High10 Questions With…

Digital Content Next (DCN) is the only trade organization dedicated to serving the unique and diverse needs of high-quality digital content companies that manage trusted, direct relationships with consumers and marketers. A long-time H10 client, DCN recently released new research on data practices and consumer expectation. H10 spoke with Rande Price, DCN’s Research Director, on the report and what’s next for the industry.  

DCN explores key issues and looks to guide the industry, what made this particular research set something you wanted to explore now?

In light of new consumer data policies – General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in the European Union and the U.S.’ California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA – it’s important to understand the various expectations around current online data collection practices. These new data privacy and security laws speak to the need to reassess the collection and use of personal information in the digital media ecosystem. 

This research shows that overall, consumers do expect websites and apps to collect data about them in order to personalize, protect, and improve their experience. In sharp contrast, though, consumers do not expect outside vendors to collect data about them for reuse or sale. 

Over the past few years, we’ve also conducted research to better understand consumer expectations for Google and Facebook, particularly as tracking by major tech platforms increased and became a critical focus. It’s important to understand that trust is a result of delivering on expectations. It can be diminished when consumer data is collected and used without transparency.

Do you anticipate additional industry changes and guidelines to emerge as more consumers begin to understand data collection practices, and want to ensure privacy?

While the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) became the law on January 1, 2020, the Attorney General will not begin to enforce it until July 1, 2020. The AG recently confirmed there will be no delay in the enforcement date due to COVID-19 pandemic. 

When you began to mine the data for this report, was there a particular point that surprised you?

Consumers report a limited understanding of what it means to “opt out” or how to opt out of online data collection. It was surprising to see that fewer consumers stated they opted out of online data collection or will in the next 30 days (40% combined) than those who do not know how to or do not understand what it means to opt out (44% combined).

To complicate matters, the top consumer actions for opting out of online data collection are quite ineffective. Deleting cookies or turning them off often results in turning off both 1st and 3rd party cookies. First-party cookies offer consumers a seamless log-in and authentications process for subscriptions and memberships. Removing these cookies, can actually lead to a frustrating user experience. Regrettably, the “Do Not Track” signal is ignored by many tech companies. Also, consumer use of ad blockers penalizes the entire media ecosystem including the publishers and their advertisers.

Does DCN believe in a particular guideline for the industry?

With the California Consumer Privacy Act now the law, digital media companies are reevaluating their online data collection policies and the procedures they use to ensure compliance. Many in the industry see the CCPA as the most comprehensive consumer privacy law and a benchmark for other states to follow. It’s a call to reassess the collection and use of personal information in the digital media ecosystem. It’s a key reason why it’s important to review how consumer expectations align or don’t with current online data collection practices. We believe raising the bar on consumer (and advertiser) trust with our publisher brands is critical to their economic interests.

Why do you think the ‘opt out’ terms are so ambiguous for consumers? Should there be an industry standard when it comes to data and privacy verbiage? 

Consumers report a limited understanding of what it means to “opt out” or how to opt out of online data collection. Sadly, for those opting out of online data collection, the top consumer actions remain cookie-related: deleting browser cookies on a regular basis or turning them off followed by turning on “Do Not Track” and installing an ad blocker. Unfortunately, deleting cookies or turning on “Do Not Track” doesn’t completely remove the consumer from online data collection.

In your experience, is there a platform/outlet/brand/publisher out there doing it right?

Most premium publishers get it right. Their data collection practices tend to meet consumer expectations since there is a direct benefit to the consumer experience and because the consumer’s data is collected and used transparently within the same context. Premium publishers recognize consumer trust as a critical foundation in building a strong relationship with their end-users.

For those that need a better handle on what their consumers need and want, what does DCN suggest? 

When consumers are asked specifically about their expectations about the data practices of outside vendors, fewer say they expect the future reuse (38 percent) or selling (24 percent) of their personal data. Interestingly, when they are given a clear explanation of how their data will be used and the benefit — for example, collecting online data to identify consumers across devices — their expectations are more aligned with the practice (47 percent). It’s important to distinguish whether a company is operating as an outside vendor or third party or whether it’s making a specious claim to operate as a first party due to tags they place on a website or app.

DCN has spent time over the years digging into consumer expectations and experience. What do you anticipate being the next big conversation in that world?

Publishers need to continue to differentiate and add value to the consumer experience. With a collection of subscriptions and, therefore, first-party relationships with publishers, there will there be a need for publishers to continue to add value to their offerings in order to delight and retain their audiences.

Looking ahead, does DCN have other research planned for this year?

Revenue diversification continues to be an important focus for publishers and more so now with the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. 

On another note, DCN frequently hosts in-person member events and other conferences. Are you shifting any key days to streaming? 

Yes, we have shifted our upcoming events for 2020 to virtual events. We’ll reevaluate our roster in the Fall.

We at High10 Media are most grateful for your time and for sharing your insights with us, Rande. Thank you!