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What is Your Favorite White Paper?

Panel of experts review thousands of white papers over the years

Book Review Journal

White papers come in all shapes and forms. Our Panel of White Paper Experts have written and reviewed thousands of white papers over the years. Which white paper stands out in their mind? We have invited White Paper Experts to answer this query: "Give one example of your most favorite white paper and why you like it". Read on to get their insights.   

Jonathan Kantor's Favorite White Paper -- Transforming Sampling into Shopper Marketing: Walmart’s “Bright Ideas” Event Program

Michael Stelzner's Favorite White Paper -- The Expanding Digital Universe

Jonathan Kranz's Favorite White Paper -- The Taxonomy Folksonomy Cookbook

Must-read resources on how to write good white papers:

Jonathan Kantor

Blog WhitePaperPundit Twitter Jonathan_Kantor

"My favorite white papers are ones that use a variety of visual elements to grab reader attention.”

Jonathan Kantor's Bio

Jonathan Kantor is the principal and founder of The Appum Group, "The White Paper Company", and has been producing commercial white papers for the past 11 years. He is also the author of the White Paper Pundit blog. Jonathan's experience with white papers is also coupled with over 25 years of enterprise business experience with leading industry innovators such as Apple Computer, Microsoft, Digital Equipment Corporation, and J.D. Edwards Enterprise Software (now a division of Oracle Corporation). This experience included a variety of sales, marketing, business development, and management positions.

Jonathan Kantor's Tip

My favorite white papers are ones that use a variety of visual elements to grab reader attention.

As part of my weekly Friday FREE White Paper List on the WhitePaperPundit.com blog, I have an opportunity to review hundreds of white papers that have been freely distributed via Twitter.

The best white paper that I have seen over the past few months comes from the In-Store Marketing Institute called: Transforming Sampling into Shopper Marketing: Walmart’s “Bright Ideas” Event Program.

The reason I like this white paper is the way in which it uses a variety of visual elements to deliver critical business messages. The white paper leverages several ‘attention-generating’ elements such as:

  • Colorful photographs, illustrations, and captions to build reader affinity.
  • Colorful column charts with callout messages to reinforce critical business points.
  • Shaded text boxes containing related business statistics and messages.
  • Bright, colorful SME quotes represented as large page callouts.

This white paper is a good example of what I call in my new book, “Crafting White Paper 2.0”, a “White Paper 2.0” strategy. This concept refers to a new generation of white papers that embrace a new set of formatting and design principles to engage today’s time and attention-challenged business reader.

As readers become accustomed to the short, quick, colorful methodologies associated with Social Media messaging such as Twitter, the white paper medium must evolve from its stark, black and white past to engage this new and savvier online audience.

For more information on ‘Short Attention Marketing’, interested readers should review my free white paper on this topic.

Jonathan Kantor Recommends

  • Free document distribution sites: Scribd.com, DocStoc.com, Slideshare.net, Gazhoo.com, Yudu.com, and WhitePapers.org. 
  • Blog sharing sites such as BizSugar.com, Sphinn.com, and Reddit.com.
  • WhitePaperPundit: The Friday FREE White Paper List, a listing of free white papers from weekly Twitter Tweets that don’t require registration, posted each Friday.
  • Twitter search criteria set to keywords: “White Paper”, and “White Papers”.
  • Google Alerts set to “White Paper”, and “White Papers”.  

Michael Stelzner

Blog WritingWhitePapers Twitter Mike_Stelzner

"Conversational writing can and should be utilized to convey complex ideas and draw in readers."

Michael Stelzner's Bio

Michael Stelzner is one of the leading authorities on the topic of writing and marketing white papers. Michael is also the author of the bestselling book, Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged.

Michael Stelzner's Tip

Let’s face it, white papers are typically dry and boring. However, they don’t have to be. (Let’s you and I change that, ok?)

Here is a great paper by IDC called The Expanding Digital Universe. This paper was written by John F. Gantz and a team of 8 other writers (which makes it even more amazing how well the whole thing flows). This paper reads like a great story rather than an analyst report.It includes much of the trademarks of an excellent white paper, including lots of images and creative subheads.

However, what I want to draw your attention to its outstanding writing.

Consider this excerpt:
    HOW BIG IS THE DIGITAL UNIVERSE, REALLY?

    It is pretty easy to picture a byte - it’s the equivalent of a character on a page - or even a megabyte,  which contains about the same amount of information as a small novel. But what about a million million megabytes, which is an exabyte?

    If we stick with the book analogy, then the digital universe in 2006 could be likened to 12 stacks of books extending from the Earth to the sun. Or one stack of books twice around the Earth’s orbit. By 2010 the stack of books could reach from the sun to Pluto and back. In 2006 those books would represent about 6 tons of books for every man, woman, and child on Earth. A large adult elephant weighs about 6 tons.


This paper is absolutely littered with conversational writing.

Take home lesson: Conversational writing can and should be utilized to convey complex ideas and draw in readers.

Michael Stelzner Recommends

Sarah Mitchell

Blog Global Gopywriting Twitter globalcopywrite

"My goal is to develop a paper that becomes a reference point for how people make decisions."

Sarah Mitchell's Bio

Sarah Mitchell is a freelance copywriter with a focus on B2B content, specifically case studies and white papers. Combining successful technical, sales and writing careers, Sarah provides a rare perspective to every project. She’s especially interested in working with small and medium-sized businesses. Sarah has lived and worked on five continents. Find her  website at Global Copywriting.

Sarah Mitchell's Tip

My background is old-school software development.  I spent plenty of time working on applications and a fair bit developing systems software. If you were a systems software programmer in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, a good white paper was like finding a nugget of gold.

I can’t say I have a particular white paper I favour over others. The white papers I liked best were the ones coming out of the IBM laboratories geared at heavy-duty geeks. They didn’t contain business benefits or purchasing guides. They were hard-core technical manifestos for people needing or wanting more in-depth information about a specific area of hardware or software. The writers of these early white papers were the best technical resources working for one of the most influential technology companies of all time. Having access to an IBM white paper was the next best thing to sitting in an office and picking the brain of a leading expert.

I write white papers because of the intrinsic value those technical reports provided in my early career. Spending an hour pouring through 10-15 pages of specific detail could save days or weeks of valuable project time. I’m mindful of providing the same outcome even when I’m writing shorter papers focused purely on business benefits. My goal is to develop a paper that becomes a reference point for how people make decisions.

I’m delighted the broader business community is adopting the white paper as a means of conveying information.  The technology industry developed white papers out of necessity.  As companies realise the value of educating their customer, the white paper is finding new purpose.

Sarah Mitchell Recommends

Jonathan Kranz

Blog Kranzcom Twitter jonkranz

"The whitepaper is an opportunity to reframe an issue in a way favorable to your customers and to your business"

Jonathan Kranz's Bio

Jonathan Kranz is the author of The eBook eBook: How to Turn Your Expertise Into Magnetic Marketing Material and coauthor, with Joe Pulizzi, of The Content Marketing Playbook. He’s all about writing helpful content and making screwy videos. Join the party!

Jonathan Kranz's Tip

A great whitepaper isn’t just about a topic; it’s an opportunity to reframe an issue in a way favorable to your customers and to your business.

That’s what I love about The Taxonomy Folksonomy Cookbook. Author Daniela Barbosa takes a previously esoteric and fairly obscure topic, taxonomy (think indexes and card catalogs – remember card catalogs?) and turns it into a vital, exciting business issue that anyone can understand.

In one bold act of communications judo, Barbosa has:

  • Positioned herself, and Dow Jones, as experts in an important and growing field
  • Helped business decision-makers understand the significance of information access within the context of their own enterprises
  • Helped her information-scientist audience communicate more effectively (by sharing the whitepaper/ebook) with their business-oriented colleagues.

Further, as Jonathan Kantor says so effectively elsewhere in this post, the visual presentation of a good paper should complement the written content. Here, The Taxonomy Folksonomy Cookbook has hit it out of the ballpark. Custom illustrations and a brilliant layout not only reinforce various key points throughout the paper, but as a whole, effectively communicate a light-hearted spirit that makes a complex topic a whole lot less intimidating.

Jonathan Kranz Recommends

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Ambal Balakrishnan

Ambal Balakrishnan is the Co-founder of ClickDocuments. She is a technologist-turned-marketer. Ambal spent about a decade in the Corporate world in various roles – engineering, program management, business development, strategy and marketing for premium and fast growing product divisions at fortune 500 companies. Education: MBA from Wharton, Univ. of Penn and Masters in Computer Science from Purdue University. Based in Silicon Valley. Twitter: twitter.com/ambal and twitter.com/clickdocuments Blog: Clickdocuments.com/connectthedocs

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