Email Is the New Cookie: The Data Most Publishers Are Missing



  • Web and mobile publishers may be missing a money-making opportunity by not using consumer data once collected
  • Data monetization companies like Exapik can help mobile and web publishers analyze and monetize their consumer data

Ian Paterson, founder of data monetization company Exapik, on tackling the challenge of targeting users across devices

Savvy mobile and web publishers know how to pull in large numbers of readers and monetize those readers via advertising. But many publishers are forgoing tens of thousands of dollars per month by not taking this process a step further. This is where Ian Paterson, founder of data monetization company Exapik, sees a huge opportunity.

Exapik’s pitch is that if you attract a significant audience, then you are producing valuable marketing data. While major players like Google, Facebook and Twitter are already aware of this, other publishers often aren’t.

“A lot of companies are out there trying to exploit the knowledge gap,” Paterson said without naming names. “What we’re doing differently is telling the companies, “Here’s what your data is worth, here’s what we plan on doing with it, and here’s how much you’re going to make.”

Exapik takes a long view, Paterson added, so that his company splits revenues with the publisher partner. “We’re taking the high road here,” he said. “The right thing to do is to be transparent.”

Tapping email

Before mobile, cookies—small pieces of data that are downloaded to your computer when you visit many web sites—were the primary mechanism for tracking user behavior. But today, consumers spend more time on their mobile devices than they do on desktops. This presents a challenge to advertisers since cookies don’t persist as long as they do on desktops.

For advertisers, getting a consistent profile of a single user across various devices has been a challenge, to say the least. There are two primary ways to target across devices: probabilistic and deterministic targeting. Probabilistic targeting uses different sources of data—such as Wi-Fi check-ins, device type and location data—to make educated guesses about who the user is. Deterministic targeting is based on log-ins. If you use Facebook on desktop and also use Facebook’s app, then Facebook knows that you are the same person.

Exapik employs deterministic targeting as well, but its user profiles are anonymized. Rather than requiring log-ins, Exapik bases its identities on hashed email. After creating a hashed identity on desktop with cookies, the company links the email-based identity to a mobile device ID to discern that the user is the same.

“When we look at emails, we’re looking at the hash of that email,” he said, referring to a one-way encryption method. “When a user logs onto a device, our data contributors send that hash and we match it to a cookie. On mobile, we match it to an ad ID and we’re able to pass those pairs on.”

Using protection

Paterson stresses that no customer data is ever connected to the customer’s actual identity. The company employs two types of privacy technology. At the collection point, Exapik requires disclosure and consent with its partners. The company also has a three-tiered opt-out system that respects do not track settings, network opt outs and industry opt outs.

Monetizing data

Paterson doesn’t consider himself in the ad tech business. Instead, he monetizes data, which means his customers are often ad tech firms. Prior to Exapik, Paterson ran the data insights group at a Big Data analytics firm that served financial services and market research customers. Financial services, market research and advertising all have “massive appetites for data,” Paterson said. “But very little of that world is known to people outside of a small group of experts.”

Assessing the market, Paterson said that although large firms can afford experts who know how to use data, “there’s a knowledge gap in the mid-tier,” which Exapik is addressing.

As such, the company is a translator of sorts that explains data and data usage to firms that don’t have a firm grip on the topic. Exapik also works with other data companies when they need help. “If you have a problem, you call the cops,” he said. “If the cops have a problem, they call in the SWAT team. We’re the data SWAT team.”




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