Publishers Bank On First-Party Data To Drive Subs, Ad Revenue

First-party data is helping publishers improve both their subscription and ad sales while building consumer trust. That's far better than third-party data would, according to panelists speaking at MediaPost’s Publishers Insider Summit on Thursday. 

Take Meredith, which is “swimming in first-party data, very intent-focused,” said Corbin de Rubertis, senior vice president, innovation, Meredith Corporation. 

Meredith seeks to build “closed loops of engagement, not just a one-off of a search result,” de Rubertis added. 

Meredith can see from content consumption the problems a person is trying to solve, then put that into a hyper-contextual ad strategy.  



This entails emulating the utility approach of advertisers. With the pandemic presumably easing, “the challenge is what we do when people look up from their devices,” de Rubertis  

Then there’s Conde Nast, which has succeeded in “creating an ecosystem, then mining and personalizing that, and monetizing the experience,” said Karthic Bala, Chief Data Officer at Conde Nast.  “Even a crossword can be monetized.”

It’s not only about digital engagement.“What we’re learning online is also extendable to physical brands,” Bala added. “Some natural extensions, based on the information we have, allow us to super-targeted physical products.”

Conde Nast uses a tool called Spire, a performance-marketing platform that uses first-party data only for use in-house. This enables users to “feel safe their data isn’t leaving our internal ecosystem into the wild west of ad tech,” Bala continued.

Vice, which serves the Gen Z cohort, has used the trust component to launch a product called Rec Room (“recommended by Vice”) at the start of the year. Rec Room hit its goal for the year by the end of Q1, said Cory Haik, Chief Digital Officer at Vice Media Group. 

“To be fair, we set those goals to be realistic,” Haik added. 

Meanwhile, The New York Times is finding people will subscribe to products beyond the core daily, and that first-party data enables it to engage people with  journey- or emotion-based targeting.

The NYT operates on this model: 

Subscriber first 


Info sharing 




Howard tossed out some numbers: 

The NYT now has 8 million paid subs, and is on track to have 10 million by 2025.

Of the $1 billion+ generated by the newspaper, subscriptions are the largest revenue stream. 

The most important number is the 100 million registrations generated by the paper. Data on each is driving both the subscription strategy and the ad business. 

“Trust is the foundation,” Howard concluded.

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