The Financial Times adds research agency Longitude

The Financial Times is bolstering its commercial offering for clients with the acquisition of London-based research company Longitude.

With 910,000 paying print and digital readers, according to the publisher, the FT is better situated than ad-reliant publishers to weather a tough ad market. But advertising, along with branded content and events, is still important to the business newspaper.

The FT plans to use Longitude’s research and thought leadership to complement its media distribution of advertising and branded content, plus its creative and video production from Alpha Grid, a content marketing video company the FT recently acquired. The publisher wouldn’t disclose the financial terms of the deal.

“[The acquisition] is a big opportunity to shift gears on our commercial offering,” said FT chief commercial officer Jon Slade. “There is a requirement for a commercial revenue in a balanced business, and talking to commercial clients is equally important as reader revenue.”

Longitude counts Barclays bank, energy consultancy DNV GL and law firm Simmons & Simmons as clients. Slade said Longitude and the FT have mutual clients, but it’s too soon to say if any of them will take on additional services.

Projects with Longitude’s clients typically last four months, from the advising phase to designing and conducting research, analysis and then content creation. Longitude CEO Rob Mitchell said Longitude’s clients have been moving away from project-based work to long-term campaigns, in keeping with a trend in the industry. Longitude’s research typically focuses on businesses rather than consumers, often targeting the C-suite. For Accenture, Longitude surveyed 32,000 people about their attitudes toward banking services.

“The conversation with clients has changed in the last couple of years,” Mitchell said. “Thought leadership didn’t often involve discussions about KPIs and measurement. Now, every conversation starts with it. It’s something clients still struggle with.”

The FT has increased its focus on proving effectiveness of its ad campaigns and growing client services over the years. It runs roughly 100 studies a year that measure the effectiveness of its ad campaigns, so it knows what content format a brand should use to improve its reputation and how much improvement it can expect, Slade said.

Over the last four years, the FT has grown its client services team, doubling the number of people involved in execution and client relations on the sales side to 40 people. The importance of campaign delivery has also increased: The ratio of sales to delivery people was 6 to 1; now, it’s 3 to 1, Slade said.

In the next year, the FT will move back to its original headquarters near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, freeing up space for Longitude’s 33 employees. Longitude plans to hire about 15 people in the next 12 months in all its departments, including commercial, editorial and research, Mitchell said.

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