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Weekly Roundup: Subscriptions, Cookie Alternatives, Keyword Blocklisting and More

Adtech Weekly News
“When we say sandbox, in tech, it’s things you want to touch and feel and play with. It’s nowhere near that yet.”

Moving towards subscriptions

Newsletter referral programs are proving to be the best method of acquiring new subscriptions for publishers. The method is a steady and cost-effective way of subscriber acquisition. Publishers are giving incentives like branded t-shirts or access to private Facebook groups to encourage their users to participate in the programs.

According to The Hustle, Morning Brew, The Daily Pnut and Finimize, referral program is one of the best ways of gaining high-quality subscribers. When the participants are able to track their impact on the subscriber growth then such participants become more valuable subscribers than any others. The lifetime value of the participants is many times higher than the average subscriber. Also, the open rate of the referred subscriber is two times higher than normal.

Danish paid subscription (paywall) publisher Zetland recently stopped its ad spending on Facebook and surprisingly, it had no effect on its growth rate. It moved some of the ads spent to podcast sponsorship and by July 9, the sponsorship brought 20% of its membership target. The company made the move to reduce its dependence on Facebook.


Publishers should not rely only on traditional marketing techniques for growing their subscriber base. Also, factors like customer lifetime value and engagement rate should be considered when you are investing your time or money in a platform for gaining subscribers.

What’s After Third-party Cookies?

Slow Progress For Third-Party Cookie Alternative:

There has been a growing consensus in the AdTech industry that the development of a third-party cookie alternative isn’t happening at the required pace. 6 months have already passed and now only 18 months are remaining to come up with a solution. As per Pubmatic CTO John Sabella, there’s been “no tangible difference” since the start.

“When we say sandbox, in tech, it’s things you want to touch and feel and play with. It’s nowhere near that yet”

John Sabella

Publishers and marketers are away from the process as they think that ad tech companies will be solving the problem. The coordination between Google Ads and Google Chrome is out of balance. Browsers and ad tech companies have different priorities and therefore they are sometimes against each other. In other words, there’s an utter state of confusion.

“I would suggest they talk a little bit more, because they would see what the Chrome guys propose would break a lot of things: If the browser does the auction, I don’t know what the value of AdX is in this world.”

– Criteo senior product manager and W3C member Arnaud Blanchard

Telegraph’s Cookie Alternative

The Telegraph has brought its solution to target the audience on its platform without the use of third-party cookies. The solution called Telegraph Unity allows the publisher to upload its first-party data separately to a closed environment called ‘bunker’ so that it cannot be accessed by any other party. 

Then tiny statistical errors can be added to the data sets to make them anonymized, leaving no chance for reverse engineering. Ultimately, the anonymized data sets can be targeted using a statistical model. The method has worked successfully for the Telegraph.

California’s New privacy law

There’s yet another privacy law from California waiting for publishers after CCPA. Its name is CPRA (California Privacy Rights Act). It is actually an addition to the CCPA. It’s not guaranteed that it’ll come into effect, as it is a ballot initiative at the moment. Even if it gets approved, it’ll come into effect only by 2023.

If the proposal passes, there’ll be a dedicated government agency to enforce California’s privacy laws. It can be assumed that a dedicated agency would lead to stronger enforcement of the privacy laws. Additionally, if publishers are collecting California resident’s personal data and providing it to their service providers then the publishers would be responsible for what other service providers do with it. 

It’s also expected the new law if passed, would bring more clarity to the ambiguities in CCPA (for instance, the definition of sale).


The current developments towards user privacy do not look promising for publishers. The third-party cookie alternative is not on the track whereas the privacy laws are coming fast. Proactive publishers like the Telegraph are already decreasing their dependence on third-party cookies with their own solutions, other publishers should look for opportunities to do the same.

CNN’s move against KW Blocklisting

CNN is now relying on sentiment analysis techniques to curb blunt keyword blocklisting. Its neuro-linguistic artificial intelligence tool SAM will understand the context and sentiment behind the content to decide whether it is brand-safe or not. It’ll rate the content on a scale of 1 to 5 to convey the suitability of the content to the advertisers. The tool is suitable for direct as well as programmatic campaigns.

In its observations, CNN found that 50% of its neutral and somewhat positive content was being misclassified and blocked by keyword blocklisting. Understanding context and sentiment has helped CNN in unlocking an otherwise blocked inventory.


Keyword blocklisting is harmful to publishers as well as advertisers. Bluntly blocking keywords cause loss of revenue to publishers and decreased reach to advertisers. Tools that can eliminate the shortcomings of blocklisting should always be welcomed. Publishers should look for ways to deal with keyword blocklisting

New Study: Ad Blockers Are Good for Publishers

A research work by Carnegie Mellon University and the City University of Hong Kong suggests that ad blockers can be beneficial to companies, users, and the market at large. Here’s how the research justifies the use of ad blockers.

  • They can make the market more efficient by filtering users who are sensitive to general ads, allowing websites to target more intense ads to the rest of the users.
  • They benefit users by allowing the removal of ads that annoy them.
  • They help regulate the ad industry by motivating the advertising platform to pay a fee to the ad-blocking company to include it in a list of ads that are allowed past the blocker.
  • A more efficient market can boost the quality of websites’ content, which also benefits users.


People complain about intrusive ads which makes them concerned about their online privacy. Whereas the above research encourages to ‘target more intense ads’. We could not agree with what the research says, we would love to hear your opinion.

Moments That Matter

California Sends Warning Letters Over CCPA Violations – MediaPost

IAB calls for the Australian digital industry to adopt transparency standards – AdNews

Ad Tech’s Biggest Event Dmexco Will Be Virtual Only – ADWEEK

TECH LAB: “2020.5”… AND THE ROAD TO 2021 – IAB Tech Lab

Helping European news publishers succeed online – Google

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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