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Throughout the history of advertising, advertisers have traditionally sold ads by utilizing space to place inventory or services in front of buyers. In print advertising, for instance, advertisers sold space on a page that would reach a certain number of regular readers, but as print publishers migrated to include digital contexts in their brands, many sold reach through demographic impressions. 

Digital advertising created access to audience-based markets that could target buying demographics far more precisely and make ads more effective. But with the end of cookies and evolving data privacy laws, publishers are losing some of their easiest ways of gaining advertising revenue.  

Although selling a demographic to advertisers is becoming more difficult in some ways, publishers can leverage their first-party data collected from subscriptions to power ongoing audience-based selling. Subscriptions data is key to offering advertisers target readerships in digital spaces…without compromising data privacy laws or diminishing the ethical quality of brands.

Legal and search engine changes are forcing cross-industry pivots for publishers that are actually opening new avenues to digital advertisers in a way that creates revenue growth for everyone. Subscriptions-based data is a clean and reliable source of data that tells a better story about target audiences, and advertisers can leverage this deep insight to convert buyers, refine messaging, find new audiences or engagement angles, and gauge the likelihood of their own ad campaigns’ success journeys.

For example, an advertiser can target an audience that a publisher knows well, and the publisher has deep, accurate data knowledge about that audience because they collected that information in a clean way through subscriptions. Since the advertiser knows the source and stories of this data, they can make more strategic choices about messaging and content, but they can also avoid relying on vanity metrics to gauge success with that target audience. This allows an advertiser to make more substantive strategy changes to connect with and convert that audience market more effectively.

Tech research company G2 explains that vanity metrics are less valuable than actionable metrics because they don’t provide advertisers guidance about next steps; smartly used subscriptions data could change that: “Instead of tracking the growth rate of your subscriber list, track something that you can actually take action on. For example, taking note of the acquisition path that subscribers take can indicate which content is most interesting to them. Knowing this information could help you and your team build out more curated campaigns that will yield more success.” 

Actionable success metrics drawn from subscriptions data benefit teams curating published content for subscribers, but it also benefits advertisers trying to understand which kinds of content work for key audiences types and why. Advertisers can use that knowledge to shift and keep audiences invested throughout ad campaigns. Such precise information clearly benefits everyone involved in a content-to-conversion funnel–subscribers, publishers, and advertisers alike. 

Subscriptions data cultivates more precise audience personas for advertising teams

Advertisers cultivating their strategies based on real readership data a publisher owns and intimately understands allows them to maintain an audience-first approach. Subscription data allows for more accurate readership analysis that benefits advertising teams as they refine their audience personas from real and reliable insights, not just projections. 

Marketing technology company Sailthru explains, “By collecting, analyzing, and leveraging first-party data, publishers can create channels and an audience that is truly proprietary. The publisher becomes the single best way to reach their audience. And the publisher also has the most powerful insights into what their audience will find relevant, meaningful, and engaging-¦” 

Of course, that knowledge benefits brands by allowing them to publish more engaging digital content, but it has a similarly positive impact on their ability to offer greater value to advertisers. Digital management company Upland explains: “[Companies can use] first-party data to deliver hyper-targeted audience segments for advertisers…you can segment your known users based on their content consumption. That way, you can sell advertisers direct access to thousands of people who regularly engage with a certain category.”

Media companies ranging in size from The Seattle Times to the New York Times have both used varied digital tactics to migrate readerships to subscribers over the last few years, and their resulting precise subscriber data banks have increased value for both their audiences and advertisers. Bloomberg Media has also seen success maturing multiple sides of its business by breaking down internal data silos: “The data infrastructure that Bloomberg Media’s advertising team uses to identify audience segments for campaigns is now used to build segments used to market to would-be subscribers. The business news publisher’s product teams are also building internal dashboards meant to help both groups understand the impact their products or changes will have on both lines of business.” This approach benefits advertisers trying to cultivate stronger overall strategies, audience personas, and messaging tactics, while also boosting publishers’ brands, quality of content, and audience engagement.

First-party data increases relevance scores without compromising brand integrity 

In 2019, digital ad spend surpassed all other forms of advertising globally, and Google and Facebook continue to hold a strong duopoly over the largest market shares in these spaces. This makes it especially important for advertisers to understand how to skillfully engage audiences in these particular digital contexts. The clarity subscriptions data offers can help advertising teams understand which content will increase relevance scores on Facebook and Google and, by extension, increase the effectiveness of their ads. 

E-commerce experts at DataQ explain: “Combined, Facebook and Google have a whopping 4.6 billion users and to enhance their users’ experience within their platforms they use algorithms that determine the best ads to show audiences. Through the use of relevance scores, they determine whether or not the ads in question match audience preferences…When it comes to data, quality is essential, and first-party data is clearly higher quality data because it comes directly from the source – your customers. Using a customer list will directly impact your relevance score, which is a rating from 1-10 that estimates how well your target audience responds to your ad.”

With first-party data, some of the privacy and ownership concerns customers may have is diminished. Because that data is transparently given to a publisher by reader choice, there is greater brand integrity and customer relations for all involved – publishers and advertisers. 


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.