Since the GDPR’s introduction in May, many publishers have still blanket-blocked traffic to their sites from the European Union. Sovrn’s Andy Evans explains why they need to get back into the continent.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) caught many in the digital publishing industry with their eyes closed, with solutions to ensure compliance still under construction mere weeks before the regulation’s enforcement date.

Among concerns compliance was too complicated, as well as fears of exposing businesses to unnecessary risks and hefty fines, some US publishers quite rightly decided to simplify matters and block all European traffic.

But fast-forward a few months and many sites continue to block European visitors. Despite the emergence of a simple and mostly free solution to GDPR compliance in the form of Consent Management Platforms (CMPs), only 15% of the websites that took the supposedly short-term approach of blocking European users have subsequently been updated. Whether this is part of an intentional strategy, a lack of time, or simply because they have forgotten about their European traffic, it’s time for these publishers to dive back in to the EU pool.

Reclaim lost revenues

US websites receive a surprising amount of traffic from elsewhere in the world, for instance almost 20% of New York Times Digital readers come from outside of the US, while the Washington Post gets 22 million international visitors per month. Major websites with this volume of international traffic might have been expected to ensure GDPR compliance early on to avoid massive losses, but for smaller publishers with fewer international users, unblocking websites to European traffic still presents an opportunity to reclaim lost revenues. 

Even if websites only get 2% of their traffic from the EU this can have a substantial impact on income. When publishers are working day-in-day-out to optimise their websites for revenue, making gains of just a fraction of a percentage point here and there, switching that 2% back on is an easy win. By easily implementing a free CMP and letting it run in the background, publishers can rediscover a valuable revenue stream no matter how much EU traffic they receive. 

Boost inventory value

In reality, implementing a CMP is about more than just regaining the revenue that was initially lost when European traffic was switched off, it is about increasing the value of inventory and ultimately improving yields.

Buyers are beginning to bid higher on inventory that contains a consent string delivered in the bid as a result of CMP use, with impressions containing an IAB consent string often selling for twice as much as those that don’t on the Sovrn exchange. This trend is supported by data from other SSPs, including Smart Ad Server which reports consent information can boost the value of an impression by 95%. Implementing a CMP could take publisher revenue that comes from European traffic and instantly double it.

But despite these impressive results, CMP adoption remains relatively low, with just 27% of top US publishers with programmatic advertising currently employing a consent tool, according to an Adzerk report. Again, the picture is similar on the Sovrn exchange, with just over a quarter of EU bid requests containing a recognisable consent string. With a variety of free IAB registered CMPs on the market, and the chances of gaining consent relatively high – currently around 87% for Sovrn publishers using a CMP – there’s really no reason not to embrace the technology.

Gain audience loyalty

There is a third reason for US publishers to stop blocking European traffic, which may not have a direct impact on the bottom line but is no less important. The internet should be a free and open platform, where legitimate, quality content is available to all. By restricting content access for specific geographies, publishers are going against the principles of a free and open internet for all and risk alienating audiences which may have previously been loyal. From an EU resident searching for information about a globally available product on a discussion forum, to a US businessman checking his local news site while working in Europe, the inability to access online content is an inconvenience that will result in lost audiences, lost loyalty, and ultimately lost revenue.

Back in May, US publishers had good reason to place a short-term block on EU traffic, but continuing the practice means missed revenue, and a ring fenced internet. Not only are publishers walking away from the revenue they turned off, they are missing out on healthier revenue because of the uptick from consent while also risking alienating audiences. CMPs are a simple and affordable solution that enable all publishers to get back in the EU pool without falling foul of the GDPR.