Ahead of cookie deprecation, Asia-Pacific publishers are using data to build closer relationships with readers and advertisers.
INMA’s inaugural News Media Summit for the region delivered best-in-class case histories to an audience of more than 600 delegates, with specific insights from News Corp Australia and the South China Morning Post.
Data and ad product general manager Suzie Cardwell told how News’s use of its own data was having a significant impact on advertising sales. Dubbed “earned attention”, it enables advertisers to leverage high levels of attention to drive marketing outcomes.
News uses a variety of data including its own first-party audience data – gathered from across its network – and that of partners to find the right audience for its brands. “Then we combine that with highly engaging ad formats and ad products to really deliver on verified and measured outcomes,” she said.
The publisher claims to engage with 14 million Australians across its digital network every month, an estimated 70 per cent of the adult population. Not only does it see a very broad cross section of the community, but Cardwell says, “we also start to really understand quite deeply their interests… and to really understand their intent”.
Using its own data platform to capture and analyse its own first-party data, the News team can assign users an ID, and start to assign attributes to them based on what it sees them doing across the network. “We aren’t reliant on third-party cookies in this space,” she said. “We aren’t going to be affected by changes Google is going to make to Chrome.”
Partner companies share other data, tracking location, credit card transactions, intent and consumption, with the data overlaid with News’ audience data. Cardwell says the first-party data strategy is one reason why they’re seeing 53 per cent more time spent on their sites, compared to their “nearest commercial publisher competitor” and 57 per cent more repeat visits per month.
She said recent research confirmed that they were achieving the wanted results. “It was seeking to answer the question as to whether premium context environments are more effective in driving outcomes in particular in driving brand and recall outcomes,” she said. The answer they found is, yes, they are.
What News calls its ‘Attention Suite’ is a range of formats and products that “allow us to maximise the amount of attention” delivered to a client’s target audience. As a result, News can make promises to advertisers such as a one-minute engagement with native advertising, guaranteed completed video views and guaranteed audience attention with its displays.
Business outcomes are the real proof the approach is working, she says. “We can show them, of the people who are exposed to a campaign on our network, also then went out to one of our major supermarkets to make a purchase.”
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post switched to first-party data in late 2019 after responding to the introduction of Europe’s GDPR in 2018, “the first time users’ wishes about data privacy were taken seriously,” vice president of digital Ian Hocking says.
After an initial jump, Hocking says change “kind of stalled” until moves by Big Tech platforms began a move internet companies and publishers “couldn’t ignore”. So they started a new push towards user privacy.
Starting in early 2019, SCMP’s project saw the publisher building profiles based on IDs that were first-party to it, and moving to “only using data created on our platform.
“We managed to make that switch in about four months, and the biggest thing we did in order to enable that was we moved from a traditional DMP to a CDMP – one that enabled us to use first-party cookies and create profiles around that.”
Its own first-party data platform, Lighthouse is at the terminal of every person who works at the company. Building their own self-service data platform meant all staff had full access without fear of damaging the data or DMP.
Other benefits were that data presentation was consistent, meaning that everyone saw the same data and could talk about it in the same way. “They know how the platform is being used and how to improve it,” he said.
It also presents a unique market offering that creates a reason for direct conversation with marketers, with SCMP seeing a greater return on investment for clients. “Campaigns are led by insight and optimised to generate stronger ROI and build better partnerships,” he said.
Hocking makes the point that a recent INMA survey showed two thirds of publishers were building their own first-party solution. “We aren’t alone in this,” he said adding that it spoke to how seriously the industry is taking the matter, and would lead to many more publisher walled gardens as they take control of their own first-party data.
SCMP’s plans for Lighthouse include an authenticated login ID to further profile users, allowing it to “really understand how to build a better value exchange for customers”.
Currently, first-party data covers long-term preference, opinion – a current way of thinking, which might change based on circumstances – sentiment about an article, declared intent, behavioural factors, and declared interest or passion for something.
“When we put all of that together in a profile, we start to build what we think looks much more like a person,” Hocking said. Publishers’ great, ongoing relationship with audiences and ability really benefit, and something interesting comes from building out “not just an ID with an attribute attached to it, but a broad profile that really talks to them as individuals”. This type of data includes psychographics, is altitudinal and behavioural, and builds out the profile in the context of a network.
Launched in June 2020, SCMP’s Lighthouse was the first publisher data platform in Asia and was designed “to create a space to understand our users”, Hocking says. “It’s usual for people to consider such a platform as a way of driving clicks, SCMP teams do not think of it that way. Rather, it’s about identification and building robust profiles for actionable results, such as great ad personalisation.”
As a publisher, they could demonstrate to a client where you could find them prospects, and by having really great in-depth profiles that aren’t just a data point, Hocking says, “you can do that very well”.
He cites examples to show how much better the first-party data performs than “probabilistic audiences” created through third-party data which has been anonymised and presented as an aggregate segment which “usually has a very low on-target percentage.
“As a buyer, it’s going to be very difficult to understand what that is. There’s a lot of obfuscation that happens.”