Introduction to First-Party Data: The Foundation of Modern Publishing

April 15, 2024

First-party data is emerging as a fundamental asset for businesses seeking deeper customer insights and personalized engagement. Data collection comes directly from user interactions and provides invaluable information about customer behaviors and preferences. Publishers and advertisers need first-party data.

This data will drive improved user experiences, ensure compliance, and improve customer experiences as third-party cookies decline. This shift underscores the pivotal role of first-party data in navigating digital marketing and publisher revenue. Let’s break it down.

What is First-Party Data and How Does It Benefit Your Marketing 

First-party data collects information directly from users in a privacy-compliant process. Companies collect first-party data through interactions and engagements with their platforms. This includes websites, mobile apps, social media, and offline channels, like in-store purchases or customer service interactions. Examples of first-party data include website browsing behavior, purchase history, email address, demographic information provided with consent, and any other data shared by the user. 

By leveraging first-party data, businesses can better understand customer behaviors, preferences, and interests, enabling them to personalize experiences and tailor marketing strategies accordingly.

Why is it important?

First-party data is crucial in today’s digital landscape for several reasons:

  • Provides valuable insights directly from users who have interacted with a brand or website. 
  • Inherently more trustworthy and accurate compared to second or third-party data, as it comes directly from the source. 
  • Essential for maintaining customer trust and complying with data privacy laws.

How is first-party data collected and used?

First-party data is collected through various touchpoints where users directly interact with a business. Common methods of collecting first-party data include website analytics, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, email sign-ups, surveys, loyalty programs, and purchase histories. This data can be used to create detailed customer profiles, segment audiences, and drive personalized marketing campaigns.

Once collected, first-party data is used to enhance customer experiences and drive business outcomes. Businesses can leverage this data to personalize marketing messages, recommend products based on past behaviors, optimize website experiences, and improve customer service. By using first-party data effectively, businesses can increase customer retention, improve conversion rates, and ultimately drive revenue growth. 

Growing Importance of Privacy-Compliant Data

The decline of third-party cookies, spurred by privacy concerns and regulatory changes, has heightened the importance of first-party data. With restrictions on tracking individuals across the web, publishers and marketers are turning to their user data to maintain personalized experiences, improve targeting accuracy, and ensure compliance with privacy regulations.

Source: IAB State of Data 2024

First-party data offers several advantages:

  • Quality and Accuracy: Collected directly from users ensures accuracy and reliability. It provides a clear understanding of customer behaviors, preferences, and interests, enabling more personalized and targeted marketing efforts.
  • Privacy Compliance: Utilizing first-party data reduces reliance on third-party cookies, addressing privacy concerns and aligning with evolving data protection regulations such as GDPR and CCPA. Since this data is collected with user consent and typically falls under the company’s privacy policies, it’s easier to ensure compliance and build trust with customers.
  • Long-term Relationships: By focusing on cultivating and leveraging their first-party data, businesses can build stronger, long-term relationships with their customers. This data allows for more tailored communication, product recommendations, and customer service, fostering loyalty and retention.
  • Data Ownership: Unlike third-party data, which relies on external sources and providers, first-party data is owned and controlled by the publisher. This gives greater flexibility and autonomy in how they collect, analyze, and utilize their data assets.

Challenges for Publishers Without First-Party Data

  • Revenue Decline: Publishers are confronting the prospect of diminished ad earnings as the imminent phase-out of third-party cookies looms.  Cookieless impressions are sold at a 50% discount compared to targeted impressions.
  • Diminished Targeting Precision: With the elimination of third-party cookies by browsers, publishers will find it increasingly challenging to utilize user data effectively for targeted advertising.
  • Diminished User Experience: Non-targeted ads are typically less relevant and more intrusive to users, diminishing overall user experience. 

Challenges for Advertisers Without First-Party Data

  • Loss of Personalization: Without tracking individual user behaviors, advertisers struggle to deliver tailored content, potentially leading to intrusive or irrelevant ads that diminish user engagement and campaign effectiveness.
  • Increased Ad Spend Inefficiencies: Forcing a spray-and-pray approach, allocating resources to a broader audience, many of whom may lack genuine interest in the advertised products or services. This inefficiency leads to wasted ad impressions and reduced return on investment.
  • Diluted Spending on Safari and Firefox: Advertisers face a challenging scenario where they need to double their spending to reach their target audience on Safari and Firefox browsers due to the absence of targeting capabilities. As a result, their spending is diluted, and they resort to a less precise approach, resulting in only half of their spending being effectively utilized. This underscores the inefficiency of their advertising efforts on these platforms.


The rise of first-party data signals a critical shift in how businesses approach customer engagement and data utilization. As third-party cookies decline and privacy regulations tighten, first-party data becomes essential for driving personalized experiences, ensuring compliance, and providing advertisers with necessary targeting options. By leveraging the quality, accuracy, and ownership advantages of user-provided data, publishers can adapt to regulatory changes, maintain customer trust, and foster sustainable growth in the ever-changing digital ecosystem.

In conclusion, publishers must recognize the critical shift towards a cookieless advertising landscape. With an estimated 60-70% of impressions already being cookieless due to factors like Safari, Firefox, and adblockers, and with Chrome soon to follow suit, the impact on revenue is undeniable. Publishers have experienced declining revenues firsthand, highlighting the urgent need to adapt to this cookieless reality. Adapex publishers using our first-party data solutions have significantly increased revenue from 3% to 18%.  Implementing these solutions provides a clear path forward amidst this evolving digital environment. It’s time for publishers to embrace innovative strategies prioritizing first-party data to navigate and thrive in the cookieless future.

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