Prioritizing first party data growth presents a significant opportunity for news organizations to not only develop and own direct relationships with their readers and followers, but to better serve relevant editorial content, marketing and promotional messaging.

This month we are talking about 1st party data, and why publishers are prioritizing the growth of their audience databases in preparation for the imminent “death” of 3rd party tracking cookies across the leading web browsers (see: “all you need to know about third-party cookies”).

Jacob Donnelly wrote an excellent summary in his A Media Operator newsletter (“The one-two punch of 1st party data”) where he observes:

“…publishers have had no choice but to start thinking about who their audience is. I’ve long believed that the best thing to happen to media companies is the death of the 3rd-party cookie. It’s caused a lot of headaches in the short term, but for publishers that have been able to evolve and gather 1st-party data, it’ll give them a significant advantage.”

At BlueLena, we also believe this step change presents a significant opportunity for news organizations to not only develop and own direct relationships with their readers and followers, but to better serve relevant editorial content, marketing and promotional messaging. The simplest way to do this is through providing a way (and good reasons) for your readers to register to join your audience. Most often, this is accomplished through newsletter signups or registration requirements to view premium content, but it can also involve surveys, contests, events and e-commerce transactions.

Over the past year, we’ve successfully built integrations for almost all of these user interactions, and we provide the tools and software to support it — either as part of our stack or through our partner agencies (see recent partnerships w/ Social News DeskSubtextSparkloop, etc.).

But gathering and consolidating the data is one thing. What will separate successful publishers is your ability to activate the data and drive engagement, monetization and long-term brand loyalty through well-timed and targeted content delivery and messaging. Donnelly writes:

“…But where the second punch comes into play is when the reader interacts with your content. It’s one thing to say, “hey, we have that reader in our database” or “hey, we had 1,000 people read that piece of content you sponsored.” It’s something entirely different to say, “yes, we have that reader in our database, and that person reads the content.”

By developing direct relationships with your readers, you gain a competitive advantage through your ability to serve relevant news and information, and to serve as an infomediary that connects readers and businesses in your local markets. And to then be able to demonstrate and validate the effectiveness to your advertisers is an incredibly powerful and unique value proposition.

But it starts with cultivating and growing your 1st party audience data.

Donnelly goes on to say…

“The “more cost-effective” way to do it is to rely on your ESP. In essence, you have all of your 1st-party data in your platform, so when a user clicks a link to a story on your site, you know that they’ve “seen it.” You pull a report from your analytics and then pull a blended report of all the people who clicked from the newsletter whose 1st-party data you have. You basically say, “here are the types of people that read your content.” It’s a good approach, but it’s imperfect.

The problem with this approach is that you’re stuck relying exclusively on your email subscribers. Anyone that comes to your site from another source is left out of your reporting. It’s a better approach than nothing, but only part of the way.

The pièce de résistance comes when you use a customer data platform (CDP). This extends the life of all that 1st-party data across your site irrespective of traffic source. For example, let’s say I sign up for your newsletter on a Monday. You capture all sorts of 1st-party data about me. A week later, your site shows up on Google, and I click over. The cost-effective way wouldn’t be able to track me because I didn’t come through email. However, a CDP would still be able to track me.”

We agree that relying on an ESP like Mailchimp or Constant Contact limits you to only working with email data of those customers who have identified themselves through registration. On the other hand, we also believe that email is the most effective and pervasive “unique identifier” that constitutes a known, verifiable digital customer relationship.

So having the ability to enhance your email contact database with article consumption, event tracking and appending demographics and lifestyle data to create a three-dimensional view of your readers is the reason BlueLena has chosen ActiveCampaign as the digital customer experience automation platform to support our publishers’ growth strategies.

BlueLena CXA features

ActiveCampaign is an omni-channel marketing automation platform that goes well beyond the capabilities of pure ESPs like Mailchimp and Constant Contact to provide “CDP-like” functionality without the hefty price tag. Using built-in features like site trackingadvanced segmentationcontact scoring and machine learning, we help publishers optimize their editorial and marketing campaigns to reach new audiences, nurture existing customer relationships, convert readers to loyal brand advocates, and grow your audience and revenues.

Only once you’ve established a reader registration can you go about the the work of developing long-term brand relationships.

That is why we emphasize a) promoting newsletters, events, surveys and other means to drive reader registration, and b) consolidating all of this data together to build a deeper understanding of your individual readers, their interests and their interaction with your brands. Donnelly summarizes this very well:

“…when a CDP drops a cookie on your reader, it drops a 1st-party cookie. So those aren’t going anywhere because the internet would actually be worse without them.

What becomes really powerful is that some CDPs can cookie your visitors even if they haven’t signed up for anything. So, you’re able to track what they are consuming anonymously. Then, when they do sign up, you can relate that consumption data with the email address. Voila, you have a ton of 1st-party data.

Now, when you report to your advertisers, you can look at all your traffic sources and provide a much more complete picture. As a result, the return on investment can be significant.

The problem is it takes time. Not everyone will sign up for your newsletter right away. And, even if they do, they might not instantly tell you who they are. Without that 1st-party data, the person remains an anonymous reader. And so, you have to invest up front and then wait until you reach critical mass with data.”

Indeed, it takes time. But the time to begin building and growing your 1st party audience database is now. We can help accelerate your digital transformation and gain a competitive edge relative to other media competitors in your market.

Contact us at solutions@bluelena.io to learn how.

More reading: