No cookies, no cry. Publishing is still wealthy

By: Rob Corbidge, 04 January 2024

Cookieless could be an opportunity for publishers

Google starts the phase out of third party cookies from this week. Can publishers benefit?

Advertising is a dropped-pie of a mess which holds ever diminishing rewards for many publishers, particularly in the B2C market. However as we begin 2024, it's important to remember that this is hopefully a temporary state of affairs, albeit one preventing the proper flow of commerce.

People still want to sell things to people that want to buy them.  That is an even more salient point this year than last, as we enter the cookiepocalypse, and see the practical end of cookies by the close of the year. 

It's already started, as the Wall Street Journal revealed this week: On "Thursday [today], Google will start a limited test that will restrict cookies for one per cent of the people who use its Chrome browser, which is by far the world’s most popular. By year’s end, Google plans to eliminate cookies for all Chrome users."

For the purposes of simplification: third-party cookies (3PC) are placed on websites by the online ad industry to track users around the internet. They provide information on where consumers go on their online journeys, information used by advertisers to tailor ads better. Privacy advocates argued that such information can lead to detailed profiles being developed of consumers which could effectively identify them.

With Google phasing out 3PC on a browser that according to some reading controls over 60% of the global market, and trying to move advertisers to some version of its Topics  system, a move most adtech people see as benefiting only Google, then there is going to be a disconnect between those with advertising space to sell, and those wishing to place adverts. Or a greater disconnect, shall we say, given the current state of affairs.

One of the strongest and most logical predictions out of all this is that those seeking to advertise in bulk, to a big audience, and then gauge the results, are going to struggle. Such mass and loose targeting will become an exercise in mining in the dark. That's a loss as a method for raising general brand awareness, for example.

Once again, it's important to remember just how illogical this all is. Advertising market distortion, primarily at the hands of Google, has been a building issue for years. Now, an additional factor will add a lack of information to that distortion.

This is the place to see hope for publishers though. People still want to sell things to people that want to buy them. 

Publishers still own eyeballs, and as we all know eyeballs are the currency of this age. Attention metrics, if you will. 

As we attempt to understand the owners of those all those eyeballs, publishers gather data. The simple email address required to access content is a step up the information ladder for publishers. As long as publishers prove worthy holders of such data, in an advertising market that is operating in the dark, then publishers have a source of light.

Of course this brings the likelihood of advertising becoming smaller in scope, or possibly just better informed in a different way. If you can deliver 500,000 subs or semi-subs or whatever mix you have some data on, then that's a much more attractive proposition to an advertiser versus casting a net so baggy whales can swim through it. 

It tracks that in the choppy waters of content harvesting by AI and a shaky advertising market about to lose a lot of informational awareness, publishers can be said to sit on wealth.

The wealth of content, and the wealth of knowing their audience.

Now, how to get properly paid for it.