How Intent Tactics Will Fare in a Changing Landscape, Part 3: The Future of Bidstream

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This blog is the third in a three-part series on the shifting nature of intent-based marketing (you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here). In this series, we’ll explore which intent tactics are falling to the wayside and which will continue to be effective.

The internet is sometimes called the “Digital Wild West,” and for good reason. The capabilities of digital companies have far outpaced the introduction of laws to regulate online business activity, giving companies free rein to take advantage of loopholes for their own gain.

The practice of gathering consumer and competitor insights from real-time bidding (RTB) — or the bidstream — is one prominent example. The bidstream enables companies to collect critical data about ad spending and target audiences without actually having to spend a dime.

Understandably, this practice has come under fire in recent years, and current trends suggest it’s coming to an end, meaning B2B marketers will have to start relying on content syndication providers that use more secure means to bring them consumer and competitor data.

How the bidstream is (supposed to be) used

 

Publishers created the RTB system to help them derive more value from the advertising space they were selling to marketers. The idea was that online ad space on high-traffic sites was in high demand, and buyers would be willing to pay a premium to secure it.

As part of the RTB process, publishers offer bidders a range of critical insights about the page — including information about the audience and the context of the page itself. Publishers envisioned using this data to give bidders more information before making buying decisions, which they hoped would encourage more bidding.

The bidstream loophole

 

RTB makes sense when done correctly. However, a few companies have taken advantage of the practice by making intentionally low or cheap bids to gain access to online ad auctions. Once inside, these “bidders” can gather free intelligence by collecting audience and page information unwittingly provided by the publisher while also observing the behaviors, tactics and strategies of real bidders.

A whole cottage industry has developed on top of this practice. Many content syndication providers rely on bidstream data to sell analytical insights to their clients to help them make better decisions about their content marketing strategies.

The pressure is on

 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, collecting bidstream data in this way is not looked at favorably in the industry — or in Washington. As the public has taken a greater interest in protecting consumer data privacy in recent years, lawmakers have put pressure on tech companies to curtail unfair bidstream data practices. In October 2020, government bodies including Congress and the FCC contacted AT&T, Mobilewalla and Verizon with the aim of putting an end to the practice. More recently, a group of senators questioned a few of the country’s biggest tech companies about the practice and how it’s used to sell private data about consumers to foreign companies.

Private companies are also taking greater interest. In an open letter published last year and co-signed by 18 tech companies, BPA Worldwide urged the industry to put an immediate stop to the practice, arguing that gathering bidstream data actually represents a “significant data breach.”

Staying ahead of change

 

It’s to be determined how and when lawmakers and industry guardians will crack down on this practice, but it’s clear changes are coming. Content syndication providers are unlikely to continue providing bidstream data to their clients, forcing them to pivot and adopt new strategies they haven’t mastered.

CONTENTgine won’t be impacted by the end of this practice. Our process of data collection relies on first-party intent insights that give customers audience, page and content information based on the type of content in our library that actually gets downloaded and consumed. Moreover, our data goes deeper than other content syndication providers can, meaning B2B marketers gain more actionable insights without the risk associated with bidstream data.

CONTENTgine will stand firm even if (and when) the practice of gathering data from the bidstream comes to an end. For more information about how we help companies generate first-party leads, visit https://contentgine.com/.