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How Are App Publishers Thinking About Data? Takeaways From September InMobi Exchange CAB Focus Group

Cecilia Nzaou
5 min read
Posted on September 27, 2021

Our Customer Advisory Board (CAB) publishers focus group gathered five of our most strategic publisher customers across North America and the EMEA region to talk about how publishers can make the most of their first-party data. The goal was to get direct input on our data and identity vision, which is designed to help publishers scale, standardize and verify their proprietary data.  

Here is a brief overview of our key takeaways: 

  • Data collection is a big challenge for gaming publishers, and any solution that can facilitate better collection will go a long way. 
  • Publishers showed interest in building cohorts as an alternative solution to ID-less inventory and need help to build taxonomies that make sense to buyers and pass them into the ecosystem. 
  • Data verification was the key challenge identified.  
  • Data enrichment is a key pillar to help publishers make the most of their data across media monetization and beyond.   

Top 3 Key Takeaways  

Overall, publishers face three main issues around data. In particular, they face headwinds around scale, standardization, and verification and enrichment. 

1) How Publishers are Thinking About Data Scale 

It is clear that across gaming publishers in particular, collecting user data and building scalable data profiles is a challenge because they don’t have enough reasons to ask their users for information like age, gender, emails, etc. The publishers we talked to said they historically have focused on the user experience above all else.  

And among publishers that do sit on a ton of data, some haven’t done anything with it yet. This shows that knowing where to start for leveraging your data when you have a lot it can also be a challenge.  

What about data clean rooms? There was a concern among the gathered publishers over the risk of sharing valuable data through that method, however. 

Some of the app publishers we talked to in this focus group have also partnered with some data companies to acquire data, with one publisher noting that data clean rooms could be useful for their sales team. However, for those which don’t have a sales team and mainly relies on open exchange this wouldn’t work for them.  

Further, another publisher mentioned that clean rooms seem mainly to be for consented users. Most clean rooms at present depend on some form of device or user ID, and this may limit the number of candidates among gaming publishers. It also limits their effectiveness in iOS, with Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency limiting the number of IDFAs. 

And across the board, privacy was also a concern. This has been a major issue for years, and continues to be top of mind for app publishers of all stripes. 

2) How Publishers are Thinking About Data Standardization 

The group was aligned on the fact that there are big problems in the industry around data standardization that we should help solve. Ultimately, InMobi can play a big role in helping them build better taxonomies and package their audiences more effectively. 

Some have started exploring cohorts and probabilistic models as alternative solutions to IDFA, but it is still a fairly new concept to the majority of gathered publishers. Creating the cohort is done on the publisher side, but they need help in knowing what to create (which signals to use, how to call it), collating in a standard form and passing the cohorts to buyers. It also remains to be seen if these cohorts would be available through an open programmatic exchange or just through private marketplace deals. 

Another key insight shared was around using session impression depth signals to build cohorts (such as click-through rates, content URL, etc.) which some advertisers are keen on buying. Publishers are willing to pass many signals if they prove valuable to buyers.  

3) How Publishers are Thinking About Verification and Data Enrichment 

First party data verification was a key challenge identified across mobile app publishers and indeed was the most talked about topic of the focus group. Overall, there is a need for a better third-party verification solution for in-app. 

Integrating with one verification vendor is complex, let alone several. One publisher talked about a negative experience with one solution where they don’t have actionable insights on how and how much of their inventory is being measured. This leads to a need for a solution in market that could bridge the gap between the publisher and the vendor, facilitating the insights component too. 

Another publisher pointed out that trust goes both ways and needs to be built between the publishers and vendors too. They are currently implementing a “period of grace” to allow advertisers to verify specifically for cohorts. 

There also was a lot of talk around data verification. Right now, verification mostly happens through IDs. But as we move forward into a cookieless and IDFA-less world, how would verification work? This is a big question on the minds of app publishers and developers today. 

While this was such an insightful conversation, it is also worth remembering that the industry is still figuring out how to help publishers and advertisers maintain addressability in an ecosystem where privacy restrictions are increasing. 

Interested in learning more about how InMobi is working with and helping app publishers? Reach out today to schedule a chat with one of our mobile experts. 

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