Hero photograph
Mobile killed the print star
Photo by Tom Barnett

The death of the PDF newsletter

Tom Barnett —

Did you know that worldwide over 50% of emails are now opened on mobile devices? It's a simple little data point that has far reaching implications for your email newsletters.

If every second email you send is being opened on a smartphone or tablet then you better make sure that your email campaigns are all highly readable and actionable on any device.

The revolution will be mobilised

50% is the current figure, but just think how quickly, over the last 5 or 6 years for most people, that mobile devices have become part of our everyday routine. It's clear that the mobile revolution is only just getting started—where will the figure be a couple of years from now? 60%, 75%, or will we practically be spending all our screentime working and relaxing with next generation mobile devices?

Whatever may come, the future is already here and the casualties are already clear—the PDF was a questionable format on the desktop, but it's practically inexcusable on mobile.

All the baggage of print—none of the mobility

Online PDFs are the perfect example of form-over-function. The PDF was designed to be a digital 'page', a format for distributing content across the web and email, for printing out and reading. This made traditional print designers struggling with the web and the digital revolution very happy, because they could simply design content like they always had, with custom typefaces and graphics, all very carefully chosen to output a specific layout at a specific page size and shape.

Unfortunately people didn't always want to print out the PDFs, so we ended up struggling with digital copies that had all the constraints and inflexibility of the printed version, but without the one advantage—that you could hold it in your hand and read the printed page how and where you pleased. The PDF didn't allow such manipulation, it forced you to try and zoom it to a comfortable reading magnification and then navigate the 'pages' with clunky, fiddly interfaces. It didn't automatically adapt to your devices size or screen resolution.

"Please, allow me to make one thing clear before I go on: Nobody is reading your PDF."
Karen McGrane

A PDF is frustrating enough on a desktop computer, but the reading experience is so bad on mobile that people simply are not bothering to even try. We've all been there, squinting into a 4 inch screen, trying to read and navigate a school newsletter, white paper or restaurant menu that was designed to be printed at magazine size. If your readers are having to pinch and scan, like short-sighted grandparents with the phonebook, then you've already lost them.

Some might argue that a person who receives a PDF by email on their phone will wait until they're back on their desktop to read or print it out for later, but if we're honest with ourselves that email will take its place with hundreds more in the inbox that 'we're going to get back to one day'. In content marketing you need to strike while the iron is hot, and with email campaigns that's when the email is first opened—if your content isn't readable and easily sharable at that moment, then you're practically throwing away half of your precious email database.

"Over 71% of subscribers delete emails that don’t look good on their phones, resulting in significant lost revenue potential for email marketers."

Luckily there is a better way, and although Responsive Web Design (RWD) is a relatively new term, HTML and the web itself has always been capable of flexible content layouts, it's only just over the last few years that we've seen an explosion of mobile devices that demand we use the technology as it was always meant to be; to distribute and display flexible, adaptive content, with typefaces and images that scale to provide the best reading experience on all manner of screens and devices.

Hail is your one-stop collaborative content creation, management and delivery system which promises just that. We empower our users to create flexible, future-proofed content, in the form of articles and digital publications, which can be pushed out to social media channels, blogs, websites and as responsive email campaigns and newsletters—with just one click! Check us out and get in touch with our friendly team. We'll help you kill off your ineffective PDF newsletters and connect better with your audience.