In the second chapter of our First-Party Data Programmatic Playbook, we turn the spotlight to the sell-side of the programmatic ecosystem. We’ll explore how publishers can collect, manage, and monetize their valuable first-party data to optimize yield in a privacy-first world.

The winds of change are blowing in programmatic advertising.

The evolving landscape means that the status quo between the buy and sell sides is shifting. With an ever-more fragmented supply chain, along with the imminent deprecation of third-party cookies, publishers’ ownership of relevant, targeted, privacy-compliant audiences is quickly becoming their trump card.

In this chapter, we’ll explore how publishers can channel their first-party data into new revenue streams and, in turn, realize higher yields.

Table of contents


  1. The basics of first-party data for publishers
  2. 3 ways publishers can monetize their first-party data
  3. The aftermath of the cookiepocolypse
  4. Ready to unlock your first-party potential?

The basics of first-party data for publishers

In the first chapter of our First-Party Data Programmatic Playbook, we defined first-party data in the broadest sense and the role it plays across the programmatic ecosystem.

So, let’s zoom in a little bit and look at exactly how the concept of first-party data applies to publishers.

Put simply, the most valuable form of first-party data for publishers is their audience: the users who visit and engage with their web properties. If you’re a publisher, the fact is that nobody knows your audience better than you – and this knowledge is like programmatic gold-dust.

But what exactly is first-party data in the context of publishing? It’s essentially anything you know about your audience: email address, age, location, household income, interests, browsing habits, devices, and more.

In terms of collecting publisher first-party data, there’s a good chance you’re already doing it – at least in part. Here are most common sources:

  • User registrations
  • On-site activity (analytics)
  • Newsletter metrics (subscriptions, open rates, clicks)
  • On-site searches or inbound searches
  • Content consumption (including gated content)
  • Offline data (CRM, sales, etc.)

Of course, before you begin collecting any of this data, you need the consent of your audience.

This is where cookie consent pop-ups or user agreements are powerful tools for publishers, because they essentially give you the green-light to start monetizing audience data in a fully compliant and transparent manner. It’s vital that publishers make their consent requests as clear and concise as possible, using language suited to non-technical people which explains why you’d like to collect their data, how you’re going to use it, and what they can do to opt out if they change their mind.

3 ways publishers can monetize their first-party data

With the fundamentals covered, it’s time to delve into the detail on precisely how first-party data can be a publisher’s best asset – especially in a marketplace where media buyers are eager for relevant, privacy-compliant audiences with built-in (and accurate) demographics.

#1: On-Property Audience Targeting

The simplest way to monetize your first-party data as a publisher is to simply run ads on your site and allow advertisers to target your on-site audience. Once your audience segments are created by feeding your first-party data into a DMP, you can allow advertisers to target them in a couple of ways, including via programmatic pipes using Private Marketplace (PMP) or Programmatic Guaranteed deals. While programmatic pipes will offer more control of campaign managements, some advertisers might prefer to use conventional Insertion Orders and creative tags to run ads via your ad server.

#2: Off-Property Audience Extension

On-site targeting is a useful tactic, but what happens if you don’t run ads at all? Or perhaps you have a paid subscription with an ad-free option? In this case, you might feel like you can’t do much with your first-party audience segments – but that’s far from the truth. With Audience Extension, you can allow advertisers to retarget your audience outside of your properties. With everything you know about your users, advertisers will be chomping at the bit to leverage your audience segments for targeting. The downside of traditional Audience Extension is that it requires publishers to effectively set up and manage their own trade desk, including the costs associated with maintaining a DSP seat. It’s also simply not how agencies want to buy media these days. But there is another way…

#3: Curated Marketplaces

If you’ve not heard of programmatic curation just yet, you’d better get used to it – because it’s an exciting evolution of the programmatic landscape. Curation, sometimes referred to as Curated Marketplaces, is the concept of ‘curators’ (who can be publishers, agencies, or data providers) packaging up data with supply and selling it via a deal ID to be activated on any DSP. With curation, publishers can carry out Audience Extension without the need for their own trade desk – and they can slice and dice their valuable first-party segments for advertisers without ever sharing complete data-sets or Personally Identifiable Information.

The aftermath of the cookiepocolypse

To coin a phrase, “In the cookieless world, first-party data is king”.

With decades of reliance on purchased data, media buyers are approaching something of an impasse with the upcoming 2023 deprecation of third-party cookies from Google Chrome.

Not only that, but the introduction of initiatives such as GDPR and CCPA highlight the global move towards a privacy-first digital landscape. In this context, the center of power within programmatic will also begin to shift — towards the publishers.

With third-party cookie tracking off the table, and faced with a barrage of competing ID solutions, media buyers will start to look towards first-party audiences owned by publishers. This is because, even if media buyers want to target their own first-party audiences today, they need to upload their data segments and match them via cookie syncing with DSPs and SSPs – all of which relies on third-party cookies. Once the third-party cookie has gone the way of the dodo, advertisers and publishers alike will need to find new solutions to target first-party audiences.

The bottom line here is that, once cookies go away, first-party data will become even more valuable. This is why, if you’re not already, right now really is the best time to start collecting and converting your first-party data into segments to be used with curation today, or whichever identity solutions eventually come out on top in the future.

Ready to unlock your first-party potential?

The next chapter of the First-Party Programmatic Playbook will be published here on the IPONWEB blog very soon, and we’ll link to it right here.

In the meantime, if you’re a publisher and you’re looking to capitalize on your existing audience and unlock the true value of your first-party data, we’re here to help.

Simply click the button below to get in touch with our programmatic experts today and we’ll help you hit the ground running with first-party data.