Publishers start polling their users at scale

The third-party cookie may never die. Still, the need for publishers to start collecting and activating first-party data is very much alive and evident for many reasons: Ad sales opportunities and growing seller-defined audiences, in product-development as well as for customer relationship management at subscription-leaning organizations.

Publishers are attracting loyal audiences at massive volumes, but it has dawned on the industry that accessing actionable first party data remains a challenge.

The problem: who are your users?

Not even publishers with a high share of logged-in users have been able to get hold of scalable basic socio-demographic information, as registration processes are kept as lean as possible. For a long period of time, the industry relied on spying and stalking — tracking users’ behavior and deriving assumptions based on reading habits. Unfortunately, no one likes to be stalked. And the marketplace has become aware of the limitations of behavioral data.

The way of the cookie: Stalking and spying

With cookies on the way out, how can publishers get their users to share information about themselves willingly? To solve for their first-party data problems, a growing number of publishers started a different approach that turns the dynamic around: Instead of spying on their users, they start asking their audiences as many questions as possible throughout a user journey.

The way of asking questions to access first-party data

Don’t be rude

Publishers may have little choice other than to try to glean more insights into their audiences to appease advertisers, but the prevalence of polls could easily become yet another plague in articles that are already crowded with video ads, article recommendations and subscription call-to-actions.

Asking users questions successfully requires strong contextual fit of questions, a reward mechanism that gratifies engaged users, and a strong sensitivity to a site’s tone and tongue.

The benefits of this trend go way beyond obtaining otherwise hard-to-get data. Polling users at scale will make sites more interactive and strengthen relationships with users. Every relationship starts with a conversation. And every good conversation starts with a question.

Pia Frey is the co-founder of Opinary. Torsten Schlegel is the senior content and newsroom manager of Opinary.

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