4 alternatives to cookie-based data for Publishers

Posted by Oscar Bole on


Third-party cookies have offered great opportunities in terms of monetization for publishers. But all good things eventually come to an end. As the privacy regulations have been tightening their rules, publishers are starting to look for alternatives to third-party cookies as they will soon be gone. They will need to compensate for the loss of the opportunity offered by third-party cookies. It is important to understand that this does not symbolize the end of data-driven advertising. Instead, this will give traction to the other types of existing data that are profiting from the industry shifts to gain in popularity.


First & Second-Party Data

First-party data is collected directly from the publisher’s audience through their various actions on the website. It is far more reliable than third-party data and has the benefit of being a consented form of data. As publishers ask for the users’ consent, thus informing them on what their data is being used for, the risk of privacy-policy violations is very low.

In terms of first-party data, there are two options: Publisher ID Solutions and Contextual Targeting. The idea behind Publisher ID Solutions is to capitalize on your own data. As a publisher, you will have access to the user’s email, login, and first-party cookies. You can use this data in order to monetize it. The second option is contextual targeting. Imagine you are a publisher running a retail website, you will be able to decide to send information about the page on each call that you are making to the SSP.

By extension, second-party data is the first-party data of another publisher. This means that both are being collected the same way and have the same level of reliability. Second-party data is not limited to the scope of one Publisher, so different actors such as publisher alliances can come into play at this stage. With this additional support, publishers can start scaling their strategy.


Industry ID Solutions

Identity is one of the most promising alternatives to third-party cookies, and it will continue to gain traction as we get closer to the post-cookie world. The idea behind identity graphs is to create an anonymous profile by linking different data points. This allows for better targeting of personalized ads and is a valuable opportunity for publishers.

Publishers can call an ID solution and send them a user identification. They can then provide the publisher with a hashed ID that will be then be sent along the chain to the SSP and the DSP. And since the DSP is synced to the universal ID solution, the bidders will be able to bid on a known user.

Keep in mind that:

– An ID solution will only work if the user gives his consent via the CMP
– The ID solutions you use should ideally be synced with the right DSPs, and have enough reach (implemented

Around 75% of publishers are currently using at least one ID module to optimize their ad stack (based on an analysis on Pubstack publishers). Here are some of the existing ID solutions that Publishers are currently working with:

SharedId (ex : PubcommonID)
Criteo ID
Unified ID
Ramp ID (ex : Identity Link)


Contextual Data

While third-party cookies utilize the user’s behavior on a page to create a profile, contextual relies on the environment in which he is browsing. By targeting keywords and topics that are relevant to the content of the page. Contextual Targeting (made by third parties) works without consent. Third parties such as Weborama or Qwarry are able to identify and see the URL. Based on this, they can identify keywords thanks to which they will provide context on the page.

For example, you will send the information that the page being visited is categorized as “gaming”, and you will be able to package it and sell it to buyers. It is also possible to work with Private Market Places and make some contextual targeting deals you may sell (works without consent). And finally, you can use the IAB content category, where you can identify your placement based on their categories. The buyer will be able to target your placement via the categories.


Privacy Sandbox

This solution is still at a very early stage early 2022. These are API-based solutions. The most well-known are: TOPICS (previously called FLoC – which uses a set of anonymized users) and TutleDove (which uses retargeting). Other solutions within the privacy sandbox include Conversion API, Agg Reporting API, Trust Token API (user vs bot).

As a publisher, you will have to choose which solution best fits your ad stack. The best option can be hybrid. But this is a question that publishers need to address now in order to be well-prepared for when third-party cookies will be gone.



On an analysis Pubstack ran across all its publishers, we realized that today, 55% of the traffic happens on Chrome, and over 70% of the overall traffic was on browsers that allowed 3rd party cookies. The alternatives are starting to emerge and gain traction, there is still some work needed on the publishers’ side before they are able to reach a sustainable business model that includes no third-party cookies.


Alternatives to third-party cookies are needed as browser traffic remains mostly on those that use them


Cookieless traffic has been a major concern for publishers in recent years. On some browsers such as Mozilla or Safari, there are no 3rd party cookies available to monetize the inventory. And cookieless traffic is expected to increase as we near their disappearance.


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