Procrastinators, rejoice!

This April, Google bumped the deadline for the phaseout of third-party cookies in Chrome back again. The death knell for third-party cookies was originally slated for spring 2022, then the end of 2023, late 2024 - and now, "hopefully in 2025." 

The “will-they won’t-they” nature of Google's promise to usher in a cookieless future has largely eroded the credibility of their timelines; and in fact, there are plenty who believe Google will continue to drag things out and never fully banish third-party cookies from Chrome. (One member of the Hum team has been quoted as saying “I will die before the third-party cookie.”) 

But these warnings to invest in first-party data have shown us that while the cookie is taking longer than expected to crumble, third-party cookies can’t deliver the audience intelligence that organizations need to succeed as the digital environment shifts.

In 2024, the message remains clear: It’s time to invest in a first-party data strategy. 

Regulatory changes are putting new limitations on third-party data 

Organizations have worked to keep up with GDPR, CCPA, CPRA, PIPL, and other policies that inform consent to tracking and how third-party data can be used. (Still getting up to speed on these data policies and what they entail? Silverchair’s whitepaper is a great place to get started!) 

Lawmakers have reintroduced a new draft of the American Privacy Rights Act, after the original American Data Privacy And Protection Act was blocked from moving forward to the House of Representatives in 2022. This is the closest the US has come to enacting a federal data privacy bill as law. The APRA would have an extensive impact on how data can be acquired, used & shared for marketing or other purposes. 

These regulations don’t spell complete disaster for third-party data, but they do make it more costly and risky for organizations to collect and use third-party data - and corporations are starting to make big payouts and big headlines for failing to comply. 

  • Google agreed to pay a nearly $400 million settlement (the largest consumer privacy settlement in the US!) over misleading location-tracking practices.
  • Meta, the parent company of Facebook, was recently slapped with a class action lawsuit for using Pixel tracking technology to access patient info from hospital portals and health system websites for targeted marketing. 
  • Sephora just forked over a $1.2 million settlement in California’s first enforcement of CCPA.

Consumer scrutiny of third-party data is at an all-time high 

You don’t have to look far to see that concerns about the way our data is collected, stored, and used have infiltrated the court of public opinion. (Look at the market share growth of DuckDuckGo, a search engine that doesn't track users; or read any of the growing number of articles that reference backlash to the major data privacy blind spots at X under Elon Musk.) 

While willingness to share and savviness around the complexity of data collection varies, consumers are increasingly calling for greater transparency and control over who has access to their data - specifically when it comes to data being shared broadly and for advertising or tracking purposes without their consent or knowledge.

In fact, 9 of 10 consumers are more likely to spend money with an organization that makes a commitment to protecting their personal data over one that doesn’t.

Third-party data policies are changing the way digital advertising works

When people hear “third-party data,” they often think about data that has been purchased, typically as aggregated lists from third-party vendors. 

But third-party data can also be “rented,” most often in the form of advertisements with intermediaries like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, using advertising ecosystems that track users logged in across devices.

Many of these big tech players are on the frontlines of this shift in consumer privacy expectations and new regulations that restrict third-party data collection and usage. This means that the organizations who have relied on those data sets to power their marketing initiatives will feel the effects of those limitations in their ability to target the right people. 

  • Apple introduced pop-up notifications that gave a billion iPhone users the option to opt-out of being tracked by apps, with an estimated 62% of them choosing to do so - a move that cost Facebook $10 billion in lost ad revenue.  
  • Many advertisers pulled ads off Twitter, both over concerns about lack of content moderation and in light of turmoil around the platform’s infrastructure and security under Elon Musk's leadership. 

Don’t wait until there are only crumbs left...

While the crumbling of the third-party cookie is causing some disruption for organizations that have long relied on third-party data sets and cookie tracking to power customer engagement, it provides a chance at competitive advantage to the organizations that are serious about building authentic personal relationships with their readers.

When consumers have more control and higher standards around how much personal data can be given and what it can be used for, marketers are forced to change how they collect it. 

Most publishers sit on a goldmine of data, and face an unprecedented opportunity to leverage first-party data to deliver content, ads, and experiences that build reader trust. In fact, publishers already have the answer for advertisers in the powerful first-party data and relationships they have access to. 

Organizations who own their data and take a thoughtful approach to reaching and messaging with their customers are already starting to edge out competitors that have relied on third-party datasets.

According to a Think With Google and Boston Consulting Group study, personalization pays! Brands using first-party data see a 2.9X revenue increase and 1.5X cost savings, underscoring its effectiveness.

Don’t wait until there are only crumbs left. Now is the time for organizations to get proactive about collecting zero- and first-party data, and to ensure that they’re collecting data in transparent, compliant, and sustainable ways. 

Explore the most common and most valuable data sources for publishers, learn how publishers are leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to fill in third-party data gaps, or chat with a data expert about how you can start building a first-party data strategy.