increasing in popularity. They tailor subscription journeys and experiences to the preferences of each unique customer. It’s a win-win situation, as the more relevant the content is, the stronger the data you can gather from them.

For example, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) allows users to create profiles based on their news interests. By doing so, they share targeted recommendations and point readers towards relevant content. Users receive a personalized homepage with a curated news feed, too.

To dive deep into this topic, check out the article “How to personalize subscription journeys for revenue growth”.

Tailor subscription offers to different paying audiences

The WSJ and another publishing giant, the New York Times, no longer use one-size-fits-all paywalls. They both opt for dynamic versions, recognizing that flexibility is an important way to convert audiences that wouldn’t normally pay for content.

So, if your readers are continuously viewing articles in a specific category, you can improve conversions by aligning paywall messaging. You can also use other data to estimate the chances of users paying for content and whether you should adjust your paywalls.

For example, users referred from emails are more likely to convert than those referred from Facebook. A newsletter sign-up is likely a better use of resources than trying to push Facebook visitors to register.

Deliver hyper-targeted audience segments

Publishers can use first-party data to sell advertisers direct access to people who are regularly engaging with specific categories. Email allows for direct access to a known audience at any time, which makes it the perfect channel for highly targeted advertising. By segmenting lists according to interests, dedicated promotional sends can have an impressive impact on revenue.

Grow newsletter subscriptions

We’ve touched on emails above, but they’re so important for engagement and revenue opportunities that we’re mentioning them again! If you offer multiple newsletter products, each provides one more chance to engage readers. It’s a great way to proactively grow subscriptions. For example, publishers with multiple newsletters may have email subscribers who don’t subscribe to a particular newsletter, but they engage with the type of content it’s promoting. They could be presented with calls to action (CTAs) directing them to the relevant newsletter, or automatically opt them in. Data-driven opt-ins can be useful when launching new email products, as they enable instant, built-in audiences.

Improve lifecycle marketing

Publishers should consider deploying personalized onsite CTAs or re-engagement emails that correspond with a subscriber’s place in the lifecycle. For example, if the option to renew a subscription is imminent, tailor these to touch on that.

First-party data enables you to identify if users are actively consuming content from multiple categories, or are only interested in one. Either way, you can tailor renewal appeals to encourage consumption across categories. Or, remind a subscriber of the ‘one thing’ they’d really miss out on, should they choose not to renew.

Supplement other revenue streams

First-party data can help publishers with multiple subscription products identify those most likely to move to higher subscription tiers. You can then target them via the personalized CTAs discussed earlier, for possible up-conversions. And businesses that drive revenue through events can target engaged readers with a high interest in certain topics and market topic-based events via emails, ads and/or CTAs. Conclusion So now you know all there is to know about first-party data, and how important it is to subscription-based publishers. Far from being simply a replacement for third-party cookies as online security is tightened, publishers could be sitting on a first-party data goldmine. Act now and get that strategy right to avoid being left behind.