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POV: How the Cookie Crumbles

Third-party cookies are set to disappear. Here’s how publishers can prepare.

The death of third-party cookies has been looming since early 2020 when Google first announced its plan to phase them out in Chrome. As time dragged on and Google postponed its plans more than once, some wondered whether the company would make good on the threat. Now, it looks like the end of the cookie may have finally arrived: Google’s Privacy Sandbox APIs became generally available in September, and the company will disable cookies for 1% of Chrome users in Q1 2024. Google plans to complete the deprecation process by the end of next year.  

The Privacy Sandbox APIs have now reached 97% of Chrome browsers—and are on track to reach 100%, perhaps even by the time you read this. The Privacy Sandbox milestone arrived in tandem with Chrome’s 15th anniversary, which Google marked with a browser redesign. Billed as a step toward a “more private web,” many are concerned that the Privacy Sandbox is just a different flavor of tracking that privileges major players and hamstrings smaller publishers. “To me, the death of the cookie is a threat to the existence of small publishers,” says Jeremy Hines, Enterprise Account Director at Boostr. 

How can publishers prepare for this change while continuing to drive long-term growth and profitability? Hines, who has more than a decade of experience supporting revenue management across the digital media landscape, shared his thoughts on how to improve advertising capabilities amidst industry-wide change. 

Start with strategy

“To succeed in this environment really requires a thoughtful data strategy,” Hines says. “Publishers need to have some philosophy and plan in place for how they will leverage their own first-party data. And not just leverage—but build around that data, creating an environment that supports monetizing it.” 

Hines says one viable step would be to identify the tone of content that users engage with and effectively sort users based on this information. Other psychographic metadata can be used similarly to deliver more targeted advertising. “This can also support a publisher’s content strategy,” Hines says. “Publishers can expand in areas where they deliver the most value to their advertisers.” 

Create a safe space

“A lot of publishers are already doing this, but it is really important to continue—or get started—building data clean rooms,” Hines says. Data clean rooms are privacy-safe spaces where first-party data can be shared and analyzed collaboratively. 

Hines predicts that big publishers will build out their own clean room solutions while smaller publishers will likely partner with providers for theirs. Either way, a data clean room offers a safe space for user-level data to be aggregated into meaningful insights. 

Data clean rooms require a careful selection of supportive tools and robust, defined control mechanisms to ensure security and privacy. Getting started now can make the difference between a half-baked effort and powerful results. 

Keep your frenemies close.

“Creating a consortium and even pooling inventory together—just generally sharing data across publishers that could be considered ‘frenemies’—can help publishers play on a bigger field,” Hines says. Essentially, publishers can partner with competitors to share data and gain insights. 

This can be a particularly winning strategy for small publishers that don’t have sufficient data to target users effectively. “Creating a data-sharing pool means that more publishers can really compete,” Hines observes. “That could prove really powerful.” 

Embrace your niche

The end of third-party cookies opens up the possibility for a more meaningful return to endemic advertising. All publishers should aim to own their vertical, which creates value for native advertising on their sites and its ability to connect with a specific market. 

“If you think about Financial Times, for example, you don’t need data to know that its readers are C-level people that you can charge a lot for a display ad for,” Hines says. Advertising in these niche spaces, which have very specific target audiences, is a natural path to engagement. The selling point is simple but powerful. 

Mindset matters

“I’ve been saying this for years, but if a particular prospect is a piano player and a cyclist, and they’re on a piano website and a bike ad pops up, they probably aren’t in the right mindset for that ad to resonate,” Hines says. 

The mindset aspect supports endemic advertising and serves the aspirational marketing adage of “reaching the right person at the right time.” Customers respond better to advertising that is relevant to their current life experiences and needs. Timing truly is everything. Reaching someone with a relevant ad aligned with a niche publication they are browsing powerfully speaks to their top-of-mind wants, needs, and concerns. 

Moving confidently into the future

While publishers will face hurdles as cookies disappear, the deprecation may create a watershed moment to shake up the status quo. This is a time that will require new levels of creativity and collaboration. 

Boostr was founded to support publishers of all sizes and help them meet their growth goals. Our tools have been purpose-built for the media industry by former media executives and developed to give publishers everything they need to confidently meet the evolving challenges of the industry.  

We’d love to work with you on your 2024 strategy. Get in touch to find out how we can help you meet your goals throughout this moment of transition and beyond. 

ABOUT BOOSTR

Boostr is the only platform that seamlessly integrates CRM and OMS capabilities to address the unique challenges of media advertising. With boostr, companies gain the unified visibility necessary to effectively manage, maximize and scale omnichannel ad revenue profitability with user-friendly workflows, actionable insights, and accurate forecasting.

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ABOUT BOOSTR

Boostr is the only platform that seamlessly integrates CRM and OMS capabilities to address the unique challenges of media advertising. With boostr, companies gain the unified visibility necessary to effectively manage, maximize and scale omnichannel ad revenue profitability with user-friendly workflows, actionable insights, and accurate forecasting.

Book a demo
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