How Publishers Should Think About the New Era of Technology | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

How Publishers Should Think About the New Era of Technology

By Tina Iannacchino

Digital publishers are currently grappling with significant technological disruptions that are reshaping their industry. They face two major challenges: the deprecation of third-party tracking cookies, and the emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI). These disruptions will require publishers to adapt and find new strategies to maintain their visibility, revenue, and user experience.

The Demise of Cookie-Based Tracking, Plus Some Possible Alternatives

The deprecation of third-party tracking cookies is a substantial blow to publishers' ability to track user behavior and target specific audiences effectively. This loss of visibility into the open web has severe implications for publishers' inventory and revenue streams. Without the granular data provided by third-party cookies, publishers are losing valuable tools for audience targeting and the revenue it provides.

Amidst these challenges, contextual analysis and targeting offer a lifeline for publishers. Contextual analysis enables publishers to supply high-performing inventory and maintain relevant advertisements by using the content and context of a page as a proxy for audience interest rather than relying on third-party cookies. By leveraging contextual analysis, publishers can not only improve the user experience but also gain valuable insights that help shape editorial decisions. Although contextual targeting may not provide the same level of personalization as audience targeting, it can still yield effective results while preserving user privacy.

Generative AI: Friend or Foe?

On another front, generative AI poses both opportunities and risks for publishers. Platforms like Google are exploring the use of generative AI to provide direct answers to user queries without directing them to third-party websites. This raises concerns for publishers as it could limit organic traffic to their sites and reduce ad revenue. In response, many publishers may have to adopt a "freemium" model that requires users to log in and authenticate their identity to access content. This strategy allows publishers to collect user data directly and offer personalized experiences while still maintaining some level of free access.

Some smaller publishers are even considering utilizing generative AI to write content instead of relying solely on human journalists. While this may be feasible in certain limited circumstances, it's still a safe bet that high-quality content produced by experienced journalists and writers will continue to hold a premium value. Human creativity, analysis, and perspectives cannot be replicated by AI alone. Premium content created by human beings is likely to remain highly sought after by readers.

In the face of these disruptions, publishers must adapt and embrace contextual analytics as an important part of their strategy. By leveraging contextual analysis, publishers can compensate for the loss of third-party tracking cookies and continue to deliver relevant and engaging content. Contextual analysis and ad placement can also deliver valuable insights about audience interest and site performance.

Additionally, publishers should invest in building strong relationships with their readers and personalized experiences through authentication and identity verification that will help maintain the value of their audiences and inventory.

While the challenges posed by the deprecation of third-party tracking cookies and the rise of generative AI are significant, they also present opportunities for publishers to innovate and evolve. By embracing contextual analytics and finding new ways to engage with their audiences, publishers can adapt to the changing technological landscape and thrive in the digital era.

The whole world benefits from access to a broad and diverse ecosystem of free and paid content. For those publishers that rely on targeted advertising to uphold a business that delivers free content, contextual analytics and targeting will be essential to success in a post-cookie, post-generative-AI environment.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Tina Iannacchino is U.S. senior publisher director at Seedtag.