Paying for the web: how to solve the content monetisation dilemma

Content Monetisation - Blog Post Cover Image

How can publishers turn content into money? This simple question has underpinned publishers’ business models for as long as publishing has been around. But as we shall see, in the digital age the question of content monetisation has become thornier, particularly as we move into a new privacy-first model for the internet. 

Content monetisation strategies 

Traditionally, publishers have monetised content either through one-off sales, subscriptions or through advertisements. All three of these models have carried through to the digital era where they have been augmented by new, digital centric monetisation strategies. These include affiliate marketing (where publishers are paid for directing readers to branded content) and sponsored content (where brands pay for content to be published in a native format). 

The jewel in the crown of digital content monetisation is programmatic advertising. Here, publishers put out advertising inventory for auction in real time. What makes the inventory so valuable to brands, and the reason it carries a premium over other forms of monetisation, is that data from third party tracking cookies enables publishers to sell the opportunity to show an advertisement to a specific audience type in a specific context.  

Brands are therefore afforded something that was long out of reach: the ability to send exactly the right marketing message, to exactly the right person at exactly the right time. The value of programmatic to brands is such that over half of publishers now generate more revenue from programmatic advertising than any other channel. 

Content monetisation in crisis 

The challenge facing publishers is that their most valuable monetisation strategy is under threat. The reason is that privacy is fast becoming the central pillar of the internet and online business models. Led by GDPR, a range of regulations around the world have made it clear that web users cannot be tracked without consent. Understanding the direction of travel, browser operators are phasing out the use of cookies, with the biggest, Google, planning to end the use of all third party cookies by 2023. The mobile internet offers no respite for publishers. Apple has already made its Identifier for Advertisers Opt-In, a move which has decimated adoption rates.  

The value of programmatic to brands, and therefore to publishers, rests on the ability to target audiences at scale. No data, then no deal.  

Content monetisation strategies

Solving the monetisation dilemma 

The largest of publishers that command sticky audiences and are able to collect enough authenticated log-in data on these users will be less affected by the end of cookies. The likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple will still be able to monetise their content. But for the vast majority of publishers, there’s an existential crisis at hand. Fortunately, it is one that can be solved. 

The good news is that programmatic does not need to be scrapped. It will, however, need to evolve and over the years a highly innovative ad tech ecosystem has emerged with the ability to enact just such change.  

The crucial shift will be in what replaces third party cookies. Publishers can identify their visitors through their own first-party cookies. But to create a 360-degree view of a user, they need a way to verify users across the anonymous web and match these with their first party identifiers so they can build the sort of addressable audiences that attract advertisers. Importantly, this all needs to happen without transacting Personally Identifiable Information as to do so would risk falling foul of privacy laws.  

Novatiq’s solution to this tricky challenge is for publishers to generate a pseudonymised first party identifier that they can then send to telco partners for verification against their own network intelligence. Telcos are the ideal partner in this instance because they have visibility of all digital transactions across all devices and sites. In this model, they become the secure and trusted gatekeeper of digital identities, providing publishers a full view of audiences so they can match them with the right inventory – and all without breaching user privacy.  

Significantly, the telco-verified approach means that publishers will not only be able to continue to monetise their current content streams, but also monetise future content streams such as Connected TV, audio/visual streaming, gaming and other platforms yet to be invented. With telcos at the heart of the equation, wherever a digital interaction occurs, publishers have a route to monetisation.  

The future for monetisation

The move towards a privacy-centric internet is welcome. Ultimately it’s in the best interest of all concerned that people trust the internet and continue to use it freely. However, as the cookie-centric approach dies out, it’s important that there’s a level playing field for all publishers, large and small. That means ensuring that publishers can continue to monetise their audiences through new, privacy first identifiers that leverage the security and reach of telco networks.  

Jonathan Hulford-Funnell

Chief Executive Officer

23 Aug

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