Apple's Privacy Changes Worry Publishers

  • by April 23, 2021
Apple Inc. next week will release a much-anticipated software update that has worried publishers because it may diminish the value of their digital advertising inventories. Expect the effect to be muted, considering that many publishers already have confronted the threat of declining ad revenue by developing other ways to monetize their audiences.

Apple's next version of software that runs devices, including the iPhone and iPad, will have a feature called App Tracking Transparency (ATT). The feature will notify customers when apps want access to an identifier that advertisers use to track them online — and give them the choice to opt in. The trackers are valuable to media buyers for ad targeting and re-targeting, measurement, attribution, detecting ad fraud and capping ad frequency.

However, only 26% of Apple's customers are expected to consent to sharing their Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) with apps, according to a study of user behavior by marketing analytics firm AppsFlyer. The opt-in rate varies by app category, with photography apps showing an opt-in rate of more than 40% while social casino apps saw an opt-in rate in the mid-teens.
Publishers can try to coax Apple users into sharing their device identifiers with the same kind of pleas they use to urge people to become paying subscribers or to stop using an ad blocker in their web browsers. The pitch typically explains the importance of supporting journalism or their favorite creators to convert them.
More likely, publishers will continue to rely on app or website logins to track user activity.



There are still limitations, though, for advertisers that want to avoid targeting the audiences as they visit other sites or use other apps in the absence of other kinds of identifiers. The media, marketing and ad-tech industries have also come up with a variety of online tracking technologies to replace third-party cookies, which Google next year will stop supporting in its popular Chrome browser.

In the absence of these tracking technologies, publishers can highlight their contextual targeting capabilities, such as showing ads for cooking utensils among articles about cooking. This method won't fully satisfy media buyers that have depended on tracking technologies for behavioral targeting across multiple websites, but they have a greater assurance of reaching consumers based on their affinities.
More publishers have increased their reliance on reader revenue, with Reuters as the most recent example of a news provider that started charging for content. It's a smart move by a publisher whose audience consists of investors and businesspeople willing to pay for specialized news and analysis.

Because many publishers have been bracing for Apple's software update since last summer, and have worked to modify their business models for years before that, the possible loss of IDFA opt-ins shouldn't be that traumatic.
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