Identity API: Build Your Own First-Party Data

man using laptop at desk

Stop us if you’ve heard this before: When it comes to helping publishers survive the demise of the third-party cookie, Mediavine is all in.

Actually, don’t stop us. It bears repeating, since the health of our entire ecosystem depends on solving for the end of third-party cookies.

Key Takeaways

  • Third-party cookies are going away from Chrome by 2022. This is a change that will deeply impact the programmatic advertising landscape, so we’re continuing to work on solutions to help publishers gather first-party data.
  • Grow.me is our turn-key approach for collecting first-party data from users who log in and provide consent to receive personalized ads.
  • The Mediavine Identity API is our alternative to Grow.me. A do-it-yourself solution for publishers who want to gather first-party data on their own, implemented via our Script Wrapper.
  • Whereas Grow.me obtains user consent for you, under the Identity API it is the publisher’s responsibility to obtain consent in order to maintain compliance.
  • Both Grow.me and the Identity API are secure and private solutions that protect reader data, but Grow.me is ultimate in security with its server-side connection.
  • Login and consent under the Identity API will apply only to your website; logins and consents under Grow.me are shared between all sites running Grow.me, meaning that the community grows together.
  • With the valuable input of our Grow.me beta testers, we are building a suite of features to help you incentivize your readers to log in, from Recommended Content to Save Recipe. With the Identity API, it is your responsibility to build the tools that encourage readers to log in.
  • The Identity API can be used by other third-party frameworks, so there is potential for collaborations.

Mediavine’s solution is twofold:

  • Helping our publishers garner and utilize first-party data.
  • Implementing Privacy Sandbox proposals, such as FLoC.

On the first-party data front, Mediavine recently introduced Grow.me, our in-house framework designed to help websites get more traffic, improve user experiences, build email lists and most importantly, encourage readers to log in and consent to personalized ads.

Today, however, we’re here to talk about a new tool we designed for those publishers who already have — or who wish to build — their own first-party data solution independent of Grow.me: The Mediavine Identity API.

While the Identity API is not for the faint of heart, and in many respects falls short of what we believe Grow.me will ultimately achieve, we’ve created a viable solution for publishers wishing to go this route.

Below, we’ll explain how the Identity API works and why, when it’s worth the time to implement it and how it differs from Grow.me.

infographic comparing grow.me to mediavine's identity API

Introducing the Mediavine Identity API

The Mediavine Identity API is a lightweight, JavaScript API in our Script Wrapper that will allow publishers to provide their own authenticated traffic to be used in the bid stream.

In other words, if a user logs in or provides their email address and consents to personalized ads, you can now tell our Script Wrapper and we will use this data in ad auctions.

When a user logs into your website, or you collect their email address in another way, and you have obtained consent to use that address for the purpose of personalized ads, you will make a call to our Identity API using a simple function and pass on that email address.

It works via a simple single JavaScript function that serves as a user opt-in for personalized ads and a single function allowing you to opt them out.

Behind the scenes, this functionality is integrated with multiple Identity partners, such as LiveRamp. From that point on, we automatically pass along the publisher’s first-party data to ad exchanges.

Once you’ve done this, you can begin making more money from users on all major browsers today, even while third-party cookies still exist.

And when third-party cookies are gone? As we’ve discussed at length, we anticipate that first-party data will be even more valuable and critically important.

With Grow.me, Mediavine handles the process of obtaining consent for you when a user creates an account at Grow.me.

We obtain explicit consent to show a user personalized ads (in other words, they click a checkbox with plain text next to it) when they agree to our Terms of Service, which covers all of this.

screenshot of the login for grow.me

With the Mediavine Identity API, it’s the publisher’s responsibility to obtain consent. This is necessary to remain in compliance with privacy laws such as GDPR and to maintain a sustainable ecosystem.

What About Privacy? Is This Secure?

In order to keep your data secure, we automatically create what’s called a “hash” of each email address, which is essentially a random hex string (letters and numbers) that ensures the user’s email remains private.

That hash — not the email address itself — is then passed to our identity partners, such as LiveRamp, and converted to an even more secure “envelope.” That envelope is then passed to partners in the auction.

Only partners with the right “key” can open the envelope, and even then, they can only access the hashed identifier, not the original email.

This is similar to how it works with Grow.me, except in that case, the email address never even enters the browser; everything happens server-side for an even more secure transaction.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of a JavaScript API, this needs to happen client-side if you plan to collect your own email addresses using the Mediavine Identity API.

NOTE: Grow.me will allow you to collect email addresses also; we will be releasing the Grow.me subscribe functionality early this year.

Why Is There an Opt Out?

We’re trying to build a more privacy-centric web, and that means we need to provide users with transparency and choices. With Grow.me, a user can opt out easily simply by logging out on any page.

If you’re collecting first-party data on your own, we recommend you do something similar; make it as clear as possible that users may opt out of personalized ads and tell them how to do so.

Remember that the cornerstone of any first-party data solution, whether that’s Grow.me or API-based, is to respect and protect your users.

Do I Need to Use Authentication or Verification?

Grow.me is a privacy-first solution, which means we require users to log in, consent to personalized ads and verify their email address before we integrate with partners such as The Trade Desk with Unified ID 2.0.

Why all the steps? Because it’s about trust — not just between publisher and reader but also between publisher and advertiser.

By verifying the email address and authenticating the user before sharing it with advertisers, the data gathered in the process is more reliable — and Mediavine and your brand remain trusted partners.

What Kind of Opt-in Rates Can You Expect?

With Grow.me, there is a “community” effect; if a reader creates an account, then with a single sign-on they will easily login to thousands of sites.

This makes it much simpler to encourage users to log in to your website with less friction. We’re already at work on a number of features and tools for Grow.me that will help you accomplish this.

For these reasons, we believe that 10-20% of users opting in is a reasonable goal — and a similar projection to what other industry players are predicting.

Again, though, that’s with Grow.me.

If you’re going it alone, the “results may vary” non-answer may be an understatement given how every website differs from the next.

For example, if you’re only measuring this by your newsletters sign-ups, we would guess that less than a fraction of a percent of readers opt in.

As a result, the Identity API likely isn’t worth implementing.

However, if you have a robust login system for a member-only section, or have exclusive content behind a “freewall,” you’ll likely see much higher authentication rates and this will be worth your time to implement.

How Do You Enable This API?

You can start by sending our Identity API help document to your developer or other parties you’re working with to collect first-party data.

Again, it’s important to disclose all of this to your users — how and why you’re collecting consent — as well as provide an easy opt-out.

You’ll also need to encourage your readers to sign in and explore new, creative ways of making that happen. Along these lines, Mediavine is building a number of tools for Grow.me, such as Recommended Content and a Save Recipe button.

Bottom line, using the Mediavine Identity API won’t be as easy as collecting first-party data with Grow.me. However, as with everything else, we are here to support our publishers no matter what path they choose to embark upon, either as a community or individually.

We believe the free and open web is at stake, and it is our job to help you solve for this change, either through Grow.me or our Identity API.

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