Overheard at the Publishing Product Leaders Lunch and Learn with Digiday and Permutive

November 09, 2020 5 min read

  • by Jared Moscow, Senior Product Manager at Permutive

  • Publishers have only just had to deal with GDPR and CCPA compliance and now they’re having to pivot towards a landscape where third-party cookies are crumbling and first-party data is king.

    Circumnavigating these choppy waters would be challenging at the best of times but Covid-19 lockdowns have thrown in the added complication of teams working from home, making it harder than before to brainstorm new approaches.

    At the recent Publishing Product Leaders Lunch and Learn, Permutive teamed up with Digiday to check in on senior executives to see what they are most concerned about and brainstorm some solutions.

    The session was held under Chatham House rules to ensure attendees could speak freely. Neither the identity nor the affiliation of the attendees will be shared but here are some of the quotes that stuck with me about some of the important topics that were raised.

    It’s hard to avoid discussing the deprecation of third-party cookies

    “I think of subscriptions as being the biggest thing in digital publishing for 2018 and 2019. I think that first-party data and the death of the cookie is the biggest thing for 2020 and 2021.”

    “It’s sort of nerve racking. I mean, we know the cookies are going away. And we know when, but we don’t know how all these vendors that we use to power our digital ad ecosystem are going to react. It’s a huge product initiative for us.”

    “There’s this trade off, like in the future, we need first-party data but right now we want the ad revenue from those ads, like how do you even calculate to trade those off?”

    Publishers need to stay innovative while focusing on privacy and functionality

    “GDPR and CCPA. It was like one year after another… I hate these projects, because they take a long time, and they get me nothing. I need to do them but I haven’t built a new thing that is going to drive revenue or make readers delighted.”

    “We want to see publishers being more proactive in their approach, instead of being reactive. In the past, we’ve seen areas where publishers let other companies monetize their users and the data from their sites. Instead, how do we put them in the position that they’re the ones that are solely making money off of their data and their users?”

    “One of the biggest challenges in our organisation is because the product team is generally the driver and sort of on the hook for delivering, we often become the de facto driver of things where we are not actually a subject area expert. And if we don’t, things kind of languish until it’s on fire.”

    “As a larger multi brand publisher, we are starting a project to build some of this ourselves to move from third-party to first-party, and it touches so many parts of our business, that it’s actually a very different type of product management project for us.”

    There’s a need to consolidate data to better understand users

    “So before, it used to be pageviews, they’re King, they drove ad impressions, you can optimise an article page or landing page around page views and ad impressions. But now, you don’t know if the arriving reader is a high propensity subscriber, in which case you would design that page one way or a low propensity ad consumer, you would design it another way.”

    “Our long term goal is to consolidate all of our first-party data into one place so that we can have a 360 degree view of our customers… I think this project that we’re just starting probably has more unknown unknowns than most other digital product projects.”

    “Do we roll our own sort of CDP type thing where we try to tie some of these systems together, do we actually licence a separate CDP product, a little bit wary of another big ticket kind of software licence?”

    “One of my big projects coming out now is figuring out how to sort of tie some of these things together, how do we collect more of that profile data from users that we don’t have already? And then also, how do we tie some of our systems together?”

    Collaboration across teams is key

    “I have 20 brands. And if you have an editorial team and a sales team, that’s 40 stakeholders, and it creates a morale problem for my product team, because a lot of times they feel like they’re just note takers. They’re like short order cooks…. they don’t feel creative… they don’t feel innovative.”

    “Now we have to ask very different questions. And I think what we’re doing requires a lot more engagement across the editorial and product teams than we have in the past.”

    Publishers are taking an outside-in approach and personalizing products for users

    “One of the very big challenges is whether we should take an inside-out or outside-in approach. Inside-out is always focusing on what we want, what we have, what capacities, what business drivers…. I think we need to change a focus from outside-in to really what users are looking at (from) us, what do they want, are their needs being met?”

    “We’ve had to have many discussions about what is an okay experience for the user when it comes to showing information about cookies and preferences? And what do you do with …. desktop versus mobile web. It’s a very collaborative effort.”

    “This year is very different… it’s really made us look at our loyal users and start looking at more personalised experiences around all of our first-party data… it kind of…. makes those people more valuable.”