The New White Paper?

True confession - I've written quite a few white papers.  If you're not familiar with the format - white papers are:

"A white paper is a persuasive essay sponsored as a piece of marketing content by an organization. - See more at:"

I was amused to see what the white paper expert had to say about white papers.

  • Who publishes white papers?  "Any B2B vendor selling anything relatively new, relatively complex or relatively expensive could likely benefit from a white paper."
  • Who reads them?  "White papers are read by almost anyone contemplating the purchase of a relatively new, relatively complex, or relatively high-priced product or service for their business."
  • How do people read white papers?  "...they tend to skim, scan and skip... especially if they're reading off the screen. Don't you?"
  • How much does a white paper cost? "In 2005, executives from the white paper syndicates told me that medium-sized technology firms can expect to spend $3,000 to $5,000 to have a white paper written and illustrated. Five years later, that still sounds close to the ballpark...At the high end...$5,000 - $10,000."
  • How long does a white paper take? "In my experience, after working on more than 100 white papers, it takes 6 to 8 weeks to get from the first interview to an approved white paper draft."  Seriously?  I could kiss the screen.  Yes, it takes time to be clear!

There are topics where white papers - in other words, language - is better-suited to the job than the mix of visual communication, narrative and language that goes into explanation video. Yeah, surprise - I really don't think video is the right tool for every job!

That being said, in most cases, video is a better tool for many of the business goals and subjects traditionally addressed with white papers:

I quote the white paper guy at some length:


"Why do companies do white papers?

In general, vendors publish white papers for two main reasons: either to gather leads, or to stake out a position as a leader in their market space.

According to one study, vendors publish white papers for all these reasons:

  • Gather leads for the sales force
  • Educate potential customers
  • Influence a selection committee
  • Educate the sales force or channel partners
  • Educate the media
  • Send to a trade publication or website
  • Redefine a market space
  • Build credibility or mind share
  • Keep up with competitors that have white papers.

On a strategic level, white papers fit into the widespread trend of "marketing with content."


All things being equal, I'd bet the house on a well-crafted explanation video bringing 5-10x the ROI against these goals, over a white paper.  It's partially math. White papers tend to be about 2,500 words long. Forrester's Dr. James McQuivey is frequently quoted by the video folks for having said that 1 minute of video conveys as much information as 1.8 million words.  

It's also behavior.  I've looked at the detailed viewing data on (literally) thousands of explanation videos. People don't tend to skim/scan/skip.  For the most part, they watch, then they stop.  They may stop before the end, but they don't skim/scan/skip very much.  It's in the nature of the form (chronological medium).

If you want a white paper, go see ThatWhitePaperGuy.  He clearly knows what he's doing.  Give us a call to talk video though.  (888) 618-9088.   

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