How The Telegraph Is Constructing a Future Free From Third-Social gathering Cookies

The end is nigh for the third-party cookie, and some companies aren’t waiting until it’s gone to prepare for the future. The Telegraph, which has sworn off using third-party data for audience targeting, is paving the way for how companies identify people online in a privacy-compliant way.

The U.K. publisher is running a campaign targeting prospective home buyers on its site using data from real-estate company Zoopla. It’s the first campaign using the publisher’s first-party data targeting tool, Unity, which doesn’t use any third-party identifiers, with the goal of winning new business and growing ad revenue. And it’s already delivering on this last point, according to the publisher.

The Telegraph has been building up its first-party data trove since introducing its subscriber-first strategy in 2017. In October, it had 525,000 print and digital subscribers, plus 6.8 million registered users (who can access several articles a week in exchange for an email address), nearing its goal of 1 million subscribers and 10 million registrants by 2023.

With Unity, ad buyers can use their own first-party data pools to locate and match audiences. Using secure data clean rooms called bunkers from tech platform InfoSum, marketers can only target The Telegraph audience that overlaps with the marketers’ own databases. These types of second-party data deals have been gaining steam now that there are more reliable ways to guarantee against the leakage of valuable data.

Third-party cookies have a limited shelf life, and publishers like The Washington Post, Insider and Vice are exploring a future without them. Ad buyers can still target audiences using cookie-based identifiers, but they are becoming less effective as web browser makers increase opacity to protect user privacy.

With a $19 billion industry riding on the back of third-party data, publishers are readying themselves to take a slice of it as cookie-based vendors dwindle.

Traffic surges to property sections

Since March, when stay-at-home orders went into effect, The Telegraph has seen a surge in traffic to its property section, with the number of monthly visitors and pageviews doubling year-on-year as people explore upgrading their living spaces. As such, its knowledge about this audience grew. 

Zoopla’s data set of two audience segments—first-time buyers and upsizers, recognized by demographics like age from registering on the site and inferred by site behavior and content consumption—is securely stored in InfoSum’s data bunker. The tech matches that audience on The Telegraph’s own data, targeting each segment with a different, relevant creative message that links back to Zoopla’s property finder site.

“What we can now do is add an extra layer of intelligent insight about an audience that Zoopla knows really well,” said Karen Eccles, senior director for commercial innovation at The Telegraph. “We can understand different things about content consumption, preferences and activity to find users elsewhere on the site.”

As the campaign is still ongoing, The Telegraph declined to share performance metrics. 

The buy side is catching up

A number of other advertisers in the telecoms, tech and finance verticals—with rich first-party data pools—are speaking with The Telegraph about Unity with campaigns coming down the pike, according to Eccles, though she didn’t share any brand names.

Even so, the ad targeting tool is already contributing to a “substantial” increase in ad revenue due to winning new business and increasing in campaign size, although Eccles again declined to give specific figures. The Zoopla campaign was awarded £50,000 ($66,000) in media spend by The Telegraph for winning a competition set by the publisher to support clients through the tough summer months.   

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