With Recent News and Google Chrome Sunsetting the Cookie, What’s on the Horizon for Funding News and Media? Markkinaluvut

With Recent News and Google Chrome Sunsetting the Cookie, What’s on the Horizon for Funding News and Media?

10.05.2021 | Daniel Ahlbert

3P-evästeiden poistuminen ei ole enää horisontissa, vaan konkretisoituu näillä näkymin jo rontti puolen vuoden päästä. Muutos vaikuttaa käytännössä kaikkien markkinoijien mainontaan sekä liiketoimintaan, mutta paljon muuttuu luonnollisesti myös julkaisijoiden puolella. Netricin toimitusjohtaja Daniel Ahlbert päivittää evästeiden tilalle tulevien ID-tunnisteiden trendejä sekä hyötyjä julkaisijalle

For every shift in the advertising world, it seems there are two strongly opposing angles. For every company that views the next big change as an existential threat, a whole bunch of others - sometimes completely new businesses – smell nothing but a new opportunity.

So it is the case with the main topics gripping media and advertising right now: how to replace the third-party cookie. The unavoidable deadline of 2022 is on the horizon, since that’s when Google has determined it wants to sunset support for it in its Chrome browser, which in turn dominates the internet worldwide.

On first sight, there are an overwhelming number of potential alternatives for publishers already available. But as so often in ad tech – the innovation is clear, but where to place your bets not quite so much. Your choice could just as easily end up Betamax as VHS. And to add to the confusion, though most of the discussion around 3rd party cookie replacement centres around ad campaign targeting, customer interest and demographics, that is only part of the story. Frequency capping, ad fraud protection and all types of campaign measurement are just a few of the other functions at threat. Long story short, when it comes to cookies 2.0, especially where so much is at stake, it would seem wise to hedge your bets.

Prebid UnifiedID

Adform’s Martin Andersson wrote a great piece in Dagens Media explaining why Prebid’s UnifiedID solution was the way forward. For those unfamiliar, Prebid is in our opinion one of the brightest and most promising developments in ad tech in recent years, and for publishers in particular. Somewhat like a Linux for online advertising, Prebid is an industrywide venture making open source standards, with the aim of a more transparent, fairer marketplace.

As Martin argues, where we find ourselves now is in a large part a response to consumer demands for greater control and privacy. And so far, though publishers have done lots of valuable work behind the scenes, sadly, the consumer outcome of GDPR is little more than a proliferation of annoying pop-ups. It’s easy to argue that centralising user consent in the browser instead could create a far better user experience. But counter to that, would user privacy really benefit from more centralisation around Google and Apple, the main browser owners? And how might this further control shift impact publishers’ ad revenues, so critical to the future funding of news and media?

There is a correlation here also with Google’s own proposals for a post-cookie world, trialled and released via its so-called Privacy Sandbox, with each cookie function seemingly separated into a new, separately named product. In the likely replacement for real-time bidding, and retargeting, nicknamed Turtledove, the entire ad auction actually moves inside the browser. The same goes for Cohorts (FloC), Google’s alternative for user interest grouping and targeting.

While publishers especially might be hoping Google’s cookie replacements don’t come to dominate, their omnipresence in ad tech means they must dip in their toe regardless, to keep all options open. Is the post-cookie choice necessarily a zero-sum game? Which brings us to the third major cookie solution, an interesting one in particular for the Nordics.

The Unified ID 2.0

This is of course the Unified ID 2.0, steadily gaining steam with an impressive number of tech companies announcing their support – including our own platform partner, Magnite.

But why the silence from some local providers on this particular solution? Even though its origins lie in the IAB, and its promise to hand over the tech to neutral control with Prebid now confirmed, Unified ID is spearheaded by the Trade Desk, an ad tech success story with little or no meaningful footprint across the Nordics.

That said, with the Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media (PRAM) and its 400 major advertiser members the latest to give Unified ID its blessing, can Nordic publishers afford to ignore it? If it’s simple enough for publishers to back three horses instead of two in this race – why should they not? Especially if the alternative may mean leaving global campaign budgets on the table.

Our Conlusion

It’s hard to doubt the industry can create more elegant solutions than the cookie – both in terms of function, as well as user experience. But the elephant in the room (both of this debate, and this particular article) is not just Google, but of course also Apple.

Arguably the most extreme of big tech in its “privacy fundamentalist” approach, Apple has promised it will disallow any cookie-like solution that relies on email as an identifier. And bad news, many of those “cookieless” future cookie solutions around right now are really just switching third to first party cookie. Rearranging the deckchairs, if you like. Do I need to tell you which identifier many of these new non-cookie first-party cookie solutions are most commonly based around?

Fence Sitting or Toe Dipping?

As I said at the start, for everything right now, it’s possible to see two sides – sometimes diametrically opposed. In this market, any solution could win out, or alternatively go the way of the Betamax, depending on outside factors or events. Known unkowns or unknown ones.

In just the latest development in the helter skelter world of ID, on 3 March, Google indicated it wouldn’t support the above-listed alternative IDs on its own platforms when it sunsets the cookie. Especially where they are based on encrypted email as an alternative identifier. The responses to this announcement in many ways summarise where we are right now – some were shocked, panicked even. Others, like Magnite CTO Tom Kershaw, called it “entirely predictable.” In short, for every person with a clear view of what’s next, there’s another still carrying on as normal, unaware of the full impact of Google and Apple’s upcoming changes.

So what is the best publishers can do, to maintain and keep building revenues to support news beyond this year? It is not so much a case of sitting on the fence, but dipping in a toe. Try and have all the options on the table and get proper tools in place so you can easily do quick A/B testing in your Prebid of the different solutions. In a future that’s impossible to predict, even the least palatable right now might turn opportunity, for a reason we can’t yet foresee.


Daniel Ahlbert
CEO, Netric
+46 7060 11330


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