Moving Toward An Opt-in Internet: How Publishers Can Pioneer The Future Of Identity

The internet is rapidly moving to a consent-based, opt-in environment that is set to completely transform the way brands, publishers, and consumers manage their online identity.

These changes will provide publishers with a unique opportunity to innovate and improve the internet experience by providing more consumer controls to users. It will also preserve the value exchange of relevant advertising for premium content to allow publishers to maximize their revenue.

As part of The Drum’s Cannes-Do 2022, we partnered with The Trade Desk, the world’s largest independent media-buying platform that counts global brands and agencies as clients, to host a panel live from the Croisette in sunny Cannes to discuss the future of the opt-in Internet.

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The value exchange of relevant advertising for premium content will allow publishers to maximize their revenue

Joining The Drum’s General Manager of Global Events and moderator, Lynn Lester, were:

  • Deb Brett, Global Chief Business Officer, Condé Nast

  • Joy Robins, Chief Revenue Officer, The Washington Post

  • Jeff Green, Founder and CEO, The Trade Desk

The panel, ‘Moving toward an opt-in internet’, questioned our experts on some of the challenges that publishers will face as we move further toward an opt-in internet, and opened discussion about how publishers can work together to pioneer the future of identity.

Over the past few years, media companies have felt increasing pressure to act like technology companies in order to remain innovative leaders in the industry. But figuring out where to sit can be difficult.

“I think we’re digital first, which is new for us at Condé Nast. Our revenue is digital first, our CEO is thinking digital first. But at the same time, I think we’re really good about knowing our core competency. And I think that’s not technology, it’s content,” says Condé Nast’s Brett.

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For The Washington Post’s Robins, it was a very deliberate decision to sit at the convergence of technology and journalism. “We are seeing ourselves as responsible for really helping the industry navigate the publishing side, navigate through complex existential threats, identity being the latest one,” she says.

It is essential for premium publishers to remain sensitive to evolving consumer sentiment. Without relevant advertising, publisher revenue goes down, advertisers will lose value, and the consumer experience will degrade.

The Trade Desk’s Green suggests that within the next five years, there will be “more of a relationship between the consumer and the content that they love, so that they manage their privacy and have a dialogue directly with the companies that they’re trusting. ” This means that instead of going through intermediaries such as Apple, managing the privacy of customers, they will have a more direct relationship with companies.

Green predicts that, “We will have moved from an opt-out internet where cookies are automatically on and you have to turn them off and you have to understand a very complex ecosystem in order to really opt-out, to an opt-in internet ” This will empower users to manage their own relationships with content owners, apps, and channels.

Despite the opportunities this would bring, many publishers are feeling overwhelmed due to the increased complexity of this model, and the challenges it presents.

“It becomes incredibly challenging when each different ecosystem has its own walled garden,” says Brett. “We universally do not want to create an identity-walled garden on the internet. We want to make sure that what we do is open and flexible, and honors that true ambition of really trying to break ourselves from that. And when you can, I think you create some really healthy competition.”

Robins agrees that our current model that limits the user’s access to network-based content and services based on how much data that they are willing to share is a problem. “We sort of sacrifice what’s best for everyone in the name of competition. And by doing that, we make the opportunity smaller for ourselves,” she says.

“None of our companies are big enough to say, ‘we’re going to build a walled garden, we’re on our own, and we’re going to go compete with the other walled gardens.’ None of us have that luxury. And honestly, if I had it, I wouldn’t want it. Because what I want is a competitive internet. I just want a fair fight,” says Green.

In a post-cookie environment, first-party data is set to become more important. Advertisers’ cost per thousand impressions (CPM) will increase significantly if they know that a certain audience will see their content. It will increase even further if they believe that this audience is interested in their product. However, the deprecation of third-party cookies will come with its own challenges.

“If you asked me the question like, ‘if every single cookie went away tomorrow, would you be 100% ready?’ As much as we’ve been planning for this, I still don’t think we have it all figured out,” says Robins. “I think that it is important that we guide advertisers into helping them understand the signals that are important, rather than the pure identity. And that’s what we have to keep focused on.”

Advances in identity, measurement and data are all key to help advertisers maximize value, and publishers optimize yield. Green says, “The technology is absolutely there. What is not there is the reach that we have from the legacy metrics or legacy methodologies. And so of course we adopt it, but then others have to, and we have to make that more universal and then more are interoperable. And there’s a lot of work to do there, even though we’ve done initial work and the tech is there.”

Brett agrees that technology is not the limiting factor. “We’ve seen this again and again, and again, amazing technology comes along. But for whatever reason, as an industry, we want to hold onto things that we’re used to.”

It’s clear that change is coming fast. If publishers want to keep up, collaboration is key. “It’s like a scrum, in rugby, where we all need to lock arms,” says Green. “And without that, we’re in trouble. So, look for opportunities to partner. If we do that, the internet is way better. All of our businesses are way better on the other side of this.”

To find out more, you can watch the full panel discussion above

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