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As platforms and governments roll out increased user data protection measures, the era of third-party cookies faces an inevitable crumble. In its place, publishers are finding subscriptions-based, first-party data an opportunity to bite into. In this recent report from NAPCO, 76% of publishers listed gathering this first-party data as one of their top priorities. But it’s not for all the reasons – and has more benefits – than you may think! 

2020 has been a year of many changes and upheavals, but it’s also the year first-party data took center stage in digital marketing and advertising strategies around the world. This is due, in part, to major global platform shifts and data protection policy changes. 

In response to user concerns, search engines like Firefox and Apple Safari have blocked use of third-party cookie data almost entirely, while Google Chrome initiated a gradual elimination of cookies that will complete in 2022. The NAPCO report also found, “The emergence of data privacy regulations such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) has hindered the ability of companies to collect cookie data.” With platform rules and legislative change blocking more traditional paths to target reader engagement, companies are instead turning to data they can collect and leverage themselves – especially through subscriptions.

The end of cookies and tighter legal oversight are not the only – or most significant – reasons publishers are moving to subscription-based data collection however. For many publishers, the transition is not a source of concern – but a chance to capitalize on an exciting industry moment. The NAPCO report noted: “The fact that publishers do not seem worried about the “death of the cookie” suggests they might not be shifting towards a subscription model out of fear of losing customer visibility, but rather out of a desire to seize the opportunity presented by first-party data.” 

In many cases, the emergence of first-party data has presented companies with an opportunity to more strongly connect with their readers in both published content and advertising spaces…but this time with greater transparency and relational trust – two keys to building a winning brand.

As Deloitte Digital explained, “Advertisers have two years to adjust to a future without third-party cookies. For those that do it right, this marks a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deepen customer relationships and drive growth….Consumers generally welcome contextually sensitive, coherent brand experiences. In order to create those experiences in a privacy-sensitive way, we recommend that brands should focus on three initiatives: mastering the first-party customer data that they already own, leaning in to “walled-garden” media ecosystems and bringing key data-driven functions in-house.” These shifts offer promising company insights that could sustain healthier, long-term reader relationships.

Team integration around precise data stories creates stronger reader experiences

The mass movement towards subscription-based data collection presents publishers much more than a chance to strengthen their brand. The moment is also stimulating internal systems evolution and offers a chance to cultivate clearer data stories company-wide.

For example, companies that harmonize interdepartmental efforts around first-party data are empowered to bring together separate parts of a company more effectively. Teams unified around collective knowledge position the entire company to attain common goals.

Digiday describes the power of this dynamic: “Successful subscription businesses make sure their marketing teams, and their data science and analytics teams, are all operating from the same source of customer data truth – a single source of customer or first-party data that multiple teams and their technologies are leveraging, as opposed to relying on different versions of the data due to disparate sources, channels and technologies in your marketing and technology ecosystem.” 

Integrated internal teams not only improve company communications for efficiency and mission alignment, but they also situate the whole company to better leverage the stories subscriptions data tell about target readerships. When an entire company understands clearer data stories about readers – behaviors, interests, demography, engagement patterns, etc. – all teams can inevitably co-create coherent experiences. Of course, more consistent and coherent reader experiences offer potential for stronger brand loyalty and more effective advertising moments.

Boston Consulting Group explains, “63% of consumers said they “expect personalization as a standard of service…BCG’s research has shown that the most sophisticated digital marketers—those that have reached what we call “multimoment maturity,” or the ability to deliver relevant experiences to customers at multiple moments across the purchase journey—achieve cost savings of up to 30% and revenue increases of as much as 20%…Each company’s circumstances and starting point are different, but all companies can speed their journey up the digital marketing maturity curve by unlocking the potential of first-party data.”

Team integration around first-party data leads to more precise and personal connection with readers over a longer period of time. Especially during a time when so many readers question media integrity, these deeper relationships offer substantive potential for regaining trust, saving costs and increasing revenue, and maintaining brand loyalty.

Mature with the moment for long-term success 

As publishers leverage this industry moment to their advantage, it is clear that strong reader relationships are best built from the deep knowledge subscriber data can provide. Smart collection and use of subscriptions-based, first-party data can lead to more effective team cohesion, more precise advertising and digital engagement tactics, and offer cost-saving stories about what individual companies can do to sustain long-term reader relationships.

Companies that mature with this once-in-a-generation moment will be poised for resilient agility and success. For more on how to make the most of the shifting landscape, read the full report here.


Lineup Systems is the world's leading provider of media sales technology, representing over 6,800 media brands globally, including Gannett/USA Today, New York Times and News Corp. Amplio is Lineup's multi- channel audience monetization solution that helps media companies realize their full reader revenue potential, using data-driven intelligence to engage, nurture and monetize readers with personalized offers that increase reader revenue and reduce churn. Adpoint is Lineup's end-to-end multi-channel media advertising sales solution that helps media companies streamline operations, make better use of data, increase efficiency and boost revenue.