For some better clues, look at the content and format of these documents: The content of a white paper provides useful information for business people seeking to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision. Today’s “typical” white paper is 6 to 8 pages long, shorter than in past years.
The format of a white paper is somewhere between a technical manual and a glossy brochure… But I’ve seen everything from a two-page flyer to a 100-page book called a “white paper.” The typical white paper looks better than a technical manual, but not as slick as a brochure or ad.
between a dry-as-dust academic paper and an annual report. But some white papers are as colorful as a cereal box.
The typical white paper is distributed as a PDF on the web.
Backgrounders describe the technical features and benefits of a product or service #2.For a longer discussion, see my article “When is a white paper NOT a white paper.” Back to top White papers and blog posts are usually quite simple to tell apart.White papers are usually PDF downloads of 3,000 to 5,000 words.Problem/solution white paper: for prospects near the start of the buying cycle who are using the Web to research a nagging business or technical problem Back to top Remember that there are no “rules” or universal standards for what makes a white paper… By my definition, a problem/solution white paper contains useful information to help people understand some relatively new, complex or expensive offering they are considering buying for their business.There are many other types of useful information, but I don’t consider them white papers.For shorthand, I’ve used “offering” to represent any product, service, technology or methodology described in the white paper. Backgrounder: for prospects near the end of the buying cycle or to support a product launch for journalists, analysts and channel partners #2.Numbered list: for anyone interested in a light and lively roundup of highlights about some issue or to spread FUD on competitors #3.Numbered lists provide a light and lively roundup of highlights about some issue #3.Problem/solutions recommend a new, improved solution for a nagging business or technical problem You can effectively combine two of these flavors: This yields five main flavors of white papers.You can’t effectively combine all three, because of the different viewpoints of a problem/solution and a backgrounder.A problem/solution is like looking at the wide view of a whole industry with a telescope.