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What you don’t know can hurt you: the value of audience data for publishers

What you don’t know can hurt you: the value of audience data for publishers

Historically, advertisers have been a bit more savvy in leveraging 1st, 2nd, and 3rd party data to match their message to their target persona. But confusion and uncertainty surrounding how these same data sets can benefit publishers have prevented them from fully embracing the combined power of this knowledge.

In the traditional buyer-seller dynamic, the buyers defines what they want and buy it from the exchange, equipped with the knowledge of who, exactly, they are looking for. The publisher, however, lacking this same ‘audience buying’ data, remains unaware of its potentially lucrative audiences and is limited to offering basic inventory packages and generic floor prices for all user types. Unable to differentiate its audience from another seller’s, the publishers fails to stand out as an attractive option to advertisers and capture the true value of their user base.

If sellers want to demand top dollar for their inventory and compete against data-rich publishers (or certain ‘giants’, if you will), they need to be empowered with first-, second-, and third-party data intelligence. The movement to bring power back to the publisher will be a prominent theme in the coming year. “Publisher empowerment” made number six of “What’s in” on the recently released Definitive Digiday guide to what’s in and out at Dmexco this year, coincidentally timed with the launch of our own publisher-empowering Video Ad Monetization Platform (VAMP).

So how do we propose to empower publishers? Well, with data of course!

As simple as 1, 2, 3.
First-party data refers to a publisher’s own data, that is information which is collected on the publisher’s platform or property. This data includes self-reported data that a user contributes as a part of the registration process, but can also include metrics such as time spent in-app, subscription types, and even prefered content.

Second-party data is gleaned from players who sit at the junction of supply and demand have a plethora of information available on direct engagement. SSPs and exchanges observe requests, bids and responses, at a massive scale. They can see a user’s engagement and bid landscape across various publishers and be able to deduce metrics like ‘high viewability users’ or ‘high CTR users’.  

Third-party data often refers to information which has been collected by a company from a variety of sources, be it government released information like DMV records or aggregated GPS data. This is data that doesn’t originate in the publisher’s own platform but is sourced from a variety of DMPs. Most DSPs are connected to DMPs to help them know more about the users they are trying to target.

If audience data is the new currency, then what’s it worth?
Depending what audiences, actions, or behaviors buyers are looking for, one type of data may be more valuable. But what is undisputable is that data is the new digital currency and publishers now have a treasure trove to bargain with.

First-party data is a publisher’s most valuable asset but when mixed anonymously with other publisher data, more information can collected and when pooled together this resource can generate immense value.

Second-party data, for example a platform’s auction and engagement data (such as video completion rate, click through rates, bid depth, etc.), lets publishers know what type of ads a user responds to, and when and where are they most likely to interact with an ad. This data is a strong indicator of brand affinity and preferred ad format, allowing publishers to help advertisers enhance a user’s experience while potentially generating greater revenues for themselves with increased click throughs or completed views.

Third-party data can be used to enrich what is already known about a user.  Location data, for example, aggregates and correlates GPS and IP data to track users through time. Demographic data provide information regarding marital status, education levels, occupations, and hobbies.  

The haves and the have nots.
Publishers who have access to engagement data and data from industry-leading DMPs can more accurately determine which audience segments are most valuable to different buyers, and can sell those segments at higher price points. Publishers who do not have access to a platform’s auction nor third-party data are at a severe disadvantage when competing against the data capabilities of publishers and certainly when competing against Facebook and Google, or other data-heavy giants.

With more and more content moving over into Facebook and Google, and only a small share of the revenue making it into publisher’s hands, it’s imperative that publishers not only help themselves by partnering with monetization platforms that arm with the tools to create highly coveted audience packages, but help each other by pooling their most valuable resource– data–to be a competitive force against the tech duopoly.