Every digital marketer is nervous about the demise of the cookie.  The basis of aggregated targeting for more than 20 years is going away with no clarity on a viable replacement.  It’s unclear how digital advertising will function outside of top sites (like nytimes.com) and platforms (like Google) that have scale to target and track internally.  What will happen to all the small/niche publishers?

Fortunately for publishers, there is a ray of hope: content commerce, or better connecting audiences to sales through content.  In the absence of the cookie, content will become king again.

Specialist publishers thrived for years in the print and pre-programmatic internet because they attracted niche audiences that appealed to advertisers trying to hit very specific market segments. As we get closer to cookie deprecation, publishers need more ways to prove that their audience is valuable, and that it converts. Expert content from trusted authorities, paired with a publisher’s first-party data about the buying habits of those readers, is the fuel that drives a successful content commerce publisher.

And while many brands are prioritizing developing their own first party data that’s uniquely valuable to them, contextual targeting can also play nicely with a finely tuned first-party data strategy. Contextual targeting is also a cheaper alternative to audience data, and that lower cost could help brands.

Brands may test audience targeting with contextual targeting side by side, or layer them on to drive better performance. With a year before cookies go away, now is a good time to figure out what context –if any – could serve as a solid proxy for third-party audience data.