Thought Starters

Is there a difference between a whitepaper and a weblog?

 Let’s get started with this.

At my current firm we have a client with whom we partner nationally (across Canada) to deliver a retail program. Our relationship is based on a series of contractual touch points that ensure that the level of commitment and quality of work are maintained through the duration of the contract. As part of that relationship we have developed a series of value add processes to assist our client in delivering their portfolio. These value add processes are based on three key tenets that drive the relationship; partnership, continuous improvement and accountability. Each is intertwined with the other and they drive the attitude that our firm takes toward the delivery of our responsibilities.

Finding ways to utilize these three tenets; partnership, continuous improvement and accountability to demonstrate thought leadership got me thinking about the static nature of a whitepaper versus the fluidity of blogging and whether there is any validity in developing some alternative ways to publishing the traditional whitepaper.

Here’s one way to look at it.

Since we primarily write opinion on this site we thought that it would be interesting to look at the idea of demonstrating leadership through blogging in lieu of a trade publication (or whitepaper).

In general terms, a commercial whitepaper can take two directions; a marketing approach or a technical approach and neither may be mutually exclusive. For example, a commercial whitepaper is meant to promote a product or service  and is meant to solve a specific problem. If successful, the proposed solution can be applicable across a specific industry. As a matter of interest, the whitepaper started to become widely used as a corporate business tool and sales or marketing tool in the 1990’s alongside the advent of desk-top publishing tools which also slowly spawned, in the late 1990’s, the idea of creating weblogs (this, according to Wikipedia).

Why is that important in the general context of this piece?

Well, because our opinion is that a weblog, when written in a similar form, can certainly double as a commercial whitepaper. It’s simply an issue of format. The difference being that the ideas expressed in a weblog can be supported or refuted and the proposed resolution of the problem statement would then have the opportunity to be refined based on the discourse. The content of the piece can then offer context for varied insights in a forum of open discussion.

Do you agree? Or do you disagree?

Being able to get an answer to a question is the interesting thing about writing in digital form.

Maybe the question we should ask is “Do you feel that the commercial whitepaper can benefit from a weblog format for the express reason that discourse can occur in the public realm?”

To me, the published whitepaper is unlike a trade publication which requires the writer to garner interest from a corporation willing to publish the piece or a publisher seeking to influence its readership. We all know being published is an incredible feat. However, the fundamental difference between the whitepaper and a publication in a trade magazine is that a whitepaper, given the resources, is able to be written and published by just about anyone.

Because of that is the content devalued in any way?

Entertainment publications aside, I ask this because of the traditional attitude that if a piece is published (book, magazine or newspaper) it appears to gain a level of instant credibility regardless of its perceived quality. Would, by the same token, the whitepaper, if published in an on-line forum such as a weblog be treated in the same manner and seen as devalued over a print version?

Most publications these days are available on-line for download but none are currently structured in a way that allows the reader to reply with their own perspective or viewpoint.

How about this as an approach?

Building a resource of industry publications is not a new approach to demonstrate thought leadership and it is certainly not new to the A+D community. Building a resource in a way that is live, interactive and able to elicit contrary or opposing opinion would be an interesting way to evolve thought leadership and challenge the writer to think along the lines of partnership, continuous improvement and accountability allowing those three capabilities to become a primary part of the publication.

Here’s how I would relate these tenets to a weblog approach:

Partnership: through the willingness to share your ideas and development of like-minded alliances.

Continuous Improvement: through the learning gained from healthy discourse.

Accountability: through the acceptance of responsibility to refine and evolve the ideas and content.

 

 

 

 

  • Which approach feels right to you?
  • Would you participate in discussion if the published ideas in a whitepaper were open for discourse?
  • Do you believe that publications should be open to opinion?

 

 

About this Author: Ralph Dopping (199 Posts)

A quirky sense-o-humour coupled with an indelible sense of stylish sarcasm makes it difficult to take the world too seriously doesn't it? My faves: fun, passion and hard work. I work here everyday: www.designdialog.ca


19 comments
BetsyKCross
BetsyKCross

This is really basic for me. There was a day when I believed thought everything an author said had been researched and he/she was believable. Now, I know that what I'm reading is written from a certain point of view and often with an agenda attached. I'm not naturally suspicious or pessimistic. So, I for one, rely heavily on other's' comments when I don't have the time or inclination to research the facts and come to my own conclusions (I'm the definition of gullible! LOL!).

 

I attended a presentation years ago (20?) where the presenter said he was not going to be allowing comments or discourse from the audience. My mind immediately started to wander! I thought, I didn't sign up for a lecture!! It was interesting.

 

I guess you have to know what you want.

 

If you want to grow your community you have to have discourse (even the negative feedback can teach you about a culture and community - maybe - and give you new clues about how to reach your audience with unique issues).

 

If you want to widen your market...maybe your community doesn't matter as much as your message / product presentation???

 

All I know is that things are changing and people aren't as willing to listen if they aren't allowed to be heard as well...interesting!! 

 

 

Hajra
Hajra

I feel a two way communication is always necessary - even for publications. Isn't that why they have the letter to the editor section. But blogs make it a lot better because it makes for a much more livelier discussion. I would definitely love it if things were more open for discussions. I mean, I just have a lot to say. :)

 

And yes, what is wrong with @bdorman264 's reader.... 

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

With today's media technologies, two-way conversations are optimal in my opinion, for both getting your content out to the world and being attractive to people who consume it.

 

I get that these older, larger publications are concerned about the idiots out there; it's a legitimate concern, too... But with the new generation growing up social, its going to be hard for them to keep and/or grow their readership.

 

That. Is. All.

 

P.S. @Bill Dorman Sign up to the RSS - Duh! HA - I couldn't resist!

bdorman264
bdorman264

Certainly makes sense to me; the blog allows more feedback and learning in my humble opinion.

 

Ok hammerhead, you like to pick on the shortcomings of my site so I'm going to get back at you. Ever since you flipped the switch on your site the new posts are NOT showing up in my reader. The only way I'm getting it is through e-mail. I pretty much cleaned my e-mail out of posts so I could get it in Reader and that is how I respond. Once I leave a comment here and delete the e-mail, I have to dig really deep to find a way back here to see what your response was......just sayin'.......

 

I have put your URL address 3 times into my Reader and it still only takes me to your last post before you made the switch. Is that a Canadian thing?...................:).

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @BetsyKCross Interesting viewpoint. Even during presentation we want to be engaged. That is the express reason why when we do internal charettes (ideas sessions) at work it is never one sided. The presenter rarely just speaks. We try to make it a conversation. The point being that when written the need for strong discussion is even more relevant provided the site, piece or paper is give the respect it deserves and the discourse doesn't wander off into what @Mark_Harai experienced with his Costa Rica paper.

 

For me it is really the only way to learn new things about a subject and different views on an idea from different perspectives is just one way to get that. An important one for me, though.

 

Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy life to drop in and leave a comment. BTW, your comment on @lifeforinstance was incredible. Damn!

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @Hajra   @bdorman264 It's great that you have a lot to say because you are one of the good ones. Like Mark said most larger publications worry about the "idiots" out there and that's likely why the letter to the editor sections are so heavily edited. You can imagine what you write gets edited to suit the political agenda of the publication or piece.

 

That's likely the same when your comments are "awaiting moderation" on some of the bigger sites. That's one thing that just turns me off in a big way and stifles the ability to share your ideas freely. Not saying that writing and information shouldn't be edited but in this context the idea of growing an idea or expanding on a knowledge base should not be "moderated."

 

Thanks for popping in. Always great to have you comment here. Have a great day.

 

Mr. @bdorman264 has certainly taken a few beats here but has certainly responded as we would have expected him too. Admirably...:-)

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @Mark_Harai  @Bill Dorman Thankss Mark. I agree, there are idiots everywhere regardless of what you do. Being worried about who is going to say what shouldn't stop progress and that's how I see this issue. As progress. The old days of analog print are not gone but certainly digital is taking a stonger foothold and for good reason (save a tree, et al). But more importantly a publication should allow discourse and the refinement and further development of ideas and concepts through its offering.

 

As always, appreciate you dropping in and leaving your comments. As you can see Bill sorted out his reader.

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @bdorman264 Thanks for pointing the shortcomings out.

 

So, there sees to be two issues.

 

One - you are not subscribed via RSS. So please go back to the main page and find the orange RSS feed button (above the stick figures) and please click on it again and add the feed to your reader one more time. It worked for me so it should work for you. I would appreciate it if you would try it again.

 

Second, how are seeing update comments from other sites? I would assume Livefyre sends you an email the same way it does for sites like Spin Sucks who also use Livefyre. I am not trying to be smart. I just know that it works for me when I comment and any updates are issued by email. I am not aware of any other ways to get updates on comments.

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

 @rdopping  @Hajra   @bdorman264 Hey Ralph, I was speaking from a postion of having a recent experience on the topic you cover here.    

 

One of my business partners/ and editor decided to eliminate DISQUS off of our news resource in Costa Rica because of the "idiots out there."

 

We're not a big print publication like the those you're speaking of; but we have one of the largest online news sources for the English speaking community in Costa Rica and the largest readership in the U.S. and Canada. 

 

This was written by one of our regular contributors, and as you can see, he doesn't hold back on how he feels about open commenting on InsideCostaRica.com.  Here is the article: http://shar.es/tprS3  

 

Warning: there is a bit of colorful language in it; rated "R"

 

I thought it would add to this conversation; I hope you don't mind me sharing a link here sir : )

Hajra
Hajra

 @rdopping  That is one reasons why I like disqus or livefyre; you can actually have certain words blacklisted so the comment sections can be kept "clean". But I really prefer not moderating comments; suppose if I am not there to respond immediately, I like the fact that people can talk to each other and have discussions about it. 

bdorman264
bdorman264

 @rdopping The funny thing about Spin Sucks is I never see when Gini or anyone else has responded. However, most of the other sites I will get a msg in g-mail when someone responds. I never click 'show me responses,' because it used to kill my e-mail. In Spin Sucks case, I 'star' the post and then go back to my Reader and open the post again and check to see if there is a response. Same at Jack's place, I have to go back to see if he responded.............

Hajra
Hajra

 @Mark_Harai Ya, and it was for the better of a community rather than focusing on the hate of a few people. It is sad how people doing this... 

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

 @Hajra  Yes it does Hajra... All you can do is what you believe is best for the community and move on... That's what we did.

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

 @rdopping  @Hajra   @bdorman264 Well, keep in mind, Costa Rica is about 20 years behind The U.S. in just about everything - LOL!  My partner and I definitely have our hands full... We just work our butts off and enjoy paradise as much as we can in the thick of things : )  And I wouldn't have it any other way!  It's an amazing daily experience... But then life if what you make it, no matter where you happen to be in life.

 

Sorry for the late reply... Livefyre has been a real bugger today!

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @Mark_Harai  @Hajra   @bdorman264 Well, there you go Mark. Point well proven right there. Not having had the opportunity to see some of the nature of the commentary it is clear there were few related to the topics at hand and more a mob mentality geared toward political dissatisfaction.

 

One question: are there limited sources in Costa Rica where people can speak out or is this just a bad example of the idealistic thoughts I put into my suggestions? Man, I feel for the guys running that site. It must be frustrating and demoralizing when you try to do something right and get s**t on for it.

Hajra
Hajra

 @Mark_Harai This is the most hilariously out right post  about banning discussions ever! Makes sense; there is a point to which crap can be taken in.... it does get frustrating at times. 

rdopping
rdopping moderator

 @Hajra  Me too. It's awesome when others can converse on your blog. I really don't think it matters if the publication is technical, anecdotal or promotional. The idea that conversation happens is really where the value lies.

rdopping
rdopping moderator

@bdorman264 Thank gawd. You just made my day. Have a great weeekend