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Digital media publishers are scrambling to develop new tracking methods that let digital advertisers track consumer activity across multiple websites.

Ad tech firm Trade Desk's universal identifier has gained traction. Its tool for web publishers aims to fight companies that operate "walled gardens."

These closed online environments such as Google, Facebook, Amazon.com and social media platforms Pinterest (PINS) and Snap (SNAP) don't need third-party cookies or device identifiers because they can track actions by their logged-in users. The walled-garden firms share only limited data with advertisers and agencies but make liberal use of it themselves.