What’s the ROI of annual reports and other publications? It’s a negative if no one is reading them (no matter how well they are written and designed).
In a guest post for The Communications Network, Ory Rinat, who leads digital strategy for the Heritage Foundation, makes a strong case the “the PDF is dying.” For the first time in 2015, the foundation published its 2015 Index of Culture and Opportunity entirely on Medium, replacing the original format of a print book and a PDF. Take a look — it’s a LOT of content but easy to skim and get key points.
Rinat explains, “The Index has a wealth of valuable data, but…we doubted that many of those who received the book read through a majority of it…What about those who were interested in just a few of the data points, or even a single indicator? Asking them to read through an entire book to get the information they need is simply unrealistic. We knew that if we didn’t make the information easy to use and find, our audience would look elsewhere.”
Completing the “publication” took less than a week from setup to launch, Rinat says, and “the end result was exactly what we were looking for: a de-facto microsite that looks and functions as well as a custom-built destination.” And it attracted 20,000 views in the first month.
Compare those results with a study by the World Bank that examined the ROI of its policy reports. While the reports are intended to inform and influence the development community, more than 32 percent of its reports had never downloaded. And only 13 percent of the reports were downloaded more than 250 times. Almost 87 percent had never been cited by another source.
The study’s authors note, “Knowledge is central to development. The World Bank invests about one-quarter of its budget for country services in knowledge products. Still, there is little research about the demand for these knowledge products and how internal knowledge flows affect their demand.”
Not that the World Bank has asked me, but the format of reports is just part of their usefulness and readability. It’s telling that the second page of their study lists 36 acronyms that are needed to understand World Bank jargon.
In my organization, these days we’re talking less about channels (websites, blogs, and social media) and focusing more on content. There are many ways to market content, and the medium (pardon the pun) is only part of the message.