First-Party Audience Data: To Collect or Not to Collect? That Is the Question


First-Party Audience Data: To Collect or Not to Collect? That Is the Question

February 16, 2024

Cookies aside, audience data collection can be daunting for publishers. They either choose to ignore it altogether, or they jump in head first – sometimes without a clear plan for collection, organization or use. Whatever your approach, I aim to convince you to keep up the data party – first-party that is. In this article, we'll look at why you should be collecting first-party audience data, how to do it, and then how to make that data work for your business. 

Why should you collect first-party audience data?

Why not is really the question. Data captured as users navigate through a website is called first-party data. B2B publishers especially can greatly benefit from collecting their visitors’ data. Sure, every website has one-off visitors who will never return, but those visitors who come back time and time again are like gold. But if you never know who they are, how can you stay in touch? And how can you do what you really want to do? Sell them something. As you gather more visitor data, you can then begin to target all sorts of things like editorial strategy, events, defined sponsorship packages, your SEO strategy and much more. 

Let’s dive into one of those areas as an example: sponsorships.

Advertisers love when publishers know their audience well. Sure, it’s beneficial when advertisers know you get great traffic, but it's even more valuable when you have specific numbers regarding categories within your market. For example, you’re a trade magazine, publishing about manufacturing. You have 100K visitors in a week. How much more valuable is it to your sponsors when you know of those 100K visitors, that 30K are interested in automotive? Digging deeper, if you have names and emails for those 30K audience members, how much more likely would an advertiser be willing to sponsor an article or webinar if they know they are delivering content to more qualified buyers?

Ways to collect first-party audience data: The basics

There are many ways to collect audience data, both gently and aggressively, but I'll discuss what you should be doing today.

Every B2B publishing website should be collecting names and emails on their sites, but the question becomes how and when to ask. In our experience, we have found that having multiple opportunities to collect data, especially on the homepage, makes most sense. For example, you could have a newsletter sign-up box at the top, middle and bottom of your homepage. As a visitor scrolls, it makes the best sense to give them multiple opportunities to join your list. 

For controlled-circulation publishers, gating articles after so many clicks has become popular. For subscription-based publishers, offering free content frequently and gating some articles has worked wonders to collect more data on their new visitors. Progressive registration helps a visitor become more comfortable leaving their information each time they stop by your site. This approach allows a publisher to collect small chunks of information each time someone visits so there is less of a chance of that person not leaving any data at all. 

Lastly, locking down certain articles/videos/webinars/podcasts and asking for more specific information like job title or content interests has gained traction as a way to deepen the level of audience intelligence publishers have. 

Ok, you collected first-party audience data: Now what?

So, you've collected all this data, now what are you going to do with it? 

Organize: Data is just information, but now it's time to make that data actionable. To do so, it must be organized and categorized by demographic and behavioral characteristics. If you don't have a tool doing this, you might find yourself drowning in the data pool. However, let's pretend you have an awesome tool (like ePublishing’s Reader Intelligence *wink*) that is doing this real-time data pull for you. You can now sort and filter your audience data and make better decisions such as:

Targeting editorial strategy: Sure, Google Analytics can tell you what articles are performing best, but it can't tell you specifically 'who' from your database is reading those articles (Reader Intelligence can though). Pairing the 'who' with the 'what actions' gives you the power to identify who in your audience are your most interested readers. Learn what they are reading about and information on what actions they are taking so you can target what you should be writing about more to keep their interest. 

Events: This goes for virtual, in-person or even webinars. If you know who from your audience database is interested in certain topics, you can target newsletters, email campaigns and other marketing efforts to promote events. Again, the more you know about individual readers, the more you can give them what they want to read and hear about. 

Sponsors/Advertisers: This is a loaded topic, however to keep it short: Advertisers love audience data,  especially when a publisher can show proof of actionable analytics. As mentioned above, those 30K audience members interested in automotive manufacturing can be highly targeted for sponsored articles, campaigns, webinars and banner ads. Further digging can even offer your advertisers audience members with certain titles or decision-making abilities. However, the key is to have proof that the audience data is being collected and refined often so your advertisers can be confident your data is relevant to their offering. 

The goal with collecting audience data is to target, target, target. Targeting editorial strategy makes your readers happier. Targeting your audience based on interest makes your marketing efforts more powerful. Targeting the right audience for your sponsors makes advertisers keep coming back to spend more. A strategic approach to audience data collection and utilization will help you get to know your readers better, as well. 

The key is to put it into action so you're delivering to your audience more effectively than your competition. 

We just touched the surface of audience data collection. For a deeper discussion, plus other ways to drive revenue as a publisher, schedule a short, but informative call.