September 12, 2005
Blog Entry

The Surprising Truth About PDFs & Audio Downloads

SUMMARY: No summary available.
by Anne Holland, President

Fact: Ads we run for our Sherpa Guides get 23.3% more clicks, with no discernable change in conversion, when we put the word "New" in the headline.

This combined with the boffo success of the Web might make you think new things invariably perform better than old ones. Not so.

Our Web department shocked me to the core a few weeks ago when they reported that roughly 30% of all of our customers who purchase PDF-versions of reports from us *never* click on their PDF download links.

I asked Sharon Hamner who heads customer service if she had any idea why someone who just paid for a Guide wouldn't want to open and read it. "We have PDF customers who call a few weeks later to complain they haven't gotten their copy in the mail," she said. "I don't think they always understand what ordering a PDF versus printed copy means."

PDFs may not be that new, but they are new enough that some executives in corporate America are still confused by them. So, now we've begun automatically shipping a printed copy with most Sherpa Guide PDF orders, even though it costs us more, to make sure customers are happy.

We asked Paul Dunay who heads marketing for a division of BearingPoint about this PDF versus print problem when we interviewed him for a Case Study on his new podcasting tactics. (See link below for that story.)

He said he noticed that PDFs of white papers don't always get downloaded even when prospects have registered for them. So nine months ago he launched a big new marketing program: snail mailing printed copies of white papers. Reportedly prospects are delighted.

Audio downloads and podcasts seem to be in a similar situation. Some consumers embrace them wholeheartedly. But you can't discontinue older-formats and only feature MP3s.

Example: A Case Study on we published this summer revealed a landing page for educated 40-somethings got 59% clicks on PDF links versus 16% clicks on audio download links.

Another example: This week's Case Study on Simply Audiobooks (see below) reveals the company's big new launch for fall 2005 is offering cassette tapes in addition to CDs. What about audio downloads? VP Marketing Sanjay Singhal told us they're holding off on those because study results show there's nine times more demand for cassettes now.

How weird is that? A super-hot Internet company is launching into the cassette marketplace because it's more profitable than audio downloads.

Reality is, newer technology doesn't always win the ballgame.

Useful links related to this blog

MarketingSherpa's BearingPoint Case Study on marketing via podcasts (Open access until 9/17/2005)

MarketingSherpa's Case Study:

ContentBiz Case Study on Simply Audiobooks: (Open access until 9/18/2005)


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