One of my favorite riffs is: "Ebooks are the hip and stylish younger sister of the nerdy white paper."
When I deliver the line to B2B marketing or technology audiences, it gets a lot of laughs.
But there are also a few people who are incredulous. Their body language says: "How can David be so rude to white papers?"
I wouldn't say I am totally dismissive of white papers. However, I do not agree with how white papers are typically used, which is why I talk so much about the ebook as different.
I've found that it is nearly impossible for marketers to get out of their bad white paper habits. Therefore, I prefer suggesting they do something completely different – an ebook.
Here is why readers do not like white papers:
- White papers are usually boring. (Hey, they're white). In fact they are so boring that most people don’t want to read white papers. Instead they feel they have to read them.
- The portrait orientation of a typical white paper does not work on a computer screen. It either frustrates readers or forces them to print out the document.
- Most white papers require registration (and therefore are used as lead bait instead of true information delivery). The forced registration sets up an adversarial relationship with the reader. The give (email) to get (white paper) is a transaction.
- Because of the registration requirement, very few people blog or tweet about white papers (because they do not want their readers to be hit with unwanted emails or sales calls). Therefore white papers almost never go viral. But an ebook like, say, What Matters Now has been downloaded probably a million times.
- White paper content is frequently just re-hashed product information designed as a "problem-solution" narrative. When you promise to deliver valuable content written in an interesting way and then prattle on about your products you annoy readers.
- Most white papers use too much gobbledygook -- the flexible, scalable, cutting-edge, mission-critical, world-class, innovative sort of words.
I admit I'm being a bit lazy.
It's too difficult to convince people to change the way they do white papers. So instead I am a cheerleader for ebooks.