First party data strategies for publishers: Insight from The Independent

Independent set to hit four million online registrations after pivot to first-party data collection

The Independent is on track to hit four million online registrations by the end of September, a Press Gazette webinar on first-party data strategies for publishers heard.

First-party data collection describes the voluntary submission of personal details like email addresses, often as part of a exchange to receive access to newsletters or paywalled and semi-paywalled content.

With Google set to phase out third-party publisher cookies on Chrome,  voluntary first-party data collection  (by publishers themselves) has become an increasing point of focus.

Press Gazette’s first Future of Media Technology webinar of 2022 was on the topic of “First-Party Data Strategies for Publishers in the Age of Online Regulation” and was sponsored by OneTrust.

The webinar (on demand version available here) was hosted by Press Gazette editor-in-chief Dominic Ponsford, with the following panelists:

  • Jo Holdaway, chief data and marketing officer at Independent Digital News and Media
  • Arshdeep Sood, marketing solutions engineer at OneTrust PreferenceChoice
  • Robin Re, VP of marketing at Industry Dive
  • Rupert Knowles, general manager at Piano UK

Discussing The Independent’s use of first-person data collection and reader registrations, Holdaway said: “We had to pivot quite quite aggressively in 2021. Because looking forward to the end of third-party cookies, we had to work out how are we going to monetise our data?

“And we have a lot of users who love Apple devices, and they are already sort of invisible in the programmatic landscape. So we had to pivot quite rapidly and really push for registrations.

“We gave ourselves a goal of two million new registered users within 12 months… So we moved from collecting around 20,000 registrations a month to 200,000 a month.”

She went on to say that while the outlet now focuses on asking users to “voluntarily register” personal information to access content, handling personal data as a publisher came with “all sorts of responsibilities” around privacy, safety and informed consent that had to be respected.

She added: “Altogether we’re on track to reach nearly four million registered users by the end of September, which is fantastic for us. And it’s been underpinned because we still generate most of our revenue through advertising. Sixty per cent of our revenues are advertising-driven.”

The event on 23 February came the day before it was revealed that The Independent had made a record £5.5m in profit in its 2021 financial results.

The impact of changes to the way tech companies and governments are allowing publishers to use data was a focus of the discussion, as was the need to still use data to personalise user experiences.

OneTrust’s Sood said: “Many people have so many more devices, and they’re operating on those and have a certain level of expectation from the brands they interact with.”

She went on to cite a recent report from McKinsey that suggested 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalised interactions and 76% said that they get frustrated that doesn’t happen.

Piano’s Knowles added: “If I want to build relationships with customers, I want them to register or give me some sort of information about themselves, there needs to be something in return. That could be giving them access to some premium content. It could be signing up for a newsletter or even a quiz or a competition. There’s also abilities to do things like surveys that might be another way in which we can we can gather information.”

One of the main avenues for first-person data collection is through newsletter subscription. By collecting information about your users, and collating it with data collected by clients who may want to advertise, publishers are able to tailor advertising content to their readers.

As Industry Dive’s Re said: “We now offer 53 business-centric newsletters. They are free to our readers and so our revenue is almost 100% advertising-based. We collect demographic and firmographic information from our readers when they sign up for those free newsletters.

“And that allows us to ensure to our advertisers that they’re reaching the right users in the right audiences. But we also really value that information to actually create better content. We’re a targeted publication and we write for niche audiences, so it’s really necessary for us to know that we’re reaching that niche.

“Our editorial team has reports that cut through the noise of analytics and they can really see which stories resonate with those targeted decision-makers in the different industries. We also turn our first-party data into insights that can empower content strategies for our marketing partners.”

Remaining events in the series

  • 27 April: Website Personalisation Versus Privacy: How to Get the Balance Right
  • 28 June: Audience Growth: Tips, Insight and Useful Tech
  • 12 October: Advertising Versus Paywalls: Can Publishers do both?

Visit the Future of Media Technology event website to register for free to attend these events and access the on-demand version of this webinar



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