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Why Publishers Must Put Subscription Management at the Heart of First Party Data Strategies

July 29, 2021
Posted by Tim Yeates

Why Publishers Must Put Subscription Management at the Heart of First-party Data Strategies

It might seem counter-intuitive to focus on subscription management in the context of the death of third-party cookies’ impact on the publishing industry. There is, however, very good reason to do so – especially as Google’s decision to delay ending support for third-party cookies until 2023 gives the industry more time to pivot from firefighting to a more strategic response.

Quite simply, the ‘death of the cookie’ is not just a disruptive threat to the industry. It is also a once-in-a-generation opportunity to think big in resetting relationships between publishers, customers and advertisers – to focus on driving sustainable growth based on deeper connections with customers.

However, rebalancing those relationships requires a mindset shift. Advertising and subscription businesses can no longer be seen as competing priorities. In a first-party data world, they must work together in a harmonious model that puts customers at the heart of value creation, and in which subscriptions and advertising work in tandem.

In turn, that means looking afresh at the entire customer data and identity ecosystem – across subscriptions and advertising – to put the ability to harvest and act on first-party data front and center. All that has profound implications for the technology environment that many publishers have relied on for so long.  

Subscription Management at the Core

In short, days of separate, siloed infrastructures for subscription management and advertising are gone – to be replaced by flexible, agile, and integrated first-party data ecosystems that enable publishers to progressively harvest data from registered users and subscribers – then act on it in driving further registration and subscriber growth, while developing first-party data propositions for advertisers.

But subscription management platforms are not created equally, so what are the key capabilities that publishers must have in order to adapt and capitalize on the first-party data revolution?

Seven Must-have Capabilities

You can read about these capabilities in detail in our latest playbook – First-party data: Time to pivot from firefighting to strategy, but in summary, the seven that should be at the top of publishers’ wish lists include:

  1. Robust Security and Compliance: The ability to collect, store, process and transmit first-party data securely and in compliance with data protection regulations
  2. Custom Data Collection: Subscription management platforms can be primary sources of high value first-party data.
  3. Detailed Customer Profiling: Modern subscription management platforms have the capacity to store and attach a wide variety of data points to customer profiles.
  4. Support for Multiple Data Extraction Methods: A subscription management platform built on an open data framework is a must – since it opens the door to multiple data extraction methods.
  5. Flexibility to Adapt the Subscription Proposition: The flexibility and agility to develop and launch everything from new offers and incentives, to innovative registration and payment flows, content bundles and entitlements – in hours or days, rather than weeks or months
  6. Seamless Integration with First-Party Data Ecosystem: The ability to seamlessly share first-party data generated within the subscription management platform across the reader revenues ecosystem.
  7. Future-proofed Adaptability: Rapid, flexible integration with third party systems to reduces the risk of being locked in to ‘betamax’ first-party data approaches.


There is a real risk that Google’s decision to delay ending support for third party cookies will encourage some publishers to ‘kick the can down the road’ – taking a wait and see approach at least until Google’s own first party data solutions emerge. After all, by April 2020 (at the time, just eight months out from the death of the cookie) 85% of publishers remained reliant on third party cookies to enable ad sales.

That would be a great shame because, while the death of cookie does represent a disruptive threat, it is also an opportunity to re-invigorate an industry that has suffered declining readerships and revenues for some time.

The truth is that publishers have been given something of a reprieve – but also time to build more strategic responses.  Even so, getting that right will take time, so publishers need to act with urgency; building out the systems, processes and strategies that will underpin a harmonious model that puts customers at the heart of value creation, and in which subscriptions and advertising work in tandem.

We’re here to help

If you are reviewing your publishing subscription or first party strategy, get in touch to arrange a demo of how we can unlock all the tools needed to succeed now, and in the future.

Contact our helpful team; Telephone +44 844 873 1418 or visit our contact us page.

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This blog post was written by:

Tim Yeates
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