As The New York Times announces a shift from the use of third-party to first-party data, smaller publishers are having to consider how they can best navigate a cookieless future.

Axios reported last week that, from next year, The New York Times will no longer use third-party data to target ads; and, starting from July this year, the title will offer clients 45 new proprietary first-party audience segments, with more to follow in subsequent months.

“This can only work because we have 6 million subscribers and millions more registered users that we can identify and because we have a breadth of content,” explained Allison Murphy, SVP of ad innovation.

“While a differentiator – and I’m thrilled about it – this isn’t a path available for every publisher,” she added, “especially not local who don’t have the scale of resources for building from scratch.”

In other parts of the world, publishers have started banding together to build scale to fight back against the duopoly of Google and Facebook.

Initiatives like the Ozone Project in the UK, for example, enable advertisers to buy programmatic advertising across most national newspaper titles based on a combination of publisher first-party data, advertiser first-party data and second and third-party overlays.

But as the third-party data supplied by cookies runs into problems from regulations like GDPR and Google’s stated intention to “render third-party cookies obsolete” within two years, publishers’ minds are focusing on a potentially very different future.

Doing nothing hands the initiative to the tech companies, according to Geert Desager of Belgian publisher Mediahuis.

“We are partners with them, if we don’t do anything, they will come up with solutions, whether it’s in the browser or somewhere else, and we still will get revenue out of that,” he told a recent INMA webinar.

“But we will have less knowledge: less knowledge of our readers, less knowledge of what they do on our platforms, less knowledge of what advertisers want on the segments that we could create.”

He favours publishers working together at a national level in the first instance: “We will have not only the knowledge, but also the reach and inventory, we will be able to work closer with advertisers and closer with agencies to get a bigger part of the pot”.

Beyond that he envisages collaboration at an EU level, although he acknowledged that is a far more difficult proposition, requiring collaboration and standards in many areas. (For more details, read WARC’s report: Why doing nothing is not an option: four scenarios for a cookieless future from Mediahuis.)

Sourced from Axios, WARC