As a news publisher, how ready are you to live in a cookieless world?

As a news publisher, how ready are you to live in a cookieless world?

As part of a news organisation, you probably get enough of an adrenaline rush from your daily news events and deadlines to want more challenges on your plate. Our lives are set to change significantly when, sometime in 2024, Google deprecates its third-party cookies.

relies on advertising to monetize your content, Google’s decision to deprecate third-party cookies will directly impact your revenue streams. It's a game-changer that demands your attention and strategic planning and advertises your content in order to be able to monetize it; Google’s decision is set to affect your business.

Google made the decision to deprecate its third-party cookies back in 2021, a move that was initially met with surprise and speculation. It's worth noting that Google has already extended the project's timeline twice to allow marketers to adapt.

However, the tech giant has recently reaffirmed its commitment to the original timeline, aiming to phase out the cookies completely by 2024. 

If you cannot see whether or not this will affect you in a major way, let’s look at the whole business of using third-party cookies to aid search results. Marketers, especially advertisers, extensively promote their products and services online. Let’s begin with the cookie itself. 

Google’s recipe for cookies

Google explains ‘Cookies’ as small text sent to your browser by a website you visit. Think of it like bookmarks or ID cards, but not from the user’s point of view; rather, from the point of view of the pages or websites you visit. Read Google’s Cookie policy here.

Web browser Market share as per StatCounter
Web browser Market share as per StatCounter

Google uses different kinds of cookies to enhance the services it provides you with. Different cookies unlock different kinds of functionalities that are fundamental to how you want to use Google, and each type has a different expiry date. Essentially though, it uses these cookies to remember your preferences and your information. 

Read that again. Make a note of the word ‘information’. It’s going to come up a lot.

Cookies and what they do?

Now, you might think this entire cookie business is all about Google. But no. All websites use cookies extensively. Any website you may visit pins these cookies on to help remember information about your visit, which can make things easier for both you and the website itself.

In fact, most websites need to use cookies to provide services to you. Without them, you may not experience the site and all its features fully well. Their use of cookies also makes it easier for you to visit the site again.

These days, many websites let you choose which cookies you would allow them to use. For most of us, we choose ‘accept all’ and move on. Some people even use a private web browser that blocks cookies and trackers by default, enhancing their privacy and reducing the chances of being targeted by online advertisers. But there’s more to it than that, especially from an advertiser’s and publishers’ point of view.  

Zooming in on third-party cookies

Among the several different types of cookies, third-party cookies are the ones used most frequently for online advertising. And these are different from first-party cookies. They’re both little bits of information, but the difference is mainly about who makes (bakes? 😊 ) these cookies and for what purpose. 

Now, the website you visit places a first-party cookie on their website to collect, store, and remember information about your visit. It helps them remember your identity, preference, and settings as well as the products you browsed perhaps?

It’s kind of like how if you are a regular at your corner coffee shop, you’d expect them to remember your preference for a stronger coffee. You’d probably even welcome that gesture. 

Now imagine that your preference for strong coffee was known way beyond the countertops of that coffee shop. Imagine the word got out, and everywhere you went, you were offered strong coffee, even at the bar or a buffet at times, miles away from ‘your’ coffee shop.

Even when you’re trying to enjoy a cup of tea with your mates at work. Now Imagine salesmen landed at your door by the dozens trying to sell you strong coffee. 

Imagine it wasn’t just the coffee but also something else you searched on your browser, researching for a news story or article you were writing for work, and now you’re “seen” on the web as having that preference. Now you’re seeing ads for it pop up all over the place, and you wonder how it happened.  

Third-party cookies, that’s how. 

Imagine yourself as a marketer, and you’ll see third-party cookies are a great hack for tracking user behaviour – you’ll find out who went where and showed interest in what. But, as a user, you may not want yourself to be observed at all times. In fact, sometimes you may not want it at all. 

This is why third-party cookies are known as trackers. And this is why they’re falling out of favour with users, data privacy advocates, and legal as well as policymaking establishments.

In fact, browsers like Firefox and Safari block third-party cookies by default. Google is the only major operator in this field which continues to use 3P cookies. And this is also why it is phasing these out. 

But, it has been deliberate about its moves in order to help advertisers reconfigure their tactics while protecting its revenues from any significant fall-out. But now, that time is up.

News publishers and their emptying cookie jar

As a news publisher, online search is probably an important channel for you to attract your user. Digital advertising is an important contributor to audience growth as well as revenues from your digital presence. That is at stake here unless you have a first-party cookie strategy already in place.  

Google’s own study from 2019 on the effect of disabling third-party cookies on publisher revenues indicates an average revenue decline of 52%. Studies done in the US indicate the loss of 3P cookies exposing publishers to damages worth US$10 billion, as per this report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau

Programmatic display and audience extension ads take the lion’s share of the broadcasting world's revenue, and third-party cookies rule for most publishers with digital ad spend. Third-party cookies have helped to drive the performance and growth of interest-based advertising campaigns.

No wonder that news publishers are worried. Because most don’t have a transition strategy in place. Data from the US says just 27% of publishers are working on such a strategy. The rest are winging it.

And therefore, at Quintype, we’re running this 3-part blog series to make you as a news publisher more aware of the big changes set to affect our industry. Our next blog in this series discusses what you can do NOW to thrive in a cookieless world. Let’s get a hold of the cookie jar together and get our strategy in place.