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6 Questions with Tom Kershaw, Magnite

Here’s why Magnite has endorsed the open-source, interoperable identity solution, Unified ID 2.0.

One of the world’s largest independent sell-side platforms, Magnite, is endorsing UID 2.0 to help drive adoption of the open-source identity initiative for publishers. It’s a solution that supersedes the use of third-party cookies, which are being phased out, and will give publishers and consumers more choice and more control.

We spoke with Tom Kershaw, the CTO of Magnite, about why UID 2.0 is a massive upgrade from the existing regime, and why coordination and collaboration between publishers is critical.

“Everything about the approach — community, collaboration and comprehensiveness — makes us feel that this is by far the best option for the industry.”

You announced that you're endorsing UID 2.0 in order to create a “common transaction fabric for digital advertising,” would you explain to our audience what that means exactly — in plain English?

It means having an agreed, collaborative approach to how we handle identity up and down the ecosystem, from a buyer to a DSP to an SSP to a publisher and all of the measurements and fraud control players in the middle who participate in the transaction. Fragmentation of identity is not going to help the industry as we move forward, against much bigger walled-garden-based solutions. It gives consumers choice, it gives publishers control of the process of capturing that choice, and develops a common set of plumbing for whoever receives each ID. And critically, it acknowledges the need for governance, for control and for assurances that these IDs are treated with the sanctity and the importance they deserve. Everything about the approach — community, collaboration and comprehensiveness — makes us feel that this is by far the best option for the industry.

Can you give me one significant area where UID 2.0 is a huge improvement on cookies and why that is important?

Cookies are placed on users’ browsers without their knowledge. UID is volunteered by the user, based on a dialogue with the publisher with an understanding of how the Internet works. One of these methods is done without the user’s knowledge or control, the other is done with full knowledge and consent of that user. The differences between those things cannot be overstated.

We’re at an inflection point, it seems, where the value exchange of the internet is being renegotiated between publishers, marketers and consumers. What are the best practice ideas to explain the concept to users, to develop the scale that a Google or a Facebook has achieved?

[Some] publishers have developed very simple ways of explaining the value exchange. The way they explained it was we need to pay our reporters so they can write the articles you're reading; we need to pay our photographers so they can take the photos that you're viewing; we need to pay our camera crews so they can film the television show you're enjoying. That is really crisp, succinct way of explaining to users how the internet works and giving them choice to participate. You can access content with your wallet by paying with money, or you can access content with your time by paying with your eyeballs. It's your choice. That's a really clean way of explaining that. We need to build on that and scale that much better than we did in the past. The lesson is simple: concise, open, and honest.

Are there sticking points right now to achieving this massive scale adoption that we need?

Lack of consistency is the single biggest pitfall that we have. That's why UID 2.0 is so important because it standardizes this approach and has publishers work together to deliver a consistent message. Let's make sure that when you go to the 20th website, the explanation you get is the same as it was in the 19th, the 18th or the 17th. If we can do that and standardize that, the chances of users opting in to this new system and this new Internet regime are much higher.

Is this call to action for publishers what you might call a no brainer for publishers? Or is there education that needs to happen around this moment?

It’s not a no brainer. I think publishers need to understand not only that they should do this, but how to do it. If we can get publishers to say, ‘Hey, this is what I tried, it worked, or didn't work,’ and collaborate across the publisher community as a group, I think that we can move past this ‘How do we do it?’ question and get to execution. So, I think that the coordination is really critical to get publishers to act. They all know they need to do it. They just need help executing,

Where are we now along the timeline toward building an open eco-system that will make the internet a better experience for everyone? (Google will end third-party cookies by 2022).

It's probably going to come down to the wire to some extent, but we're going to get there. There's a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time. There are a lot of different pieces to this, whether it’s publishers, SSPs or DSPs, and all the other parts of the ecosystem. Coordination, collaboration and process is critical. We can't afford to waste any time. The clock is ticking here but if we coordinate our activities together as an industry, there’s no stopping us reaching the goal of getting to a better Internet than we have today.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.