White Papers and The Green Movement

April 25, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Misc. Rantings, WP Marketing 

Does it seem like there have been a lot of white papers published from promoters of the “green” movement these days?

For those of you who have been following my weekly, “FREE White Paper List”, I performed an unofficial count of all the white papers dealing with “green” or “sustainability” issues going back to the start of my list in April 2009, approximately one year ago. To qualify, I counted any white paper that addressed the issues of: global warming, climate change, recycling, green corporate strategy, corporate sustainability and even product companies touting new green products or in support of a green message.

Out of a total of 547 free white papers, there were 30 free white papers promoting “green”issues during this period. Now I’m sure there were a lot more papers that were published, but since they required online registration and didn’t make it to my list. Nonetheless, this represents about 6% of all the papers on these lists, which is more than any other single technology, business, or marketing issue. It even surpassed topics related to the economic recession, a subject that one would think would be even greater than any green issue in the business community.

So the question that must be asked is, “Why has the green movement embraced the white paper medium so strongly?”

My response points to the credibility of the medium as a whole. If you want to promote a particular position or issue, the mere mention of having a “white paper” is the essential marketing bait that connotes credibility and authority. Now this doesn’t automatically mean that every white paper and its content is going to be viewed as credible merely by publishing one, especially in light of the many news stories that have been published questioning the authenticity of whether the planet is, in fact, getting warmer.

My point is that the use of term “white paper” satisfies an important element that every marketer yearns for. Specifically, it is highly effective in grabbing the attention of a target reader and drawing them to your website or landing page. The term has a much more powerful draw that saying ‘case study’, ‘brochure’, ‘special report’, or ‘product guide’. After all when was the last time you were motivated to visit a website when you were heard about a free ‘brochure’ or ‘special report’ from Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, or Google?

The term ‘white paper’ and its history as a factually-based information medium is the key that draws the attention and engages readers. It is one of the reasons why business decision makers vote white papers at the top of their list in influential sources of information.

After promoting your cause with the term ‘white paper’, the next determining factor whether your white paper reader registers for the paper, reads it, and takes action on it is based on the quality of your content. One’s passion alone is not sufficient to accomplish that.

In summary, the green movement is no different than any other political, commercial, or non-proft group that wants to get the word out. It just so happens that the green movement is the first in what will probably be a long list of additional groups over the coming year to leverage the white paper medium and generate awareness for their cause.

The Next Generation White Paper on iPad

The business community is now ‘abuzz’ over the Apple iPad, just as it was two years ago with the introduction of the Apple iPhone. Using history as our guide, what has the past two years of experience with the iPhone taught us that may provide a glimpse into what we will be able to do with the iPad?

The iPhone completely changed our perspective of what can be done with a cell phone. Sure there were other smart phones at the time, but none combined the integration and application support that dramatically multiplied our mobile productivity. The ability to use a series of iPhone applications such as mapping, contact lists, digital photos, retail support, and communications in an integrated fashion kept other hardware and network providers awake at night.

I predict the same future with the iPad. Frankly, if there was any product that will finally spell the death knell of the print media, it is the iPad. Being able to obtain an online newspaper or magazine complete with video, hyperlinks, feedback  on any article, discussion groups, and social media sharing, not only will make today’s newspapers look like stone tablets, but it will also relegate other more recent products such as Amazon’s Kindle to the same dustbin of history that currently occupies products such as the Apple Newton and the Microsoft Tablet PC.

So with all of its potential, its only a matter of time before future white papers will be produced distributed with the iPad in mind. What will they look like, and what capabilities will they have? I’m not a psychic, but here is my best guess, based on the evolutionary changes we have seen with the iPhone:

1. Real Time Info Access – Chart, graphs, tables, and other data-intensive information will be updated on a real-time basis, making the relevancy of the white paper very current, resulting in fewer re-writes and updates of existing information, besides lowering whtie paper production and development costs.

2. Section-by-Section Video Analysis - Readers will access short videos (no more than 2-3 minutes) in each section of the white paper which will reinforce and enhance text-based content. This can include industry analysts, celebrity spokes persons, animated charts and graphs with relevant information, or background/industry information to bring the reader up to speed on the topic. This will create a greater interest and incentive to read the associated text content on the page.

3. Language Conversion – The reader will be able to choose from and convert text content from several languages on demand. This will create one single white paper version to satisfy world wide demand. This will increase the number of American white papers available in foreign languages besides English, but it will also dramatically lower the production costs typically associated with developing white papers for world wide markets by lowering the cost of translation and development.

4. Reader Feedback and Measurement – Real time reader feedback and measurement will be provided to the white paper marketer, such as number of downloads, number of readers in each section, average time document has been opened, average time before closure, all things currently enjoyed with software applications, websites, and other online information. This will help marketers hone in and improve subsequent white paper content.

5. Social Media Integration – White paper content will have sophisticated social media integration. Rather than reTweeting a simple hyperlink to a landing page or the entire white paper, readers will reTweet individual sections or pieces of information paper to one or more user-selected social media sites. The reTweeting of individual sections will increase white paper readership as compared to simple  overview statements that today’s reader sees on Twitter.

6. Blog Integration – With white paper user registration on the decline, white paper marketers will look to new ways to generate leads, and increase reader engagement. Improved lead generation will be accomplished via user feedback on the iPad by tying content to social media sites where readers can provide greater feedback to the marketer. By leveraging corporate blog integration into the iPad white paper, marketers will be able to provide stronger communcation links with their readers that will result will in better lead integration, while moving the reader closer to the next level in the business relationship cycle.

Will the iPad dramatically change the white paper medium in this fashion? Who knows. The simple truth is that all of these things are available today. The missing link has been the availability of a sophisticated tool that will bring them all together.

If what we have seen from the iPhone is any guide to the future, the next several years should generate an entirely new generation of white papers that will mark the start of a new evolution for this business medium.

No Patience for Uninterrupted Text

(Source: theonion.com)

For those of you who follow this blog, you know that 99.95% of my posts contain serious stuff about white papers. So when I’m presented with some tongue in cheek humor such as an article on the parody news website, The Onion, it comes as a welcome relief. After all, how many occasions can one point to where the issue of business communications makes you keel over in stupefying laughter?

Well, last week my good friend and white paper cohort, Gordon Graham, forwarded me a link to an article on The Onion called, “Nation Shudders At Large Block Of Uninterrupted Text“. While the article is supposed to be a parody, there is a lot of truth that reinforces a theme I have been touting for several years, namely that we are a short-attention society and have little patience to read large blocks of unformatted text, especially with regard to white paper content.

Some of the gems in this article are:

“Dumbfounded citizens from Maine to California gazed helplessly at the frightening chunk of print, unsure of what to do next. Without an illustration, chart, or embedded YouTube video to ease them in, millions were frozen in place, terrified by the sight of one long, unbroken string of English words.”

Or this one:

“At 3:16 p.m., a deafening sigh was heard across the country as the nation grappled with the daunting cascade of syllables, whose unfamiliar letter-upon-letter structure stretched on for an endless 500 words. Children wailed for the attention of their bewildered parents, businesses were shuttered, and local governments ground to a halt as Americans scanned the text in vain for a web link to click on.”

While this may cause you to guffaw, some say that humor works because it often contains a grain of truth. So while we may laugh at the idea of stressing over large blocks of uninterrupted text, how many of us really read a white paper from start to finish,  without having our attention distracted by a website, email message, screen popup, calendar reminder, text message, or phone call? A lot.

One of the major problems with white papers are formats containing vast streams of left flush paragraphs with little to no formatting. Marketers cannot assume that today’s reader will read content with the same degree of interest as the author. If you embed key solution advantage messages in a mass of mono-font text, the chances are good your reader will miss them entirely.

White papers must bring bottom line messages to the forefront using techniques such as pull quotes callouts, shaded text boxes, graphics and bullets to grab the attention of short attention readers. Hopefully, the humor associated with articles such as this one on The Onion hopefully will grab the attention of the traditional white paper formatter and drive the point home to drop the streams of uninterrupted text in their white papers, because when I see that it is far from funny.

After all, like the parable about the tree in the forest, if no one reads what you have written because it is poorly formatted and presented, did it really matter that you wrote it in the first place?

The Evolution of the White Paper Sidebar

April 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Design & Format, WP Components 

The white paper sidebar is quickly becoming one of the most importance pieces of real estate in today’s modern commercial white paper. A space that was once considered a blank, white margin with little purpose other than to provide some space between the text and the edge of the paper, has now become a place to house a host of appealing information.

The first use of the white paper sidebar was to house the text callout (aka pull quote for the copywriters  in the audience). Callouts are highlighted portions of text from an adjacent white paper page that represent strategic points of interest that the reader should notice and understand. The goal with the text callout is to engage the reader, and create an incentive to read the primary content on the white paper page.

Next came the graphic callout, where a digital image such as a business chart, photo, clipart, or concept graphic is inserted into the white paper sidebar. The reason this made sense was to avoid wasting valuable room on the primary content page that was reserved for text. If you think about it, inserting a graphic in between two paragraphs uses valuable page space that could be used for additional explanatory content. Most graphics inserted into a white paper page use a large amount of white space on either side of the graphic element. Therefore, inserting graphics into the sidebar makes good use of the available space on the page that would  grow the total number of pages and the overall size of the white paper.

So what’s the next step for the white paper sidebar given this evolutionary process?

Why, the video callout of course! Since the Adobe PDF has become the white paper format standard, this print technology can easily incorporate video into a page. We already have video white papers, but while I am a big proponent of this technology, the only problem is that the ENTIRE white paper is transformed into a streaming video presentation. The document-oriented framework, that has been part of the traditional white paper is lost by this transformation.

One of the reasons that other white paper format transitions (audio, podcasts, etc) haven’t seen significant success is that readers still like the option of reading a document, but are open to enhancements to that format. Video callouts integrated into a sidebar makes a lot of sense without dramatically altering what has made white papers successful to date.

Imagine the concept of a white paper with integrated video:

You have just downloaded a PDF white paper from Twitter, and as you scroll to the Introduction section, you notice in the sidebar a black square with player controls at the bottom jus as you would when you visit YouTube. When you click on the play arrow, you witness a well recognized analyst from your sector discussing recent industry trends pertaining to the white paper topic.

The short video (about 2 minutes long) shifts between the presenter, an animated line chart, or industry-specific B-roll footage that helps you better understand the issues related to the white paper subject matter. This same points reinforce the Introduction text adjacent to the video. After watching the video you have a higher level of knowledge on the white paper topic, and reading the adjacent text in the Introduction leverages what you have just seen in the short video.

Now multiply this idea for each subsequent section in the white paper: The problem assessment section, the solution advantage section, the case study (perhaps an actual testimonial customer describing how the solution helped their business), and finally a video in the concluding summary. This would be a powerful way to deliver information for future Gen X, and Millenium generation decision makers that are more comfortable with online information and Social Media, than they are reading an traditional text-oriented white paper.

My guess is that we’ll see something like this within the next 2-5 years. By the end of the decade, the addition of video in the PDF format should be a standard practice, but only time will tell. Adobe will have to make the addition of short video as easy as adding a graphic image is now.

What would it take to make it happen? Only the imagination and innovation of a business marketer who has the talent and desire to be the first to do so. Let’s hope both Adobe and a future generation of business marketers have that vision.

The FREE White Paper List: Week of 03.29.10


Title: The Coming Evolution of U.S. Market Risk Regulations

(Click to Download)

Sponsor: KPMG

Publication Date: January 2010

Sponsor’s Description: KPMG’s survey explores the current state of market risk measurement and the associated regulatory capital requirements in the U.S.

White Paper Pundit Comment: This is an example that any marketer should shoot for with regard to the look and feel of a professional enterprise white paper. This piece from KPMG has an industry-specific, full page cover photo, sidebar photographs, a healthy amount of business charts, and a very nice shaded text box on page 4 with an integrated digital clip art image. The net result: complex financial information that is easy to read, understand, and assimilate. This is the ultimate goal of professional white paper design.

Download Link URL: http://bit.ly/d64wgm

Web Landing Page: http://bit.ly/amOc1g


Welcome to the FREE White Paper List!

This list is a summary of the free white papers that have been posted during the past week on Twitter. Each white paper is completely FREE and does not require email registration or personal information. This is a great way to review white paper examples and learn new techniques from hundreds of white paper marketers. Simply click on the shortened URL link next to the file name and download the white paper.

1. Jump Start Your Brand: Four Things You Need to Do to Optimize Brand Performance. http://bit.ly/dyz19o

2. Optimizing 3D Applications for Platforms Based on Intel® Atom™ Processor http://bit.ly/cSb7Ee

3. The Coming Evolution of US Risk Management Regulations: http://bit.ly/d64wgm

4. Has the Social Media News Release (SMNR) finally come of age? http://bit.ly/9mvzoB

5. How to Optimize Oracle Solaris for Intel Platforms http://bit.ly/9QpBp9

6. Understanding the distracted brain: driving using hands-free cell phones is risky http://bit.ly/9vitM6

7. Transloading Efficiency http://ow.ly/1sKnX

8. Implementing PCI — A Guide for Network Security Engineers http://ow.ly/1t1zc

9. The Total Economic Impact Of Microsoft Exchange 2010 http://bit.ly/aDqk7B

10. Building the National Care Service’ http://bit.ly/bLjk7t

11. Oracle White Paper: Why CIOs are investing in future performance http://bit.ly/cCHQle

12. Staff Adoption: A Critical Component to Maximizing Effectiveness of Your Nonprofit DB http://bit.ly/dafyG3

13. IBM White Paper : Rational Performance Tester Under the Covers HTTP/HTTPS recording http://bit.ly/9vMLwO

14. The legal and compliance considerations of Email Archiving http://bit.ly/dhqSQx

15. Covering Open Lift Buckets http://tinyurl.com/ylsm2tk

16. Five Ways to Save Five Hours; A guide to faster and more efficient workplace processes http://bit.ly/c7oRGA

17. THE NEW ECONOMY: The Great Recession is Ending – NOW WHAT? http://bit.ly/aFgI2G

18. The Rise of the Real Mom http://bit.ly/c0wwcs

19. Getting Real: The Future of Online Advertising http://bit.ly/9akNwe

20. How hackers have automated search engine poisoning attacks to distribute malware http://is.gd/barjB

21. Verizon WHITE PAPER: There’s More to Video Than Meets the Eye http://ow.ly/16X3Uu