Pivot to Privacy: How Publishers Are Handling CCPA So Far

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It’s been three weeks since the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was implemented, and publishers say it’s still too early to tell what effect, if any, it will have on their businesses but they’re closely monitoring what’s to come.

Publishers have been preparing since the legislation was passed in June 2018. For many, that’s meant a lot of meetings with lawyers and trade bodies ironing out how to react to the nitty-gritty details of the legislation.

Privately, senior media execs say that the law went into effect with vague wording and so quickly that it left them scrambling. Even though the Interactive Advertising Bureau released a framework on how these publishers could comply with the law mere weeks before the new rule was put in place, many tell Adweek endless discussion with their legal teams to discuss preparation often ended up with even more confusion.

One media company’s CRO described CCPA’s rollout having each media company more or less “operating in the dark.”

Publishers had to iron out contracts with its ad-tech vendors to make sure they were in compliance with the law. But the wording of that law and the lack of actual steps they could take to make sure they weren’t breaking it left them with more questions than answers.

Under CCPA, only consumers who live in California are able to opt out of having their information collected, shared or sold. Though the legislation is different than GDPR, publishers tackled the issue with a similar method as they did for GDPR because they’ve already prepared for that previous legislation. M. Scott Haven, global head of digital, Bloomberg Media, said complying with the law was bound to be bumpy.

“We’re all trying to deal with disruption and trying to create a model that works in the publishing industry,” Havens said. “And if we’ve got to deal with this on a state-by-state basis, it’s just going to distract us from the bigger problem. If similar privacy legislation were to be enacted in other states and countries, it’s just going to be a hot mess for publishers to deal with.”

At CES, media execs share their preparation for and monitoring of CCPA and its effects.

If nothing else, most media execs say CCPA has forced them to reckon with how valuable consumers consider their data and the business implications when, and if, that shifts.

Media organizations need to prepare how to communicate what they know about readers, said Iván Markman, chief business officer, Verizon Media. According to Markman, the legislation boils down to communicating trust and choice to consumers.

“It needs to be super easy and user-friendly to deal with it over time,” he said. “We need to evolve… [and] make it easier and that’s something that we have been doing for years. CCPA doesn’t really change it. It essentially says, ‘Hey, here’s a reminder that this is important.’”

Other publishers, like Vox Media, have prepared for the legislation by developing tools that wrap its first-party data with a neat and tidy bow to sell to buyers. Vox designed its new marketplace Forte, in part, to help protect the media company from changes to browser cookie policies and privacy legislation.

“The optimization vehicle… has been around audiences. We have optimized within individual audience segments, particularly around third-party data—that’s going away,” said Ryan Pauley, CRO at Vox Media. “And so the idea that the creative can be the optimization vehicle: Can you change the creative based on the person, the type of content, the advertiser, the objective? That’s where we seeing the optimization changing from the optimization to the creative.”

The next big movement for the industry will likely come down if and when the California attorney general’s office issues a warning or fine to an offender of CCPA. Those responses can inform publishers how to move forward in avoiding a similar fate.

In the meantime, media companies are left to solve yet another gray area.

“We need to do a much better job at really making data human and explaining what it is, why does it matter,” Markman said. “I think it’s going to take a while to really crack that code.”

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