Data strategies for media come down to first-party data, privacy, and personalisation

By Chandler Wieberg


Austin, Texas, United States


When thinking through the data culture at a news media companies, INMA Smart Data Initiative Lead Ariane Bernard boils the key topics down to three: first-party data, privacy and regulation, and personalisation.

Speaking on day two of the INMA World Congress of News Media, sponsored by BlueConic, Bernard took a deep dive on first-party data, as it is often top of mind with news media teams. The World Congress continues throughout May on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Registation is available here for all or individual sessions.

First-party data

Third parties gather data from users typically through tracking cookies. But with Google announcing cookies on the way out of the door by the end of 2023 and Apple recently releasing its App Tracking Transparency framework, media companies will need to gather data in different ways.

This can lead to indirect relationships with the users by delivering news that cannot always be controlled. “Monetisation is affected by this,” she said. “The changing regulatory and social landscape is changing, and privacy is changing how we collect data and use it.” 

INMA Smart Data Initiative Lead Ariane Bernard explained that users want the news, but media companies historically have had a thin understanding of readers.
INMA Smart Data Initiative Lead Ariane Bernard explained that users want the news, but media companies historically have had a thin understanding of readers.

There is somewhat good news with Google delaying the removal of cookies until the end of 2023, but Bernard says there isn’t much reason to get excited, the problem only gets more complex. 

“What we are seeing is that only 25% of users are opting into tracking,” Bernard said of Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency framework. This framework allows every user to approve an authorisation request to approve or deny tracking in apps.

Facebook was significantly impacted by this, with its advertisers then spending more money for the same audience.

“Advertisers are spending more for the same audience because of its less specific data,” Bernard said.

“This is what’s on the horizon if we don't take steps to understand how data can play a role in making us whole or giving us new advantages we didn't have before.”

Bernard shared several post-cookies approaches with World Congress attendees, including fingerprinting and devide level IDs. 

Looking ahead, Bernard said media companies have two moves to make: strategic or tactical.

“Remember, our products in the future are trying to find their users, and for us to find value to give users, and give our companies,” she said.

When tackling first-party data, media companies have two choices: tactical or strategic moves.
When tackling first-party data, media companies have two choices: tactical or strategic moves.

The tactical response goes with regulatory change and would use new technologies that replace the work of cookies and gather similar data. 

With a strategic response, Bernard said to take account the reason for the change and what is the best and right amount of data needed to gain value and profit, and reach goals. 

“With storing user data, tracking is not in itself the goal, its the means to an end to give value to our product and to our audience,” she said.

Bernard explained there might be data not being looked at that can provide the missing pieces. “If we have other ways of doing this through other data that tell useful stories, that might be worth looking at.” 

Options for building first-party data include:

1. Contextual segmentation: Using contextual segmentation and categories to build user data has also been working for companies, such as advertising tech product Criteo, which has built a product that brings contextual analysis and first-party data together. 

Another example is Ekstra Bladet, which built its own capabilities of gathering data by using user segmentation with contextual categories that are already on the site. 

This type of thinking and strategy can also be used at INMA by using more of the contextual pieces of what the articles on the Web site are: “We can try and merge contextual data we know about our content, and with first-party data we have an opportunity for us.”

2. Collaboration: In Europe, Diar has joined with Aller and Amedia in Norway, which has brought in 1.8 million registered users across 130 Norwegian publishers. 

“Opportunities extend beyond single sign-on (SSO),” Bernard said, giving an example of a German initiative, Drive, which shares data through machine learning with over 20 publishers led by Deutsche Press-Agentur (DPA). Two million events are recorded per hour and housed in a shared data warehouse with a four million articles database.

Regulation and privacy 

New regulations in privacy seem to be rolling out every day in Europe. This is messy because legislation can be written in one country, then member countries can also enforce certain guidelines, affecting more readers.

“Google has to line up to whichever regulator appears to be most strict or demanding on any one thing,” she said.

Research shows people are concerned with how companies use their personal data.
Research shows people are concerned with how companies use their personal data.

“Challenges in this lack of clear guidelines leave a lot of room for bad actors to try to get as close to the laws that seem to exist,” she explained. “This further rengages activists into challenging the laws, which means we haven't seen the end of it.”

The challenge is constant because when one issue seems on the mend, there is a constant rechallenging and reassessing within the framework that is continuously changing.

And it might only get more challenging said Bernard, with Europe overhauling its ePrivacy regulation over the last few years. But, “there might be something in it for all of us,” Bernard said. 

This also gives ideas to other countries to build privacy regulations, including the United States building federal regulations around privacy. 


Users want products to know them, but users do not want to be known by the company,” Bernard said. 

Users are concerned about their privacy, about what government and businesses are doing with their information.

“How users feel about privacy and how they behave is different,” Bernard continued.

Bernard showed that 83% of users are willing to give their information if they can an improved personalised experience. “We have to ask ourselves: When a user does not consent to giving us their private data, it’s because they feel the data is being asked to benefit only us,” she said. “They have no problem telling Netflix what movies they like, because they know they will get better recommendations.”

This can be done organically and allows the user to understand why they are being asked certain information because it is obvious to them how it will serve them in their experience with a product.

Personalisation can be blunted to be mindful of privacy, and new techniques can provide new ways to get this data, she said: “New technologies keep moving in the direction to make us whole and allow us to do it better.”

Follow coverage of the World Congress here and via #INMA2022.  

About Chandler Wieberg

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