Content Creation

The Death of the PDF Newsletter: Is Acrobat Spinning Out?

Average  to read article
5 min

Are PDF newsletters a thing of the past, along with overhead projectors and VHS tapes? Experts say yes, and unlike the nostalgia and fun of our old classroom TVs, we don't think we'll miss them.

PDF documents as the standard for communication have long been a dubious method of information delivery. They're slow to download, clutter up our already busy email servers, and fail to capture attention and draw our eyes to the most important highlights. As all teachers who have had to repeat the phrase "it's in the syllabus" know, passive forms of communication are rarely effective. 

The team at SchoolBundle is here to empower you in building a community through dynamic communication and modernized mobile compatibility. Of course, to appreciate the power of simple information transmission, we first need to take a step back in time and explore why the PDF may be a dying breed.

The PDF Newsletter vs. The Spam Filter

To borrow a biology class analogy, PDFs and spam filters have been a bit like an evolutionary arms race. The more sophisticated PDF newsletters become with clickable links, photos, and graphics, the more diligent spam filters have become at blocking large attachments. Of course, no one wants their favorite newsletter to end up in the trash. Spam filters and firewalls have trouble distinguishing a PDF newsletter from malicious phishing attachments and other unwanted mail. This leads the user to jump through a series of hoops to whitelist the email and prevent the PDF from ending up in the spam folder. Worse yet, by the time many users realize where their newsletter has gone, important dates and events may have been missed. This creates a headache both for your community as well as your front-end staff, who are ultimately tasked with sorting out the matter.

PDF newsletters can cause you to lose credibility with ISPs.

If you're using an email server like Outlook, you may be in for further surprises regarding PDF delivery. Did you know that whenever a reader marks one of your PDF email newsletters as spam, you lose credibility with ISPs (Internet Service Providers)? If this pattern continues (such as with a large email list), an ISP can flag and block emails from your domain name. That means even your most engaged users won't receive any future correspondence from you or your team. What's worse is you won't know a thing until error messages take over your inbox. That's certainly one Monday mayhem event we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy!

Your files can get corrupted.

Some email servers will even modify your PDF content as it passes through their system. This can be an attempt to shrink the file size and make your content more deliverable. However, because the email bot doesn't understand your unique document, this often results in the exact opposite effect. PDF's may be corrupted, resulting in files that cannot be opened or read.

Lastly, we can't forget about user error. We all have forgotten to attach a PDF at some point in our professional lives. Make sure your important updates aren't the victim of a missed attachment.

Mobile Device Compatibility

In past articles, we've discussed the necessity of iOS and Android compatibility for your website. It's a known fact that 53% of today's users browse the web via mobile devices. That means your communications strategy has to hold up to the mobile test. When 50% of emails are also opened on mobile devices, PDF newsletters are rendered obsolete. Further, users prefer to fill out forms and enter data from the convenience and security of their mobile devices. Organizations that utilize dynamic communication platforms report a positive correlation between forms completed, surveys filled out and overall content engagement.

If you've ever experienced the slow scroll innate to most PDF newsletters, you'll understand why more and more users opt to go mobile. Mobile communication platforms are readily available whenever and wherever your community needs to access information. There's no scrolling through large documents, and updates are aesthetically appealing with excellent visual hierarchy. Users report that mobile updates are fun to receive in real time.

Starting a Conversation vs. Sending a Mass Email

Mass emails do not equate to mass engagement. Users prioritize being a part of a community that values their insight. Likewise, communication is a two-way street. We want to encourage dialogue within our platforms. A static newsletter is rarely a talking point. More and more companies are leaning in to integrative communications platforms designed to spark engagement.

Furthermore, PDFs provide no way to track member satisfaction or engage feedback. These forms are not designed to support surveys, comment forms or discussion. If a member wants to leave feedback, they must go outside the newsletter platform to track down appropriate contact info and send an email. A synchronous communication platform keeps communications in one convenient spot. Unlike the cold, impersonal nature of PDF newsletters, robust communication platforms invite users to be part of a community.

We want to invite more voices to the table. Built-in data tracking makes communication platforms the superior tool for scaling your business or organization. Monitor trends, track user preferences and pinpoint ways to engage your community best. By contrast, there is no way to scale click-to-conversion rates, open rates or other data via PDF, making this format limited in its usefulness for reporting.

Move to a Dynamic Communication Platform

So are PDF newsletters nearing their retirement date? Upon reviewing the shortcomings in PDF document transmission, our team agrees that it's time to host a goodbye party and let our Acrobat partners enjoy their curtain call. PDF newsletters are stepping aside in favor of dynamic communication platforms that can transform your organization. Improved communications, better engagement, visual appeal, and enhanced efficiency are just a few of the reasons why many companies are making the move away from mass emails.

Are you looking to explore integration options and update your current website or communications strategy? Believe it or not, the transition to a new platform can be seamless, easy and take less time than waiting for a PDF to load. Contact our team today to discover the next steps for growing your community.

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