The World Bank asked this question earlier this year, analysing their web traffic data to find out. The conclusion? Nearly one-third of their PDF reports had never been downloaded. Another 40 percent had been downloaded fewer than 100 times, and only 13 percent were downloaded more than 250 times.
In a somewhat witty article looking at the problems with PDFs, Washington Post journalist Christopher Ingraham writes:
“Still, it’s fair to assume that many big-idea reports with lofty goals to elevate the public discourse never get read by anyone other than the report writer and maybe an editor or two. Maybe the author’s spouse. Or mom.”
Burying PDFs in some forsaken area of a website or using PDFs as the sole/go-to source of communication to stakeholders is rarely the best way to ensure outreach with maximum impact. Research finding’s like the World Bank’s make a case for more strategic, tailored and interactive approaches to information dissemination. There’s a wealth of communications tools and approaches out there – all we need to do is take outreach more seriously. I’ll be sure to share more information on the alternatives in future posts.
Read Ingraham’s full article here. It’s a good (and short) read.