by Jessica Davies | for Digiday

The Washington Post has developed a first-party data ad targeting tool called Zeus Insights that offers detailed contextual targeting capabilities along with user-intent predictions for marketers. The goal: to give marketers a sophisticated ad-targeting tool that isn’t reliant on third-party cookies but still drives results despite stricter data-privacy stipulations laid down by regulators.

The Zeus platform monitors contextual data such as what article a person is reading or watching, what position they have scrolled to on a page, what URL they have used to arrive there and what they’re clicking on. The publisher will then match that data to its existing audience data pools, which it has accumulated over the last four years, to create assumptions on what that news user’s consumption intent will be. The technology uses machine learning to decipher the patterns.

However, The Post’s strategic goal isn’t just to provide ad-targeting options for advertising clients that want to wean themselves off reliance on third-party cookies; it’s also to widen other publishers’ ability to compete with the big tech platforms.

The Post plans to license the Zeus platform to publishers both domestically and internationally, by integrating it with its Arc technology platform, which it has licensed to publishers since 2016 and reaches a combined 750 million unique users globally, according to the publisher. The theory is that in doing so, publishers can compete more effectively with the scale and data-targeting opportunities provided by Facebook and Google.

“This is about how we build the media businesses of tomorrow,” said Jarrod Dicker, vp of commercial technology and development at The Post. “It would give publishers a more collective understanding of [being part of] a network, and that then starts to become the opportunity to really challenge the platforms and not feel so closed off because the opportunities are happening on individual platforms.”

The relentless pressure on publishers to grow ad revenue at a time when Facebook and Google continue to swallow the majority of the display ad market has taken the wind out of growth plans, according to Dicker. That pressure and the arrival of data protection laws like the General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act are still regarded as threats for many publishers, rather than opportunities, he said.

“Right now, a lot of publishers are thinking about how to sustain and survive — not grow,” added Dicker. “That’s what we’re bringing with the Zeus Insights — we want to bring value in future years and build an experience that respects [consumer] privacy and constructs a better [advertising] ecosystem that we all want to live in.” >>> READ MORE