Third party cookie tracking will be completely phased out from platforms like Google by the end of 2022. The shift marks a significant moment in the short history of digital marketing. This is especially true for news publishers who have already been adapting their monetization strategies to digital contexts as traditional news advertising dollars largely dried up.
Key to success in this emerging digital ecosystem is the collection of first party data – data voluntarily submitted by individual readers to publishers, which can then be used to monetize subscriptions, advertising, and digital news experiences in more personalized ways while maintaining data privacy.
While nearly 80% of publishers say collecting first party data is a top priority, the strategies to do so vary. Publishers are using all kinds of paywall and subscriptions strategies to drive first party data collection, but single sign-on technology presents another approach for publishers to collect first party data.
What is single sign-on?
While digital subscriptions have been accelerating for some time as a way to earn first party data, many publishers – especially local publishers – are still new to this emerging approach to first party data collection. It’s also becoming a more essential part of a smooth online experience. So what is ‘single sign-on’, or SSO?
SSO is a tech tool designed to simplify log-in processes while protecting user privacy. It’s also designed to keep users engaged in whatever they are doing online. Cybersecurity company McAfee explains that privacy and efficiency for digital users is still a challenge that adds an extra barrier to digital audience engagement:
“[Digital consumers] have an average of 23 online accounts that require a password, but on average only use 13 unique passwords for those accounts…the most common way to remember passwords is to keep a written or digital list of all passwords (52%). Things tend to get worse when consumers actually do forget their password. 32% forget a password once a week, and when they do forget this password, 48% of respondents claim they abandon what they are doing online entirely.”
Data is money, and for publishers, an inefficient or insecure digital log on experience can mean that readers stop engaging with content. It also means that publishers are leaving a tool for data collection – and various ways of accessing reader monetization – on the table. Frictionless access to digital content, no matter what part of the subscription funnel a login may be required, boosts the potential for publishers to build reader trust and deeper data profiles: SSO is becoming an essential part of that digital news experience.
How can SSO tech benefit publishers?
Publishers who deploy SSO tech to collect, protect, and utilize first party reader data can benefit substantially. As publishers transition to combined revenue models, SSO tech can add to a positive reader experience in a couple of ways.
Moving readers through a subscription funnel
Subscription funnels can take on all kinds of styles and structures, but reader acquisition and reader retention are the goals, no matter what strategy is used. Importantly, readers expect a high quality online experience. This means publishers must think about every aspect of the digital environment from page loading times (depending on where readers are accessing news content) to personalized and diversified ad experiences, to flexible subscription offerings and pricing structures that can be changed online.
SSO tech can offer one more route for a higher quality online experience, which can help earn reader trust and subscription conversions or retention. This is especially true for younger readers – digital natives – whose initial expectation of a publisher brand will always be to have a clean, advanced tech experience. These readers will quickly drop a brand if left unsatisfied with their online experience.
Identity security company Auth0 works with news publishers to implement SSO and other data safety tools at paywalls and other login points across various types of digital devices. They argue that subscription growth requires personalized, seamless online experiences. “Consumers want a mix of subscription, free, and ad-supported content tailored to their unique interests, with the ability to engage that content on any device, anytime, anywhere – with the peace of mind that their data is always secure…Consumers are now accessing gated content, customer portals or smart devices in ways and at a scale never seen before. The most successful companies are passionate about delivering a customer experience that will help them drive growth.”
Keep readers online for advertisers
A poor online experience can not only deter reader acquisition, but it can also lead to reader churn, which negatively impacts advertising relationships. News media organizations must utilize tech tools like SSO to encourage their readers to stay online or engage their digital content. For example, if a reader is moving between digital platforms to experience content from a single publisher brand, a smooth login process will be important. Anything that adds barriers to digital access can push a reader away from the brand.
Currently, the reader relationship with publishers is the most important relationship in the monetization equation. To monetize advertising bundles and subscriptions alike, publishers must deeply understand their readers; this only happens when they can collect enough clean first party data to serve personalized experiences at every facet of the reader experience. When readers don’t stay on publisher content or don’t have a smooth login experience to access content, it decreases the potential for publishers to more effectively understand their readers. This prevents them from offering useful insights to advertisers. On the other hand, when publishers use as many tactics as possible to decrease online barriers, their readers are more likely to stay online, which will benefit advertisers and their investments with news brands.
For example, the Local Media Consortium has developed an SSO tech tool (NewsPassID) for local publishers that is designed to empower smoother collection of first party data and strengthen subscription strategies…and it is intended to drive ad success through another layer of reader consent at scale:
“In theory, the success of the sign-on technology will drive success for the [ad] network: More scale in the number of known users identified using NewsPassID means more impressions that can be bundled up and offered to advertisers. More scale should attract more advertisers, and the resulting boost in demand should mean more revenue for publishers, which should, in turn, attract still more publishers, and so on…Many ad buyers see the appeal of buying local news inventory, but are hesitant to transact because local news cannot offer scale and its inventory is often sold…”
The tech can also lend itself to multi-publisher collaborations that pair subscription strategies with ad strategies, especially at the local level. SSO tech could make it easier for readers to use a subscription that allows them access to multiple publishers’ content like in the models described by journalism and tech entrepreneur Tony Haile.
Pair seamless digitization with data privacy for reader trust
Publishers of all readership sizes can utilize SSO tech to improve their online experience. It makes for a smoother content access point across platforms and between publisher collaborations, and it also serves readers with more seamless subscription and advertising experiences. These dynamics build brand trust in a small, but significant, way – something that is essential if news organizations are to be able to earn first party data that empowers them to serve timely, relevant, and personalized content in the evolving digital landscape. Publishers can leverage SSO tech to their advantage to ensure both data privacy and a better digital news experience that strengthens their relationship with readers, advertisers, and other publisher or consumer brands.