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Knowing your audience lets publishers get back in control

Having users on your site is one thing, doing something with them is another, says Apester CEO Itay Gissin. It’s important to encourage interaction, capture the resulting data points and then use that data to personalise the user experience.

By Itay Gissin

Knowing your audience lets publishers get back in control

There is uncertainty wherever we look right now. But some things remain clear, such as the fact that in this evolving digital advertising environment, publishers will win by giving readers what they crave: personal, interactive experiences. And after years of being on the back foot, they can regain control by utilising the new tools available.

A user’s choice to read particular articles, perform specific onsite searches or repeatedly access certain sections is critical information for publishers. And taking advantage of the wealth of such data points available puts them in a strong position to benefit from understanding their readers' interests and intent.

(First-party) Data is the new oil

The key to obtaining this intelligence is interactivity. Embedding interactive elements across a publisher’s site not only boosts engagement but allows data to be collected in a non-intrusive way to serve users better.

So, if you think polls and surveys are purely advertiser mechanisms, think again. Today, they’re essential for understanding the preferences and behaviours that drive personalisation and audience segmentation. And there is a wealth of tools available to collect this data. Apester, for example, offers over ten interactive formats.

Surveys are excellent for asking readers directly for information. Simply knowing which football team a reader supports, for example, allows content around this to be promoted into their feed, or the latest odds displayed for the next match. Suddenly, their experience becomes much more personal.

Quizzes are popular, especially in sports segments, where fan engagement is critical. And as cookies and third-party targeting decline, sponsored stories are an upcoming format.

In this case, stories are becoming the ads, making them ideal formats for brands. And while insights can be shared with the advertiser, identifying who reads which stories and their opinion, demonstrated through likes or shares, offers publishers more opportunities to learn about their readers.

Publishers should also be tapping into social media influencers, content creators and syndication to open up inventory beyond that which their editorial teams can create. Leveraging external content can give their users more varied, personalised content that further enhances the value publishers deliver so they stay onsite longer.

New automation technologies are also offering greater possibilities for personalisation and interactivity. Platforms such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT make it easier to generate tailored content, while automatically generating a poll or survey based on an article, opening up new insight opportunities.

Reducing friction

In seeking to use value-added content to gain insights, publishers must focus on reducing friction. Rather than deploying pop-ups or approaches that cover content, ensure the mechanisms used are contextual and part of the content experience. This is why editorial teams are embracing these new formats. Rather than disturb the environment with advertising, they blend in with the look and feel of the site to enhance the user experience.

And it’s also crucial that publishers act on this data. After all, there’s a tacit agreement that users will gain value in exchange for their insights: and, for value, read personalisation.

The return of privacy

But with data comes responsibility. While the focus is on capturing first-party data, this must be done in accordance with all privacy legislation. And the personal nature of first-party data means it’s critical to treat it with respect.

Publishers must be clear about why they are collecting it, rather than collecting it for data’s sake. At the heart of their approach must be the user. And to understand their needs, publishers should learn from the growing popularity of certain platforms.

For example, the rise of Signal and Telegram symbolise consumers’ desire for privacy. Increasing levels of fake news and the adoption of town hall approaches that can garner controversial perspectives mean some digital platforms are upsetting users. They now feel these platforms no longer serve their purpose and are turning to those offering a more filtered, personalised approach where they have control – with privacy at the centre.

Rebalancing the industry

As we enter a new era of personalisation, ensuring readers remain engaged, with tailored experiences, interactive tools and opted-in first-party insights, is key to a publisher’s success.

While industry concerns about increasing privacy legislation, declining third-party data and a consumer backlash against digital advertising dominate the news, there’s a real opportunity for publishers to win back the ground they have lost in the ecosystem. Owning a direct relationship with users and accessing and controlling critical first-party data means power is shifting back in favour of publishers – and it's about time.

About us

Apester is an interactive experience platform that allows publishers, brands and creators to engage and understand customers across digital media channels, driving lead generation, brand uplift, conversions and sales. Its code-free tech allows any user to create audience-pleasing experiences in minutes – from web stories to videos to surveys – and distribute them across multiple digital media channels. Apester’s DMP integrations also enable the privacy-compliant collection and storage of zero-party and first-party engagement data generated from its experiences and applications. Apester operates from New York, London, Berlin and Tel Aviv and is trusted by publishers around the world including ESI Media, Reedpop, NME Networks, GoFeminin, Trusted Reviews, RTL Interactive, Global Gaming and Kicker.