Online Market Research Giant TNS Snaps Up Boston’s Compete

Compete Inc., a Boston-based competitive metrics provider, is being purchased by global market research giant Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS). TNS will pay $75 million for the search and site analytics firm, with another $75 million in additional payments possible over the next two years depending on revenue performance.

Compete, formed eight years ago, gathers its data from its own panel and from relationships with ISPs. It will continue to operate as a separate entity after the acquisition, but its clickstream data will be merged with TNS’s large-scale consumer research and ad measurement efforts, according to Compete’s official company blog.

“Marrying online and offline consumer data with media spending and exposure is the Holy Grail of marketing,” said the blog. “All of our marketer, agency and media partners will benefit from access to new consumer, brand and media research… It’s a big, exciting vision that neither company could do on its own.”

Many marketers know Compete for the traffic research tools offered free on its Web site, but the company makes its money by selling custom market analysis reports to a number of verticals, including automotive, media and telcos. It offers other paid tools as well, including its search analytics product.

The companies declined further comment on the deal.

Although Compete lost $4.5 million last year — a loss it attributes to “building its panel and industry expertise” — its 2007 annual revenue of $14.9 million was more than 50 percent higher than the 2006 figure. Compete had gross assets of $11.2 million at the end of the year.

In its statement, TNS said it will apply to its current panels Compete’s ability to profile, measure and segment online behavior. That effort will begin in the United States, where TNS has an access panel of more than a million people, before being applied to the company’s entire panel network.

“In the longer term, we will look at the opportunities to add further value by using our Worldpanel, Retail & Shopper and audience measurement capabilities to integrate data on purchasing and viewing behavior with internet search and shopping behavior,” said TNS Chief Executive David Lowden. “We believe this will allow TNS to develop new syndicated and custom products, unique in our industry.” This story was updated to add details on Compete’s business model.

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