What's Not Working?
R.I.P. the PDF
Two important factors are working against the influence we used to achieve with white papers: first, how we consume content in this media-rich digital world has drastically changed; and second, the traditional file format (PDF), just doesn’t cut it anymore.
How we consume content
We’re quoting once again from the Foleon eBook referenced earlier:
“Your carefully crafted copy and painstakingly gathered statistics won’t earn those clicks on their own. The average human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish. And with 3.3 million Facebook posts, 448,800 tweets, and 149,513 emails sent every minute, competition for your readers' attention is intense, to say the least. White papers need serious sparkle just to compete.
More than 50% of internet traffic is now mobile, and web designers have adapted to this trend by creating what's known as responsive design. Before this, web pages simply scaled according to the size of a user's screen, retaining their layout. Naturally, this made most pages both unreadable and unnavigable on smaller devices”
Responsive design solved this by allowing elements on a page to rearrange, resize, or be completely hidden from view in response to the size of the screen. When a smaller screen is used, font-sizes increase, buttons become larger for touch screens, and the entire layout adjusts to make the page mobile-friendly.
But while this has become standard for web designers in a mobile-first world, producers of other digital content assets like white papers have generally not adapted. Surprisingly, most companies that offer white papers and eBooks on their websites still use PDF format.”
The PDF format no longer serves us well
“The problem with PDFs is that they're unreadable on smaller screens. They're fixed-layout documents — they can't adjust or adapt to different screen sizes. Reading them on a mobile device requires excessive zooming and panning around, which is a terrible experience for users.
Mobile traffic is ever-increasing. If you decide to produce your white paper as a PDF, you risk excluding this vast segment of your audience. It's a design mistake that will cost you views and conversions.
While web developers have adopted mobile-first design to accommodate the vast numbers of visitors browsing the web with mobile devices, producers of white papers continue to use PDFs—a legacy file format from 1993 that is neither responsive nor measurable.
If that's not bad enough, PDFs cannot be tracked or measured. They cannot be improved or optimized based on data, and you lose track of distribution once they've been downloaded. The ability to gather data and make improvements is essential for modern marketing.”
With the decline of Adobe Flash, there’s no longer a good way to present video content within a PDF document. A recent WordStream blog highlights 37 Staggering Video Marketing Statistics for 2018. Here’s just a sample of the 37 statistics:
- One-third of online activity is spent watching video.
- Over half of video content is viewed on mobile.
- 51% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI.
- 59% of executives agree that if both text and video are available on the same topic, they are more likely to choose video.
- Viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10% when reading it in text.
- The average user spends 88% more time on a website with video.
No wonder the text-heavy PDF white paper is losing ground.
"Clearly, it’s time to choose an alternative way of presenting white papers—one that takes mobile users into account, allows you to improve your content based on reading behavior, and allows you to keep track of distribution."
CEO, Foleon Inc.