Making a whitepaper PDF is a lot like cooking a delicious meal that nobody eats. You do your research on recipes, you spend hours preparing it, you serve it up – but people only take a bite or two before moving on to the next dish. The leftovers sit out before it’s eventually thrown in the trash.
Yes, the meal might be a flavor sensation but if it doesn’t look good, people will probably pass it by. As any good chef knows, we eat with our eyes first. Presentation makes a huge difference.

That’s why more and more marketers are opting for online digital formats to host their whitepapers. As well as looking better, features like interactive widgets and content analytics lift performance by boosting engagement and proving content ROI.
Read on to find out why whitepaper PDFs have had their moment – and why online whitepapers are taking their place.

Why you shouldn’t make a whitepaper PDF

Whitepapers are a labor of love. Gathering data, interviewing experts, and writing content – it doesn’t just happen overnight. This is resource-heavy content – whitepapers are pricey, even if they’re magicked up in-house.
Host it in PDF and you’ve pretty much guaranteed that effort goes to waste. It’ll have its fifteen minutes of fame and not a second more.

Here are some of the (many, many) reasons not to publish a whitepaper PDF.

The PDF experience

Are you a fan of constant resizing, endless scrolling, and lifeless formats? Then look no further than the trusty PDF!

In all seriousness, the PDF is not designed for modern devices – its product roadmap has stayed as static as its format. Because it’s not mobile-optimized, the PDF reading experience causes major frustration. Jumpy page transitions and zooming troubles mar the journey – and are terrible for brand image.

And by ignoring the importance of interactive marketing PDFs fall even flatter. Thanks to self-determination theory, we know that if someone enjoys an activity, they’ll put more time and effort into it. Content experiences that look good and invite engagement are inevitably more enjoyable. That’s why ditching the PDF for a mobile-friendly, interactive content format works wonders for lead generation and brand retention.

Metrics from PDFs

It’s the hill we’re willing to die on: High-performing content can’t exist without data. Performance analytics shine a light on what content and messaging are working well – and what needs to change. PDFs give very limited reader engagement and interaction data.
Other than the number of downloads, the metrics you get don’t give much away. By contrast, most modern content platforms offer detailed content analytics that fuel whitepaper iteration and optimization.

Alternative to PDF on phone

Cost of producing a PDF whitepaper

Thought leadership content like whitepapers can cost a lot to create. From commissioning research to hiring freelancers, direct production costs can be significant. If you opt to do it in-house, you’ll need to consider the opportunity costs of your team working on this project.

But get the format right and your whitepaper pays for itself tenfold in leads generated. In fact, 75% of B2B buyers said they would exchange both personal and company information for a whitepaper. When it’s measured against other formats like infographics and videos, this makes the whitepaper one of the most effective lead-gen content pieces.

But high whitepaper ROI depends on strong engagement and insights – neither of which you get from PDFs. And with pressure on to measure success and justify costs, marketers can’t afford to forgo content performance data.

Online whitepapers that resonate

What’s the point of making whitepapers? To attract our ideal customers.

You can spend all the time in the world creating a highly-researched, beautifully presented whitepaper but if it’s not relevant to your target audience, it’s a waste of precious resources. A whitepaper’s objective is to get attention that impacts business growth. If it’s not doing that, it’s not doing its job.

Don’t leave it up to instinct, hypotheses, or crystal balls – cold, hard data is the cornerstone of any successful whitepaper strategy. Avoid misaligned whitepapers by opting for content creation platforms that give detailed content analytics to help you pick topics that count and manage the leads you’ve collected.

Why digital is the best whitepaper format 

So now we’ve talked through why PDFs and whitepapers don’t work together, let’s turn our attention to what does.

It’s time to bring that whitepaper online.

PDF, print, and other prehistoric formats are done for. Research by Nielsen Norman Group shows that long, unbroken pages (like PDF) are far from optimal for readers’ attention span limits. On top of our natural aversion to reading bulky blocks of text, scrolling causes even more friction. Studies prove that established ways of producing content aren’t working. People want content that’s concisely presented and quick to navigate. That’s why it’s time to find better homes for our whitepapers.

Hosting a whitepaper online has some serious benefits. In contrast to PDFs, digital whitepapers are fully accessible to web crawlers. This means digital whitepapers can be key players in your SEO strategy. If you’ve refined your ideal customer profile (ICP), you’ll know what topics resonate with your target audience. Create whitepapers around these and high-intent, relevant organic traffic will come pouring in. And don’t forget to flow that traffic into your lead-gen funnel with lead capture forms.

Did you know a staggering 92% of internet users access the internet via mobile? We can’t ignore reality: your next potential lead is probably trying (and failing) to read your PDF whitepaper on their phone. Digital whitepapers streamline the experience – and are easily shareable. Going a step beyond most post-PDF formats, Turtl’s digital whitepaper layouts lean into attention psychology and brain-friendly design to make things even smoother.
It’s not possible to publish PDF to web – and even if you could, why bother? Opt for digital whitepapers if you’re tired of low engagement, data collection, and ultimately ROI.

Click to read Demystifying the psychology of attention | Turtl

Online whitepapers help you manage leads 

When you create a whitepaper online, you have access to reader data. One especially powerful data point to tap into is intent data.

Intent data does what it says on the tin: it gives deep insight into buyers’ behaviors and intentions. It’s great to use this data to build whitepapers around knowledge gaps, common concerns, and hot topics that are unearthed. It’s revolutionary to use intent data for lead management.

If you can see exactly who has spent more time reading your whitepaper, gone back for another look, or perhaps shared it, you can identify your warmest opportunities fast. Turtl surfaces detailed reader behavior – we can help you apply your preferred lead scoring model so you can score and nurture leads quickly and easily.

You save hours and hours because you no longer have to diligently go through lists of contacts who downloaded a PDF or add them to nurture streams to understand their intent. This helps immediately lessen the risk of missed opportunities, avoid unnecessary nurtures, and shorten lengthy sales cycles.

Personalizing your whitepaper 

Personalized content works like a charm to bring leads through the buyer journey and out the other side. Tailored messaging that speaks to individual readers’ needs, concerns, and questions shows you understand them – and positions you as the perfect person to help.

Personalized whitepapers are a double whammy; they establish your industry authority and build deep prospect connections. And if you’re dealing with B2B purchases, the rigorous decision-making processes and many stakeholders make wheel-greasing tools like personalized marketing collateral even more essential.
PDFs don’t support personalization so choose digital whitepapers to make sales enablement much easier.

Deep personalization

Prospects pay more attention when whitepapers are deeply personalized – but can you scale outreach and maintain a bespoke approach? The short answer is yes but only with good tech. Many personalization tools on the market tailor details like name, company, or job title. These are good places to start but we need to go a few layers deeper to create truly standout content.

Turtl’s Personalization Engine can produce hundreds – even thousands – of highly tailored whitepapers in minutes. Using a modular content structure, content switches in and out to create a uniquely relevant whitepaper for each reader. Turtl integrates with tools used in most B2B tech stacks so you can seamlessly automate whitepaper personalization at scale.

How to publish white papers online

Publishing whitepapers online may seem like a mammoth undertaking if you’re using PDFs right now. If you want to try digital whitepapers but can’t face overhauling current ones, we completely get it.

That’s why we’ve created a solution to bring your whitepapers into the new age without a maddening migration process.

Enter Turtl’s PDF Importer. In a few simple steps, whitepaper PDFs transform into interactive online documents.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Log into your Turtl account
  2. Go to the “Create New” section and choose “Import”
  3. Drag & drop or browse for your desired whitepaper PDF
  4. Upload it
  5. Wait a few moments and your shiny new digital whitepaper will appear!

Once you’ve got your new whitepaper, give it a final once-over before relaunching it into the world.

It’s as easy as that. No need for countless hours of redesigns – with our PDF Importer, we do the heavy lifting. Pair your newly digitized whitepapers with a killer cross-channel promotion plan and new leads will be banging down your door in no time.

PDF and Turtl icons

Convert your PDF for free today

Want to see what your PDF would look like as a digital whitepaper?

Whitepaper templates and examples

More often than not, whitepapers cover complex, highly detailed topics. With this level of information and research, there’s a risk of overwhelming readers and losing them en route.

Interactive, dynamic whitepapers inspire readers to voyage through your findings with confidence – and leave them feeling educated on pertinent industry matters.

Let’s take a look at some winning online whitepapers that work to convert.


With its vibrant design, global consulting firm Slalom delivers a whitepaper that’s truly stunning. But it’s far from all style and no substance; it’s packed with industry-leading content. This piece makes an important contribution to the buzzing AI conversation – and gathers zero-party data with a customer feedback strategy while doing so.

Slalom Turtl Doc front cover


With its smart use of mixed media, lots of interactive elements, and in-content polls and surveys, this is a gold-standard whitepaper from independent investment consultant Redington. The layout keeps readers hooked to make sure all carefully curated content is noticed. On top of that, they show how well they know their industry – boosting their thought leadership lead gen – and status.

Future of Retirement Income (Redington)


Leading global contract research organization Evidera shows off its expertise and provides serious value with this highly informative, engaging whitepaper. Clear information, intuitive formatting, and brand consistency make this content easy to navigate –  and even easier to retain.


Have the above examples given you food for thought? Check out our whitepaper template for making high-performing, unforgettable digital whitepapers.

Whitepapers for lead generation

Before you buy something, what’s the first thing you do?
If your answer is “check the reviews”, you’re a part of the 95% of customers who said the same.

Whether it’s a can-opener or complex software, people need to trust who they’re buying from before handing over their hard-earned cash. That’s why strong brand reputation is pivotal to successful lead generation.

Original research, in-depth discussions, and informative data convince prospects of your credibility – and move the needle for your inbound lead generation strategy. You just need to make sure you’re weighing in on the right topics.

A data-driven content marketing strategy ensures whitepaper production that’s laser-focused on speaking to the right leads. One crucial ICP data source is keyword research. SEO analytics tools like SEMrush and Moz unveil high-ranking industry keywords that align with high-intent prospects. They also shed light on what content your competitors are having success with. If you want to learn more about how to nail SEO, check out our simple SEO guide. 

Adopt a ‘facts first, speculation second’ approach to whitepaper topics, and you’ll be rewarded with high-intent, offering-aligned audiences.

Turtl takeaway

Digital whitepapers offer so much more than their ancestors. Better lead capture, read times, and behavioral data – these are just a few of the many benefits of moving them online. In today’s competitive content marketing world, every whitepaper needs to pull its weight and contribute to driving growth and revenue.

Isn’t it time to bid farewell to PDF, the format that’s stuck in the past? You and your whitepapers deserve better.

Want to see what your PDF would look like as a digital whitepaper?

Convert your PDF for free today!

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