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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

The FT deepens engagement in sponsored content with multimedia

April 13, 2016 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

While there’s no universal formula for great content one thing is for sure: context helps. When readers get to know a media brand, they develop expectations based on the experiences the brand delivers to them time and again. In a world of ever-proliferating content creators and distribution channels, these contextual associations may be more valuable than ever before.

This is one reason that marketers opt to work with trusted publishing partners when distributing their branded content. Not only do they gain reach through established audiences, they rely on publishers to know their audiences and understand what content will best resonate with them. For publishers this often means helping brands select content that will work best within the context of a given media property, or, increasingly, creating it for them outright. And it certainly means delivering an effective and engaging experience that satisfies both the marketer and the publishers’ hard-won audiences with sponsored content of the quality that they’ve come to associate with a trusted media brand.

When the FT launched its content studio FT2 six months ago, it was not the company’s first foray into content marketing. Rather, the company sought to address the booming demand for branded content placements while ensuring that this content would meet its exacting editorial and delivery standards. The decision to add paid posts—and increase the company’s content marketing initiatives—was made only after their customer research showed that 74% of FT readers found value in promoted content from advertisers, and 58% thought promoted content was as valuable or more so than traditional advertising on FT.com.

In its continued goal to improve experiences for clients and consumers alike, the FT has just announced a significant enhancement to its FT2 offering with the addition of multimedia-integrated paid posts. These dynamic paid posts are distinguished by a new look and feel, which work seamlessly across devices. The pages have been built to appear across the full width of the screen and feature animated graphs and videos to enrich client-voiced articles.

The FT's new format offers interactive charts.
The FT’s new format offers interactive charts, such as this one on the future of energy: http://paidpost.ft.com/bp/world-of-energy/

As the FT’s Content Activation Director Alexis Jarman, who heads up FT2 points out, this aligns with larger goals to focus on engagement and excellent consumer experiences, regardless of where the content is viewed. BP debuts the new format and Jarman describes the experience as “immersive and content-rich, using the full screen for deep engagement and impact.” The format and structure of the BP piece was inspired by a multimedia series called Distinctive Living, which ran last year. “The BP story is complemented with multimedia that enhances the experience and invites the reader to go deeper.” The articles also use an infinite scroll design that leads readers to additional related content.

And, when readers accept that “invitation” to keep viewing, Jarman says that it demonstrates that they are engaged. “It’s really clear to us that these campaigns are only truly successful when you engage the audiences. When sponsors speak to our audiences with authority and impart knowledge, that shows through in these engagement metrics.” And, of course, the FT has been at the forefront of evaluating (and pricing) advertising based on attention and engagement.

Already, in the first six months of FT2, Jarman says they’ve seen an evolution in our approach and a positive reaction from our audience and clients. “The product continues to evolve not just in terms of delivery, but also in our ability to provide data and metrics behind engagement.” For example, she reports that they’ve seen a 120% increase in active time. And, she says, “as much as we don’t think click through is an engagement metric, we’ve actually increased clicks by 30% just by looking at the user journey, because we’ve gotten them to engage, and because they feel comfortable and want to learn more.”

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