Engagement has long been a marketing watchword, but brands and marketers are still constantly evolving the ways in which they drive engagement.

It’s been just over six months since Financial Times launched FT², our content marketing suite. The launch saw our commercial team increase its focus on content creation, data analytics, and new digital tools with a single goal: to connect the FT’s sought-after audience with advertisers in a way that delivers the best possible reader experience.

How have we and our clients fared in those six months, and what have we learned?

In September 2015, we introduced our Paid Post format — clearly marked advertising content that features on the FT.com homepage. We launched Paid Posts after extensive customer research showed 74% of FT readers found value in promoted content from advertisers, and 58% thought advertiser-promoted content was as valuable or moreso than traditional advertising on FT.com.

When it's done right, advertiser-sponsored content can provide as much value to readers as editorial content.
When it's done right, advertiser-sponsored content can provide as much value to readers as editorial content.

Our commercial team of designers and writers integrates with our analytics team to produce content we know will draw in readers. We recently ran our most successful Paid Post campaign for Standard & Poor’s, which had an engagement level similar to our editorial content.

Why was engagement so high? Our analysis showed it was due to content themes that were simultaneously important to Standard & Poor’s and of interest to our audience at that particular moment in time.

These themes included: rising interest rates, the persistence of smart data, and indexing real assets. These topics were particularly timely because they coincided with high consumer interest in UK real estate investment.

Simply summarised, we delivered the right content to the right audience at the right time.

Timing was key to the success of the Standard & Poor's Paid Post campaign. Readers tend to view advertiser-paid content as valuable when it taps into timely concerns or relevant issues of the moment.
Timing was key to the success of the Standard & Poor's Paid Post campaign. Readers tend to view advertiser-paid content as valuable when it taps into timely concerns or relevant issues of the moment.

Analytics also have been central to the success of FT², from determining a content theme to assessing campaign performance and engagement.

For example, real-time information allowed us to optimise our headlines instantaneously for the Standard and Poor’s campaign, altering them to react to how each article was performing.

This agile approach has increased active engagement time by 123% — and our click-through rate by 30% — since we launched Paid Post in October 2015.

Our ability to monitor engagement and adapt our content accordingly delivered our highest-ever homepage click-through rate, page scroll depth, and active browsing time for the Standard & Poor’s campaign.

While smart data analytics lead to compelling advertising content, user experience is just as important. We recently adopted a striking new look for our Paid Posts, optimised to work across a variety of devices.

For the first time, our pages appear across the full width of the screen and allow for animated graphs and videos. Our most successful articles have all been simple in their layout, without placing unnecessary complexity in the way of the user.

Maximising reach is about understanding how to engage different audiences with the right content in the right place at the right time — in any format.
Maximising reach is about understanding how to engage different audiences with the right content in the right place at the right time — in any format.

Looking forward, the look and feel of editorial and advertising content will constantly change, yet the fundamentals of effective engagement still apply. Know your audience, understand what piques their interest, and present it in an eye-catching yet unobtrusive way.

By maintaining a flexible approach and a dedicated focus on content, data, and the user experience, publications can deliver genuinely engaging content that works for readers and advertisers.