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Author: Alise Zaiceva 8 minute read
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7 First-Party Data Collection Methods for Publishers

The evolution of the digital advertising landscape is undeniable, with third-party cookies finally going away for good. The methods by which publishers, advertisers, and adtech providers manage and utilize user data are undergoing a reevaluation and redesign to better safeguard online personal information.

Leading the charge in addressing these privacy concerns are publishers and tech providers through initiatives like Google’s Privacy Sandbox. Meanwhile, the emphasis on first-party data is primarily propelled by publishers, who are in a prime position to forge direct connections with their audience who appreciate their content, products, or services.

As first-party data is also a critical component for publishers’ relationships with advertisers, this article will introduce 7 first-party data collection methods you should know that align with data protection.

Quick Recap: What is First-Party Data?

First-party data refers to the information collected directly by publishers from their audience or customers through their own channels. This data (cookies) helps website owners to collect analytical data and optimize website functionality, such as saving the language preferences and sign-in data. 

This data cannot be shared between domains.

First-party cookies won’t go away because they’re considered strictly necessary for a website’s performance and always active. 

Advantages of First-Party Data for Publishers

The main advantages of first-party data for publishers include:

  1. Improved Audience Insights: First-party data offers deep insights into the preferences, behaviors, and interests of a publisher’s audience.  
  1. Enhanced Personalization: With access to detailed first-party data, publishers can create more relevant and engaging content, tailored to the specific needs and interests of their readers.
  1. Increased Ad Revenue: First-party data allows publishers to offer advertisers targeted advertising opportunities, leading to more effective campaigns, higher CPMs and overall ad revenue.
  1. Data Privacy Compliance: First-party data is collected with the user’s consent, making it more with regulations like GDPR and CCPA. 
  1. Alternative to Third-Party Cookies: First-party is a better and more accurate alternative to third-party cookies, which are being phased out completely later this year.
  1. Competitive Advantage: By leveraging their own unique data, publishers can gain insights that competitors may not have access to, allowing for the development of unique content strategies.

How to Use First-Party Data for Programmatic Advertising

For publishers, leveraging first-party data is crucial not just for nurturing existing subscriber relationships but also for expanding their audience base, especially when conducting their own ad campaigns. Having deeper insights into their audience enables more precise targeting, which in turn increases the value of their advertising space and ensures higher baseline CPM rates.

For advertisers, the first-party data from publishers is extremely valuable for executing targeted ad campaigns aimed at high-value prospects, leading to a higher return on investment (ROI). Companies that implement data-driven marketing strategies are 6 times more likely to see profitability year after year. First-party data allows advertisers to improve targeting precision and relevance to the audience, minimizing wasted advertising efforts and enhancing ROI.

5 First-Party Data Collection Methods for Publishers 

1. User Registrations

Perhaps the most obvious first-party data collection initiative for publishers is user registration. This approach helps in building and nurturing audiences, offering personalized content, and preparing for a post-cookie era. 

However, there are many challenges involved with sign-ups and managing user retention, especially for publishers whose business models depend on aggregated traffic and ad revenue.

Users are increasingly selective when it comes to the content they consume and the same applies for sites they might not ever visit again, which disincentivizes them to register. 

Therefore, publishers need to determine their unique value proposition and communicate it clearly. Ask yourself: “Why should users spend time on my site? How can I make their user journey more engaging? What kind of content can I create to incentivize longer session time?” 

Building content around communities is a great starting point. For example, many websites have a comment functionality that encourages users to register. 

2. Single Sign-On (SSO)

A sophisticated platform for engagement and data gathering should also play a crucial role in a publisher’s Single Sign-On (SSO) strategies. The shift from converting anonymous visitors into engaged and eventually registered or subscribing users has become fundamental to the strategies of numerous European publishers in the aftermath of GDPR.

This shift also occurs against the backdrop of the formation of SSO/IAM publisher alliances such as Portugal’s publisher alliance Nonio.

Utilizing gamification, surveys, polls, and quizzes that are visually attractive and engaging can directly contribute to increasing the number of registered users, either through registration forms or by directly integrating with a publisher’s SSO technology.

For publishers, SSO protocols like OAuth can streamline user access across platforms and enhance data security, because users don’t have to use unsafe passwords just to remember them, potentially exposing themselves to a data breach. A result is a better user experience and security for publishers. 

3. Expanded Interest Level Registrations

This strategy basically suggests going beyond basic login information to collect data on users’ specific interests. It helps in tailoring user experiences and content, although it’s crucial to balance the depth of information requested to avoid deterring users.

The challenge is, not all publishers can execute this strategy due to a lack of content diversity to deliver the interest topics to users in the first place.

However, if you have this opportunity, you should use it, as it will motivate users to offer more personal data in exchange for a more tailored experience.

4. Event-based Tracking

Event-based tracking can reveal the true preferences of your users. It goes beyond merely relying on users’ stated interests during registration, such as Sports and Technology. 

The integration of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) in event tracking is becoming increasingly common. These technologies are used to analyze historical user behavior to predict the actions of future users with similar patterns. This advanced approach to event-based tracking is particularly beneficial for certain publishers, enabling the creation of more sophisticated user engagement strategies.

By utilizing event-based tracking, publishers can generate first-party cookies to identify and invest in valuable user segments. This allows for the delivery of more customized content across various platforms, such as web pages, email newsletters, apps, and beyond, enhancing user engagement and loyalty.

5. Surveys and Polls

For publishers aiming to deepen their understanding of their audience, embracing surveys and polls can be incredibly beneficial, especially if you’ve already nurtured a strong relationship with your audience and offer a product they cherish.

As highlighted by Erin Hennessy, Executive Director of Product Marketing & Insights at The New York Times, even with access to sophisticated proprietary audience data, there’s significant value in adopting a straightforward approach like surveys to gather first-party data.

Building trust and engagement with audiences as a foundational step. This approach not only aligns with audience interests and passions but also opens up avenues for receiving valuable insights.

In essence, the success of a zero- or first-party data strategy hinges on the quality of your product. Without a compelling product, the opportunity to collect meaningful feedback diminishes.

6. Publisher Provided Identifiers (PPIDs)

New capabilities that allow publishers to share Publisher Provided Identifiers (PPIDs) — pseudonymized identifiers generated and managed by publishers themselves — with Google’s programmatic demand. This enhancement aids publishers in broadening the application of their first-party identifiers across various transaction types, including the Open Auction.

From Google’s preliminary tests, partners who integrated PPIDs into their inventory, in the absence of other identifiers, reported a programmatic auction revenue boost of 15% or more.

Audience segments derived from PPIDs will be exclusively available in programmatic auctions where no other identifiers are present, ensuring that PPIDs do not affect the programmatic inventory of publishers where third-party cookies or other identifiers are still in use. 

7. Extra Value Products 

Extra value products are only truly valuable when they offer information readers cannot find elsewhere. Otherwise known as lead magnets, the primary goal is to entice prospects into entering marketing funnel by offering them something of immediate value. This exchange typically involves the prospect providing their email address or other contact details to receive the offered item. 

These products are often complimentary to your main offering and can include anything from e-books and templates to access to webinars and free trials. 

Source: Setupad


As we move forward, the ability of publishers to adapt to industry changes and, most importantnly, understand the benefits to innovate in their data collection and engagement strategies will be key to their success. It requires not only technical skills, but also creativity.

The transition to first-party data is not just a necessity but a strategic opportunity to redefine the value proposition for both publishers and their audiences. By embracing these methods, publishers can secure their place in the future of digital advertising.

About Alise Zaiceva
Alise is a content marketing manager at Setupad. She’s passionate about content and helping publishers scale their businesses through powerful digital marketing strategies. In her free time, she expands her knowledge of tech.

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