Publishers are feeling the crunch of cookieless browsers like Apple’s Safari

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Google may not have obsolete the third-party cookie in its Chrome browser yet, but publishers have struggled with the absence of the online tracking mechanism in browsers like Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox for years. And they are increasingly eager to address this issue, which was front and center at the Digiday Publishing Summit in Key Biscayne, Florida last week.

“Half of my inventory already needs this fix,” Salon Revenue Manager Justin Wohl said onstage. He then added, in a kind of call to action to the editors present: “We have a lot to catch up on in this space. So why not start working on it today and get our inventory assessed for what it can be? »

When Wohl said publishers “have a lot to make up for” in cookieless browsers, he wasn’t exaggerating. During one of the closed-door sessions of the event – ​​in which publishing executives were granted anonymity for their franchise – several publishing executives lamented seeing the prices of advertisements for impressions on cookieless browsers like Safari are half as high as third-party impressions with cookies.

“You’re going to see a 50% delta in CPMs between [cookie-enabled and cookieless impressions] for the same ad unit,” a publishing manager said.

The publishers also pointed out how this Safari inventory, in particular, can be particularly valuable, if only advertisers didn’t weigh the inability to track and measure site visitors via third-party cookies so heavily in their assessments of these. cookie-free printing.

“It forces bidders and marketers to put a value on what we consider unaddressable. It just doesn’t translate. And it’s crazy because some of the most interesting opportunities are probably those residing in Safari. Yet we see half the yield,” said a second publishing director.

So what should publishers do? In short, they need to provide more information about the quality of their ad inventory without cookies, according to Wohl. Called auction enrichment, this practice involves publishers adding data points, such as an impression’s estimated viewability score, the geolocation of the visitor’s device, and the content category of the corresponding web page, to impressions they auction on programmatic marketplaces, especially open ones. .

“If you have inventory that you put on the open market that has no auction enrichment, if your inventory looks like it does today, that’s not good enough,” Wohl said.

However, the challenge with this approach is that advertisers trust the information enriching a publisher’s bid request. If a publisher can claim a given estimated viewability score or content category without backing up that claim with actual impression, advertisers are likely to question, if not outright reject, the validity of any other publisher making similar statements. In other words, there must be standards for enriching the offers.

Enter the IAB Tech Lab’s Vendor Defined Audiences specification. This cohort-based advertising targeting method — which allows publishers to segment their audiences based on categories such as demographics, interests, and purchase intent — is a form of auction enrichment that incorporates normalization through IAB Tech Lab’s Audience Taxonomy standard.

Of course, seller-defined audiences still face skepticism from ad buyers and only provide certain insights into an impression. Nonetheless, it’s a start at a time when publishers are coming to grips with cookieless environments.

“The free market cannot remain as it is. We need to start putting in place minimum standards for this inventory that allow buyers to trust the open market again,” Wohl said.

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