Loss of third-party cookies costing publishers - unless they act

Google keeps pushing back its deprecation deadline for third-party cookies, with the latest target set for the end of 2024. Brands across industries are bracing for the impact, but those who rely heavily on third-party cookies to power their marketing intelligence are in for a bumpy ride. For affected businesses like broadcasters and publishers, two sectors that historically lean on third-party cookies, there are two ways to respond: 

  • Seize the delay as an opportunity to better prepare for a delicate transition with enormous revenue implications 
  • Use the delay as an excuse to continue ignoring a complicated, challenging issue  

Unfortunately, far too many media companies choose the latter option. That approach will cost them. 

“Publishers need to start conversations about their first-party data strategy today,” said Briian Wilson, Vice President of Media Acquisitions at Epsilon. “There is incremental opportunity right now and companies that aren’t engaging with first-party data are missing out.”

Potential loss of revenue

Programmatic display and audience extension ads are the bulk of the broadcasting world's revenue, and third-party cookies remain king for most publishers with digital ad spend. In the past, they've relied on third-party cookies to drive the growth of interest-based advertising campaigns.

U.S. broadcasters would lose $2.1 billion annually, according to a new report by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in conjunction with research firm Borrell Associates. That's 6.3% of the industry's total digital advertising revenue, constituting more than a $1 million yearly loss for the average TV station.

The report estimates that by the end of 2024, when third-party cookie deprecation is set to occur, the losses could increase by nearly 40%. Publishers have it even worse: the Interactive Advertising Bureau estimates publishers' exposure at up to $10 billion in lost revenue without third-party cookies.

Yet instead of working feverishly to develop an alternative strategy, many TV and radio executives are taking a more passive approach. Only 27% of the broadcasters surveyed in the NAB report have a dedicated team working on a transition plan. Wilson said publishers, including broadcasters, need to start looking toward a stronger data strategy, which includes first-party data.

“Third-party cookies have been widely used by publishers and marketers for many years,” Wilson said. “But third-party cookies have issues. Third-party cookies cause blind spots into the data publishers have available. We frequently run into publishers who feel first-party data will benefit them more, and it’s possible to implement a strong first-party data strategy.”

Building a better data strategy

The most proactive organizations are coalescing around first-party data-driven strategies as the way forward, a uniquely promising solution for publishers and broadcasters that often have a large, frequently interactive audience.

“First party data is valuable because it is collected directly from the source: think website or webpage where a site visitor enters their data to sign up for a newsletter, access site content or make a purchase,” Wilson said. “This data is directly provided to the site and is not impacted by cookie clearing or cookie expiration. It is unique to the property that is visited and thus creates a trustworthy source of data.”

With existing first-party data at their fingertips, broadcasters—and publishers in general—can more closely and accurately examine their data and drive more precise outcomes, including an increase in traffic. Coupled with a strong identity solution, it creates a stream of data that continually gets smarter and works harder.

“They don’t know what they don’t know,” Wilson said. “There’s a gap of knowledge there, and when you understand what data you have and how it’s gathered, you can generate more incremental lift.”

An increase in the value of first-party data

Another reason publishers are looking toward first-party data? Bigger returns. The NAB report highlights a 2019 study showing advertisers will pay a 2.8x premium for behaviorally targeted ads, an appetite likely to continue after third-party cookies are gone. New first-party data strategies could also signal new revenue streams and boosted engagement.

First-party data is an exceptionally powerful asset because it is collected directly from the source and isn't impacted by cookie clearing or expiration. It's a trustworthy source of data and can help brands and better understand consumer preferences and behaviors.

When used in concert with additional customer insights or attached to an identity solution like Epsilon's CORE ID, that first-party data enables a fuller, more personalized, cross-channel behavioral picture. Identity helps publishers identify individuals already interacting and transacting with a brand, which means incremental lift right away.

Wilson said publishers of all type, including broadcasters, need to be having conversations long before Chrome gets rid of third-party cookies. And while it seems like an undertaking, she recommends starting small.

“The first step to building a solid first-party data strategy is understanding what data you currently have and how it's being gathered,” she said. “Once you have an understanding of what you have today, talk to your demand and data partners to gain an understanding of what first-party data solutions they recommend to start monetizing that data, then look at ways to improve your current structure.”

If you're ready to future-proof your marketing, check out our guide on creating a first-party data strategy.