How the EU’s new ePrivacy regulations could profoundly impact all media

From a legislative perspective 2018 looks set to be an interesting, potentially challenging year for publishers. In May the EU wide General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be enforced bringing new controls on the collection of data.

However, as Oliver von Wersch, founder and CEO Vonwerschpartner Digital Strategies and ex MD of G+J digital products argues, publishers also need to keep an eye on the ongoing discussion around EU ePrivacy regulation which he believes could be a game changer for the industry.

Oliver von Wersch will also be one of the speakers at FIPP and VDZ’s 11th Digital Innovators’ Summit. Here he talks about the implications of GDPR and ePrivacy, as well as the importance of publishers getting their platforms strategies right.

There are two significant pieces of legislation coming this year that will significantly impact on publishers – GDPR and ePrivacy. Can you give us a brief introduction to them.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) will regulate the handling of any personal data within and by corporate organisations. It will replace any other legislation on data protection, which might exist in European countries. The new ePrivacy regulation is still under discussion, and fortunately not yet confirmed by the legislator. If it comes into place, it will change the processing of any kind of tracking (e.g. cookies) in all digital businesses drastically, and will be a massive game changer for the global digital ad industry.

What are the key implications of GDPR for publishers?

Publishers should be aware of their policies and internal routines on how to organise and handle personal data, especially in light of transparency and communication towards the end user. GDPR prescribes a lot of details to organisations with regard to data security processes, but it (unlike ePrivacy) is no massive game changer to the industry.

How ready do you think European publishers are for GDPR? Given that the introduction is in May what advice would you give them? Do you think more global companies  – e.g. the US media companies- are better prepared?

There is a lot of activity ongoing, inside most publisher organisations these days. Most of them have internal projects up and running to achieve compliance in time. If you don’t have a project setup, yet, it’s now time to do so. I have the impression that many US-based organisations are not really aware that GDPR is binding for all organisations having business activities in Europe – which e.g. in the advertising industry is almost everyone.

Do you think that GDPR will recalibrate the relationship between readers and the publishers? What tactics do you think publishers will use to deepen that relationship?

Not GDPR, but ePrivacy will do so. In general: 2018 will be the year of the customer loyalty for publishers.

In your previous role you focused on the relationship between g+J and social platforms. How do you think these will evolve in the coming 12 months? Is there a new mood among publishers to shift away from their reliance on them?

One of the key factors for publishers is a well defined and executed platform strategy. This will be even more important in relation to ePrivacy. One of the dominating factors from my personal point of view in 2018 will be the decreasing business relevance of Facebook for publishers, where Google, and Amazon become more important. Facebook’s relevance for professional journalistic content will be at the crossroads throughout the year.

And what do you think are the key challenges for publishers in monetisation? Were you surprised when BuzzFeed, Mashable etc missed their targets?

This is all about platform strategy once again. If you only rely on Facebook, you will very likely lose. If your strategy is well balanced and creates high consumer loyalty over all channels, you will win.

As a consultant what do you think is the key question that publishers are asking – and not yet finding the answer to?

As already said: ePrivacy will be a massive thread for publisher’s monetisation, if it comes. The EU should urgently modify the existing draft, otherwise the European publishing industry will be harmed. The decision making process should be finalised as soon as possible to reduce the existing uncertainty among publishers.

Hear more from Oliver at DIS2018 (19-20 March in Berlin). Discounted registration is currently available if you sign up now.

Article reproduced courtesy of FIPP, the network for global media