Publishers

Test, test, and test again – why publishers need to experiment with engagement models

December 10, 2020  |   Simon Burgess

Inventory addressability is critical to how publishers demonstrate their value to marketers and protect their revenue streams. Yet, against a backdrop of changing technologies and growing restrictions, how publishers are able to collect that data is changing.  

While marketers and advertisers look to maintain data-driven activations with publishers, laws like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have redefined what is permissible when it comes to data-driven targeting. Further, the deprecation of third-party cookies means it will be harder for publishers to access the data they need to connect their inventory to marketer audiences. This means publishers must look closely at how they establish a trusted value exchange with users to gather the data they need.

Publishers must enable targeting based on known attributes – supplied actively and with permission – not just inferred fragments, and connect advertiser demand to these individuals. Ultimately, this first-party audience data opens up the opportunity for enhanced people-based marketing, and will bring publishers and advertisers closer together. 

The key to publishers creating this known user base is authentication. Publishers have a range of different engagement models they can use, including subscriptions and newsletters, social log-ins, premium subscriptions or offerings, content walls, and gated or premium services.

Regardless of the engagement model the publisher chooses, a solid value exchange lies at the heart of a successful authentication strategy. The foundations of this value exchange lie in two key areas:

1. Creating trust through ensuring security and protecting data

The need for greater trust has created an opportunity for the industry to move to a more open and honest ecosystem – one that prioritises consumers, and does a better job of communicating the value exchange, while upholding the highest standards of consumer privacy and maintaining addressability.

Building trust with customers is about remembering that they are entrusting their data to you.  This means providing them with more transparency, choice, control and understanding over how their data is used (and what for). Deploying a privacy-first solution with a deep commitment to data governance is essential. Furthermore, the ability for any cookieless solution to provide end-to-end encryption to ensure data security and prevent data leakage should be considered a core requirement.

2. Creating great customer experiences with high-quality, relevant content

This has always been the cornerstone of good publishing and should continue to be. As the centre point of a value exchange, content can be used as the basis from which effective strategies for authentication may be built.

Identifying the right balance between the engagement model and the consumer value proposition can be challenging for publishers. There is no “one size fits all” answer and it’s rare publishers will get things right the first time – every publisher’s audience is unique, so it is imperative to test varying authentication strategies over time. 

Here are three key things publishers should consider when it comes to rolling out engagement models: 

A/B test: The importance of A/B testing in ad campaigns is undisputed, but it’s equally important when it comes to implementing a successful authentication model. It will help determine an audience’s preference of engagement, for example content walls and sign-ups. 

Test by geography: It makes sense to further segment A/B testing by geography to uncover different attitudinal pockets within a particular user base. For example, it may be that people in cities are more inclined to share their data than those living in more rural areas.

Include an offer: Offering a few free months provides an incentive for your visitors to try out a premium offering before making a financial commitment.

The testing process should be iterative, so don’t be afraid of experimenting with new methods. While paywalls or subscriber newsletters may have worked in the past, publishers must continue to explore other benefits that might better suit end-users, such as affiliate links to calendar invites packed with relevant information.

At LiveRamp, we’re committed to empowering publishers to take a position of strength in the marketplace, even amid general economic uncertainty and major industry challenges, such as the deprecation of third-party cookies and other digital identifiers. By experimenting with different engagement models to discover the best solution, publishers will be better positioned to attract and retain loyal readers. 

Our Authenticated Traffic Solution (ATS) provides the foundation for a trusted ecosystem, connecting marketer demand for addressable audiences with publisher’s authenticated inventory, all while enabling individuals to maintain choice and control over the use of their data. In return, brands and publishers can create valuable experiences and content for consumers. For more information on ATS, reach out to ats@liveramp.com