In the post-cookie era, there is a lot of talk about context, and rightfully so. Publishers who create premium content now have a unique venue for advertisers to put their brand messaging alongside critical information in an environment where readers are looking to be informed. But context should not be seen as the exclusive signal. In fact, for an advertiser, targeting alongside content in context with an article is going to be the status quo across publishers on the web. All publishers will have similar terms and auxiliaries for advertisers to target against and it will become … basic. So much so that the function of context will begin to generalize publishers the same way that behavioral targeting did. We need to make context stronger.

Publishers have an opportunity to be more than a venue for advertising in tomorrow’s ad ecosystem. While talking about context, publishers should also focus on and invest in consumption. Through consumption, publishers are able to tell marketers something they don’t yet know about their brand’s audience. This enables publishers to break out of their standard role and provide new information and insights to advertisers that they are unable to get elsewhere. The relationship with advertisers is no longer a one-way deal. By understanding consumption behaviors, publishers can build richer opportunities for marketers to better understand not just the context a reader is in, but how that type of reader chooses to watch, read and navigate content throughout the entire web.

Traditionally, brands have looked to build their audience profiles through scale, putting quantity of audience over quality of results. Scale isn’t the sole factor needed to better understand one’s audience. Leveraging consumption data means brands can better understand their customers by drawing insights from high quality and reliable data.

In addition to being a world-class journalistic institution, The Washington Post is a technology company, building tools that allow for publishers, readers and marketers to be at the forefront of opportunities and trends in the industry. Our embarking on the opportunities beyond context and with consumption led us to a state-of-the-art product called Washington Post Project Signal.

Washington Post Project Signal is a next-generation advertising product that brings the combination of advertiser and reader needs to the forefront. True to the spirit of this dual focus, we worked with and listened to advertising partners to better understand their business needs and how The Post can drive more meaningful insights on their behalf. Collectively, the analysis, results and audience insights will better inform campaigns of the future.

In the wake of this upcoming media disruption, buyers who have long relied on third-party cookie data must pivot or find themselves unprepared for future limitations. Media buyers should come to rely more on first-party data insights -- the crucial, actionable data about user consumption habits that publishers can curate and utilize. The Post is well positioned to help brands prepare for this industry shift by providing a view of the content their audiences read, the topics that drive interaction and preferred forms of media consumption. This deeper understanding gives advertisers the ability to know the types of content likely to lead to more engagement and conversion with their brands. These consumption insights will become increasingly valuable as brands and marketers ready themselves for the elimination of the third-party cookie.

In addition to giving brands insights about their audience, The Post also wants to let brands take immediate action on those insights. Project Signal plans to give brands an opportunity to activate insights through a publisher network of first party data. For example, if a brand is running an ad unit that features an editorial article from The Washington Post, such as a RED PostPulse unit, we want to enable the brand to swap out articles quickly and easily based on consumption insights. Another benefit of Project Signal is that it will tap into the opportunity being built across the Zeus Prime network. Advertisers will be able to invest, experiment and learn from contextual and consumption insights on The Post and then scale those learnings across the Zeus Prime network of publishers.

By utilizing this technology in parallel with consumption insights, brands are able to be given more real-time control of their content-based ad units when distributed at scale. This alpha effort could be expanded on for other ad formats, content feeds, or additional real-time ad efforts based on client needs.

Project Signal will deliver actionable insights that strengthen client partners’ campaigns everywhere they advertise across the web. At The Post, we’re creating opportunities for advertisers to build innovative product experiences on and off our platform, equipping marketers with premier technology and insights for use throughout the marketplace.