Email linking to PDF – what are B&T thinking?

In the world of online we are used to seeing companies progress with their websites and communication as more advanced technology become available and as companies become more confident in utilising them. However unfortunately one of my favourite daily email newsletters has just taken what I consider to be a big backwards step.

I have been receiving the B&T print magazine and daily email for a few years now as it provides a good overview of what is happening in the world of advertising and marketing and usually includes a good mix of online related stories too. In the past the B&T daily email newsletter was sent as an HTML email that linked through to individual articles on the B&T website (good practice!). However this year, B&T have decided that rather than link to their website, they will link to a PDF of the stories online.

There are several negatives associated with this:

  • Poor email experience – B&T have kept their email looking fairly similar to how it did previously where it shows summaries of news articles and a “more…” link to read the full article. The key problem with this is that each link in the email goes through to the same page – being the PDF. There is actually no benefit to the end user in finding the article they want to read and clicking on the more link as once they open the PDF they will have to scroll again to find the same full article.
  • Poor user experience – it’s most unusual for a news article in an email to link through to a PDF so not only is the user not expecting it, however it also typically will take longer to load the PDF than it would for a html website page.
  • Poor readability – it is well accepted that PDF documents were typically made for print related purposes and therefore it is not as easy to read these on screen. It is even more so if columns are used as the user is forced to scroll up and down just to read one column (instead of reading horizontally as websites are designed).
  • Lack of tracking – one of the key benefits in sending HTML emails is being able to track clicks on links so that a company can see what readers are interested in reading and thus tailor future content to this demand. When linking from an email to a PDF (and particularly when all links go to the same place) B&T will lose this valuable reader information about their preferences. Not only that but their website statistics will similarly become less valuable as some of the granularity is removed.

So why would a company move to start linking to a PDF file in this day and age? I’m struggling to come up with a reason that can be justified. A new marketing manager perhaps?If you have any ideas, let me know. Check out the associated graphics below:

Current email newsletter:
B&TEmail

PDF of articles which is linked to:

B&TSite

2 Responses to Email linking to PDF – what are B&T thinking?

  1. Kevin Garber says:

    Hi Louisa

    Interesting post – I noticed the B&T change recently and have been pondering it.

    I usually don’t like click throughs in an email that go to PDFs but I think in this case it actually works.

    The PDF goes through to a succinct 1-2 page easily scannable pdf – I have noticed a trend to one page succinct websites and emails.

    Would be interested in other opinions.

    Kevin
    Melon Media – http://www.melon.com.au

  2. David says:

    Hi Louisa,

    I would agree it is a poor practise to replace linking to a website article with linking to a PDF. When they have previously been posting the full article on their site anyway, how does it benefit them to create a PDF?

    Having the full article on the website with a link on that page to download in PDF form would be far more useful. Search engines would do a better job of pulling up the article on a webpage in their results than the contents of a PDF well.

    David
    Digicon – http://www.digicon.com.au

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