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Publishers have had it rough this year

New York Times reported that smaller publishers relying on ad revenue for survival have already gone bust.

Both The Guardian and the BBC have announced redundancies. Even BuzzFeed readjusted their expectations for 2020.

Google killing third-party cookies. COVID. BLM keyword blacklists. Reduced marketing budgets. And just last week Google made AdSense policies better but also stricter for publishers.

It’s not easy being in publishing these days.

For better or worse, many publishers still rely on ad revenue to deliver quality journalism to us.

Marketers who portray themselves as ‘purpose-driven’ saying that they want coronavirus coverage to be free while at the same time pulling their ad spend from publishers isn’t helping to keep that content free and accessible to all.

Marketing can be a power for good.

But we gotta put our money where our mouth is. We can channel our ad spend on supporting free and independent journalism.

And while we’re at it, we can demand that those publishers do better. Because they’re more likely to listen to constructive feedback once their existence isn’t teetering on the brink of destruction.

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Google has a change of heart

While many people find the news through Google, the publishers aren’t fond of not getting paid by Google for showing their content in organic search.

This lead to several skirmishes in the past.

Earlier this year, TC reported that France is the latest EU state to order Google to start paying publishers for displaying their content in organic search.

Previous attempts by Germany and Spain failed to get Google to budge.

Because Google held on to its position that it doesn’t make any money from organic search. 

But given that many publishers struggle to generate revenue, and the current environment around newsmedia, Google has had a change of heart.

Google will start paying news publishers for high-quality content. Google’s Bran Bender wrote that a vibrant news industry matters because people are searching for reliable information during the global pandemic and growing concerns about racial injustice, “But these events are happening at a time when the news industry is also being challenged financially. We care deeply about providing access to information and supporting the publishers who report on these important topics.”

Building on its commitmentto support publishers and journalism, Google also introduced two new analytics tools designed for newsrooms. 

Time will tell if this is going to work out.

Third-party cookies are on their way out. What now?

Google is killing Third-Party cookies.

By 2022 Google Chrome will no longer capture third-party cookies and that’s a big deal for performance marketing. Google is promising a world where advertisers can still deliver relevant ads to us without infringing on data privacy.

A tall order, right?

While First-Party cookies are set to retain personally identifiable details, e.g. log-in information on a single site, Third-party cookies are used to track your browsing activity across multiple sites and allow retargeting and ad-delivery.

Panic is spreading in the advertising and publishing communities. Though, any news from Google always rattles the media and marketing execs – whether it’s good or bad news.

Should you be worried?

Chrome is the latest browser to join Safari and Firefox in blocking cookies. This a bigger deal due to the fact that globally more people access the internet through Chrome than any other browser.

The situation is truly grim for some publishers. According to Google, publishers can lose up to 52% of revenue generated through targeted ads. 

For marketers, this means that we seriously need to rethink the role of data privacy in our marketing strategies.

I heard about a ‘Privacy Sandbox’ – what’s that about?

Considering that 71% of Google’s own revenue comes from advertising (not to mention the brands, media agencies, apps and countless other websites that rely on advertising revenues) Google is proposing to replace third-party cookies with a Privacy Sandbox.

In simple terms, the Privacy Sandbox is a collection of APIs that performs two major functions.

  1. Deliver improved privacy by storing your data in your browser and not sharing it with other websites.
  2. Publishers can connect to this API which delivers aggregated data to advertisers for delivering interest-based ads.

In addition, Google is proposing several other APIs – from measuring performance to minimising ad-fraud and limiting underhanded tactics – that collect user data by circumventing traditional controls.

Everything Google does comes at a cost.

Considering that Chrome has the lion’s share of the global web browser usage, switching to their Privacy Sandbox means making Google the de facto custodian of our online privacy.

In fairness, this is a giant step towards improved online privacy, but some digital privacy groups are cautious about the impact on advertisers and how segmentation based on aggregated data using FLoC can encourage stereotyping. 

Preparing for a post-third-party cookie world.

The big idea here is simple: start putting effort into giving people a reason to want to hear from you. That’s obviously much easier said than done. 

Here are some tactics to invest in:

  1. Email marketing: Stop sending random junk through your newsletters and start delivering value through the content you share with your subscribers.
  2. Targeted ads on Facebook & Google: You can still target ads based on demographic data and interest across search and social. Use this method to drive more subscriptions.
  3. Community Management: Engage with your fans across social media, blogs and other platforms.
  4. Chat: Be more proactive in engaging people by using chat. There are multiple vendors available that offer native chat solutions for websites and apps – and WhatsApp for Business offers a possibility to host a product catalogue, remember?
  5. SEO: Ranking in organic search whether it’s in search, YouTube or marketplaces like Amazon is still one of the best ways to reach people.

This is your chance to lead the charge in your business, or even, in your industry. (Why dream at all if you’re just going to dream small, right?)

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