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Gated online community: How publishers can build a wall that works for all

Ryan Rakover, March 22, 2022


Key takeaways

  • Login requires authentication which requires a publisher to be secure 
  • Logged in users allow you to build your first party data *always with user consent
  • Login helps grow a publisher’s offering into a community 
Image courtesy of William White on Unsplash

Are your users ready to be authenticated? 

As publishers grow their knowledge on first-party data, they are in turn learning a lot about their users for the first time. Publishers are seeing how to build back the bridges to their communities. Not just capturing data points to pass on or as an answer to the deprecation of cookies but in the roadmap of building the experience their users want.

Publishers have begun to become more engaged with their users and open to new methods. Having users log in is a great way to gain greater insight from their users and widen a publisher’s offerings. However, is it that easy to do? What kind of additional responsibilities does a publisher take on? In turning their domain into a walled garden is there additional consent required from casual users turned logged-in users? 

How a publisher separates content impacts the user experience on the domain. A publisher can choose to lock content, differentiating the casual user from the logged-in user. It is crucial that a publisher understand and test how this change impacts user engagement. The underlying goal for a publisher looking to identify their users through login is to establish a unique community.

Through clearer audience identification, publishers can develop their domain in a responsive tone to their users. The amount of experiences publishers are able to offer is expanding all the time. Looking at how traditional content can be supplemented with video, audio, and the like it has never been more important for a publisher to know what content is in fact speaking to their audience.    

Why users and publishers benefit from having a login community  

A publisher’s understanding of their unique community will connect the dots of their users’ interests and behaviors. This greater insight into a publisher’s authenticated users will be under the publisher’s umbrella instead of third party vendors. This will allow for a publisher to be at the forefront of the experience their users are having. 

With a user account, a visitor creates a personalized profile on a website in order to tailor their experience with the web content. Accounts empower users to access exclusive offers, contribute to a community of fellow users, offer accessibility to support, and receive content recommendations relevant to them.

Publishers should not be afraid to experiment with new offerings. Using the login community of users, a publisher can try out areas of interest for their brand that they may not have thought appealed to larger audiences. For example, publishers could test hosting a podcast or selling products via affiliation campaigns to test the waters of new offerings. This added space of focused users can unlock new directions that a publisher’s original content may have sparked without them knowing.   

Publisher responsibilities

When a publisher decides to build a login it is important that there is clear user consent and the ability to change user choices in an accessible way. When the user has logged in, the experience should be safe and secure. A user has trusted a publisher with their personal information and how that information will be used will determine the future between the user and domain. Showing that the domain is responsive to user choices and selections will build user confidence and trust. In addition, it is important that the user has access to the data that is being collected and clear choices that are editable. 

Offering users a safe way to connect through personalization and community brings greater insight for publishers into what is working for users and what might be missing. With each step of added connectivity with users, publishers must use it and demonstrate added value with this personalization. Through an engaged user community, insights into what’s working and what’s not can help shift thinking to where it needs to be.

As privacy has taken a front seat, publishers are learning fast that it is easier to protect the users they have than to start finding a new audience. For the last several years the power of understanding a publisher’s audience was often at arm’s length from the publishers and siloed by third party vendors. Publishers are now back in control and each choice is valued and weighed by the user community. It is important for publishers to make sure the processes of data collection are clear and accessible.  

Conclusion

As publishers build out their roadmap towards the alternatives to third party cookies, building from within is the necessary first step. Establishing a secure authenticated users will be the foundation for a publisher’s brand’s next pivot. Publishers should remember to make the process simple, safe, and with value. Offering content behind a walled garden is more than an environment free from advertising, it’s an opportunity to offer a rich added level or unique content.

About the author: Ryan Rakover is the head of our Trust and Safety efforts at Total Media Solutions. One of the things Ryan enjoys the most in his role as a publisher’s strategic partner is the challenge of bringing policy from a place of rules and standards to delivering solutions to clients to improve their client’s bottom line. Find Ryan on LinkedIn or reach him by email.