Grow.me and First-Party Data: Everything You Need to Know

man looking at grow.me sign-up page on a phone

By now, this should be a familiar refrain:

Third-party cookies are going away, and taking with them most of our industry’s ability to personalize ads and measure performance.

The million dollar question: What do we do about it?

Key Takeaways

  • Third-party cookies are going away sometime in 2022 and with them much of our current programmatic advertising targeting solutions.
  • Mediavine is a big proponent of the Google’s Privacy Sandbox, but Google, Mediavine and the rest of ad industry agrees – First-party data is the key for the future of programmatic.
  • First-party data is publisher owned data. Authenticated Traffic is when a user logs in to your site. It’s a part of first-party data, but not the entire picture.
  • Authenticated Traffic through our Identity API and Grow.me both use email-based hashes such as LiveRamp ATS and Unified ID 2.0 to jumpstart the first-party data revolution. Using our solutions can earn you up to 60% more on authenticated traffic today.
  • Only Grow.me helps you build true first-party data, because first-party data requires scale to be successful.
  • Grow.me has a goal of 5-10% of authenticated traffic; with the Identity API it’s less than 1% for most sites, including those running our recent integration with Slickstream.
  • Grow.me’s constantly improving feature set (like Subscribe and Favorites) is free to Mediavine publishers and designed and tested to build returning authenticated traffic.

In preparation for a world without third-party cookies, Google and other industry players are working on a two-pronged solution involving their Privacy Sandbox and first-party data.

The Privacy Sandbox offers a series of tools to provide advertisers with some of the targeting they need such as interest group targeting via FLoC.

But it won’t be the same. The Privacy Sandbox won’t allow retargeting and advertising based on the user, with information like demographics, as is the case right now.

Also, the Privacy Sandbox has only been adopted by Chrome thus far, which doesn’t help with audiences using Firefox, Safari or other browsers.

And the Privacy Sandbox is only part of the solution, as Google and Mediavine are well aware. In order to boost revenue on non-Chrome browsers and deliver advertisers the potential value they need, we need to go deeper. Case in point:

In every blog post regarding the end of third-party cookies and the future of programmatic advertising, Google talks about first-party relationships.

These relationships (also referred to as first-party data) are the key to emerging from such a seismic, industry-wide shift with more revenue, not less.

Below, we’ll explore what first-party data is, how to build it, why authenticated traffic is crucial and perhaps most importantly, how there’s power in numbers.

What is First-Party Data?

First-party data is information the publisher (your website) provides to advertisers about a reader, rather than the advertiser relying on third-party data via cookies.

A publisher can collect this data in a number of ways, such as requiring readers to log in and create a profile, gathering information via surveys or even providing information simply based on contextual signals such as the pages a reader has been browsing.

First-party data can be a lot of things, but the key point is that the publisher is collecting and providing targeting signals to buyers, rather than the buyers bringing their own.

the path of first party data vs third party data

When third-party cookies are gone, advertisers lose their ability to bring their own data. But first-party data will still exist, making it monumentally important in 2022 and beyond.

What is Authenticated Traffic?

We’ve talked about first-party data in the past and also about authenticated traffic. Are they one and the same? Is authenticated traffic first-party data?

Authenticated traffic is traffic that you’ve verified. When a reader logs in, you’ve verified who that reader is, therefore the traffic is authenticated.

This by itself is not first-party data, however it can be the start of first-party data.

Once you get a reader to log in, you can encourage them to create a profile or fill out a survey; assign them to interest groups based on articles they read; ask them to share or bookmark; have them subscribe to your newsletter; and more.

This information you build becomes valuable first-party data over time.

However, even before you start collecting first-party data, there is still a very valuable way to monetize authenticated traffic.

Email-Hash Based Identifiers: LiveRamp ATS and Unified ID 2.0

One way for publishers to step up their first-party data game significantly right away is to outsource the collection of first-party data.

With solutions like LiveRamp ATS and Unified ID 2.0, typically referred to as email-hash based identifiers, you’re able to link logged-in readers to advertisers’ first-party data.

email hashing graphic. An email is seen being converted into a email-hash based identifier

This is a great stopgap that allows advertisers to bring their own data, and it’s something that Mediavine is using to jumpstart the first-party data revolution.

But it’s just that: a stopgap.

As publishers, we still need to be building our own data — for both authenticated readers and non-authenticated ones — which will be the bulk of traffic.

The Identity API vs Grow.me

Right now, we support two solutions. You can go it alone with the Identity API or join forces with other Mediavine publishers to build first-party data together through Grow.me.

Let’s break down how these two solutions differ in terms of authenticated traffic, first-party data and what the heck happens with anonymous readers.

infographic comparing grow.me to mediavine's identity API

Authenticated Traffic: Grow.me Gets You More

With either solution, Grow.me or Identity API, you can begin using email-based hashes for authenticated traffic and start increasing earnings right now.

Both will accomplish the same goal and help you make nearly 60% more revenue from authenticated users. Again, you can do this right now. Today.

We don’t have to tell you that authenticated traffic is not easy to come by.

Most Mediavine publishers’ traffic is heavily reliant on Google Search, Pinterest, Facebook or other referral sources. While these are all great sources of traffic, those readers typically come to your website, consume one article and leave.

In other words, most readers do not create logins for every site they visit once.

Unfortunately, this means most publishers going on their own and using Identity API or products such as Slickstream will see less than 1% of readers authenticate.

Our goal with Grow.me is 5-10% of authenticated traffic, a significant difference.

Why do we think we can help you authenticate that much?

  • Grow.me is a Single Sign On. It’s much simpler to convince readers to log in once, with an existing account they have for thousands of Mediavine websites, than it is to get them to register and log in with a new account every time. As Grow.me continues to, well, grow and becomes ubiquitous, readers will recognize it and happily log in.
  • Grow.me provides a lot of tools. Grow.me isn’t just a Single Sign On but also an entire engagement suite of tools like Favorites and Subscribe — and that’s just the beginning! We’re working on many more ideas that will natively integrate with your site to enhance readers’ experiences and drive them to sign up and log in.
  • Grow.me makes your site the destination. Building off of point #2, Grow.me tools are designed to help you build a relationship with readers. We’re working on solutions that will drive your readers back to your site, time and again. This is already the case with Favorites and Subscribe, with more on the way.

First-Party Data: Grow.me Exclusive

To go beyond email hashes to build and package your own first-party data, you’ll need to join the group and get on board with Grow.me.

Why? Because programmatic advertising requires scale.

This is what we learned with Medavine Ad Management itself. Without hundreds of millions of impressions, we could not even join some of the ad exchanges. Without billions more, we couldn’t reach the scale needed for direct advertiser relationships.

Even if your site is wildly popular and has millions of readers, when it comes to authenticated traffic, you’re looking at reaching maybe 1 percent of that number. If you start dividing them into segments, you’re talking about hundreds of readers down from millions.

Again, achieving optimal revenue from programmatic advertising requires scale in the millions and billions. Going at it on your own just isn’t plausible.

Once we have millions of users logged in across Mediavine sites consenting to personalized ads, collecting first-party data at the scale that advertisers need becomes viable.

Non-authenticated Traffic: Neither…yet.

Even if you’re running Grow.me and hitting our lofty goals, that still leaves us with the issue of how to handle the remaining 90% of your readers.

How to do that is the multi-billion dollar question in our industry.

One big part of the solution we mentioned before is the Privacy Sandbox, which will work whether you run Grow.me or not but is limited to Chrome.

That still leaves the majority of our traffic. While we don’t have all the answers just yet, we can assure you, as with everything else, Mediavine has big plans.

We’re exploring solutions using Grow.me’s recommendation engine, our contextual analysis and more to build first-party data even for anonymous users.

It won’t be an easy path, but we’re confident that our multi-faceted approach will ultimately usher in a more sustainable, privacy-centric, open web.

What You Need To Do

  • Even though third-party cookies aren’t out of Chrome until 2022, it’s important to begin collecting first-party now.
  • Publishers should choose one of Mediavine’s free options for building authenticated traffic and first-party data: the Identity API or Grow.me.
  • Our help docs provide step-by-step instructions for installing and customizing both the Identity API and Grow.me.

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