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What Is a White Paper?

Purpose of a white paper, how to write a white paper.

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What Is a White Paper? Types, Purpose, and How To Write One

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

business plan white paper

Investopedia / Michela Buttignol

A white paper is an informational document issued by a company or not-for-profit organization to promote or highlight the features of a solution, product, or service that it offers or plans to offer.

White papers are also used as a method of presenting government policies and legislation and gauging public opinion.

Key Takeaways

  • A white paper promotes a certain product, service, or methodology to influence current and prospective customer or investor decisions.
  • Three main types of white papers include backgrounders, numbered lists, and problem/solution white papers.
  • A white paper provides persuasive and factual evidence that a particular offering is a superior product or method of solving a problem.
  • White papers are commonly designed for business-to-business marketing purposes between a manufacturer and a wholesaler, or between a wholesaler and a retailer. 

White papers are sales and marketing documents used to entice or persuade potential customers to learn more about a particular product, service, technology, or methodology.

White papers are commonly designed for business-to-business (B2B) marketing purposes between a manufacturer and a wholesaler, or between a wholesaler and a retailer. It can provide an in-depth report or guide about a specific product or topic and is meant to educate its readers.

The facts presented in white papers are often backed by research and statistics from reliable sources and can include charts, graphs, tables, and other ways of visualizing data. A white paper can communicate an organization’s philosophy or present research findings related to an industry.

Types of White Papers

A startup , large corporation, or government agency will use white papers differently. There are three main types of white papers, including backgrounders, numbered lists, and problem/solution white papers.

Backgrounders detail the technical features of a new product or service. Designed to simplify complicated technical information, they are used to:

•Support a technical evaluation

•Launch a product

•Promote a product or industry leader

Numbered lists highlight the key takeaways of a new product or service, and are often formatted with headings and bullet points such as the following familiar format:

•3 Questions to Ask

•5 Things You Need to Know

Problem/solution papers identify specific problems faced by potential customers and suggest a data-driven argument about how a featured product or service provides a solution to:

•Generate new sales

•Educate salespeople on product characteristics

•Build industry interest.

White papers differ from other marketing materials, such as brochures. Brochures and traditional marketing materials might be flashy and obvious, but a white paper is intended to provide persuasive and factual evidence that solves a problem or challenge.

White papers are commonly at least 2,500 words in length and written in an academic style.

A white paper should provide well-researched information that is not found with a simple internet search and have a compelling narrative to keep the reader's attention. The author of a white paper should:

• Research and fully define the topic.

• Create an accurate outline of information.

• Write an attention-grabbing introduction.

• Format the paper for easy reading.

• Revise and proofread.

What Is an Example of a White Paper?

All of these documents, publicly available on Microsoft’s website, focus on aspects of the company's suite of cloud services. In contrast with brochures, these white papers don’t have a clear sales pitch. Instead, they dive into relevant topics, such as cloud security, hybrid clouds, and the economic benefits of adopting cloud computing.

  • An AI-First Infrastructure and Toolchain for Any Scale
  • Moving your Mission Critical Mainframe Data to Azure
  • Mesh and hub-and-spoke networks on Azure
  • Backup and recovery overview for Azure users
  • Backup and recovery overview for users new to Azure

How Have New Industries Used White Papers?

Cryptocurrencies have also been known to publish white papers during initial coin offerings (ICOs) and frequently issued white papers to entice users and "investors" to their projects.

Bitcoin famously launched a few months after the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto issued its famous white paper online in October 2008.

Why Is It Called a White Paper?

White Papers may have developed from the use of “Blue Papers” in 19th century Britain, where a Parliamentary report cover was blue. When a topic for the government was less serious, the blue cover was discarded and published with white covers. These reports were called White Papers. In the United States, the use of government white papers often means a background report or guidance on a specific issue.

A white paper is an informational document issued by a company, government agency, or not-for-profit organization to promote the features of a solution, product, or service that it offers or plans to offer. The facts presented in white papers are often backed by research and statistics from reliable sources and commonly written in one of three formats that include backgrounders, numbered lists, and problem/solution papers.

Copy Engineer. " The 3 Types of White Papers and When to Use Each One ."

Master Class. " How To Write a White Paper ."

Microsoft. " White Papers on the Cloud and Azure ."

business plan white paper

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How To Write A White Paper

How to write a white paper for my business proposal

business plan white paper

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A white paper is a business marketing and informational tool used to educate the intended audience and provide assistance for important decision-making. When learning how to write a white paper, it’s important to first understand its origin to get a better grip on its use.

In the first part of the twentieth century, short but important government research and policy reports targeted to the British Parliament were printed on white paper, and the covers were also white. Longer, more detail-oriented reports were bound with blue covers and were called “blue books.”

How To Write A White Paper Forum

Because “white papers” were shorter and contained information needed before members of Parliament voted on particular issues, they were termed “white papers.” Today, most blue books are used in academia for informational and testing purposes, while white papers are used in business situations. The purpose of a white paper is to give the reader important information needed before making a business decision of some kind.

White papers have evolved into one of the most important and effective marketing tools that businesses can use to inform readers, assign credibility to the white paper issuer, and gain trust between the white paper issuer and reader.

A white paper is essentially a mix of an informational article and a glossy brochure. White papers can be distributed in hard copy, as part of a larger document such as a business plan, or available digitally as an attachment to an email, a newsletter or as a page on a website.

The purpose of a white paper is to educate and to sell to the end reader.

Now that you understand what a white paper is, we need to cover what it isn’t before we learn how to write a white paper.

What a white paper is not

It is very important that what you present as a white paper actually is a white paper, not something else.

  • A video  is not a white paper, as it is not printed and narrative text.
  • A short two- or three-page article is not a white paper because it is not long enough to contain enough useful and substantive information to educate the readers and help them make a necessary decision.
  • A sales pitch is not a white paper, as the white paper is intended to help the reader make a decision and find a solution to a problem or challenge — not to necessarily choose only one option as the “right one.”
  • Product guides, installation instructions, user manuals, etc. are not white papers. These documents are intended for the user after a sale is made. A white paper is intended to be read before a sales decision is made.
  • An opinion piece is not a white paper, it is an editorial. A true white paper is a factual document with supported quotes from industry experts, references, credible statistics, figures and graphs.

There are places and spaces for those other types of documents and media, but don’t identify them as white papers. Even the term “white paper” means that the information must be presented on white paper, including a white cover, when applicable.

How to write a white paper

How To Write A White Paper Tips

A true white paper offers solutions to a problem or challenge, does not just praise or discuss one solution, piques the reader’s curiosity, and includes a call-to-action that encourages the reader to do further research and seek more information.

White papers are not easy to write — they must be both concise and the right length to convey the right information; they must contain easy-to-comprehend ideas and use uncomplicated language, not industry jargon; and they must be “non-salesy” and focus on the benefits of of the topic for the reader.

Like formal business plans, white papers follow a specific format, and always include a front and back cover, even if it is intended to be distributed digitally. A white paper is five to 25 pages long (not including covers) and generally has the following components in the following order:

The introduction. This is a one-paragraph overview of the white paper to give readers a general idea of the content in the document and entice them to read further.

The problem or challenge . White papers are intended to give readers possible solutions for a problem or challenge they are facing, so this section is intended to state the issue in a way the readers can easily relate to and feel their issues are being addressed.

The solution. This is the section where you propose your own solution to the identified problem or challenge, but not with forced sales language. Your goal is to give your readers enough information to encourage them to make their own decisions.

The benefits. Here is the section where you talk about your product or service, but only after you have presented a real solution set. While discussing the benefits — you, your product and/or your services offer — you must also include supporting evidence and information.

The conclusion. This section is a one-paragraph summary of everything included in the white paper, including why your product or service is the best option. It is very effective to include the advantages of using your solution, as well as the disadvantages of not using your solution. Again, this section should include references, citations and links.

Contact information. Make sure to include how you can be contacted, as well as the best way and time to get in touch with you.

How To Write A White Paper Graph

When completing and formatting your white paper, you should include case studies, charts, diagrams, graphs, tables and photos as appropriate  to get your point across. These elements help with the credibility of your white paper and improves the reader’s perception of you and your company as authorities on the topic covered.

Learning how to write a white paper that’s comprehensive and yet effective takes time, research and practice. Here’s a list of resources to assist you in writing a great white paper:

  • Writing White Papers
  • The Ultimate White Paper Template
  • White Papers: Pros, Cons, Examples and Best Practices
  • How to Write a White Paper — A White Paper on White Papers
  • White Paper Structure
  • White Paper Template

A well-researched, well-written and properly formatted white paper is an effective way to sell yourself or your topic without actually “selling.” Your white paper can be a stand-alone document, or it can be included as part of a larger document, such as a business or marketing plan. Just remember to provide the research behind your solution!

The 2024 Ultimate Guide: How to Write and Format a White Paper

The step by step guide to succeeding with white paper marketing.

Frame 16 (1)

  • 1 What is a white paper?
  • 2. White paper examples
  • 3 How to write a white paper
  • 4 Mistakes a white paper should avoid
  • 5 White paper Format
  • 6 Gating your white papers
  • 7 White paper distribution
  • 8 Handling your white paper leads
  • 9 Choosing the right white paper template
  • 10 Final thoughts

Introduction

White papers are a popular and powerful tool for content marketers. They can be used to position your company as a thought leader and authority on a subject by presenting useful and persuasive research findings and information about your products and services, White papers can also be used as a powerful asset to generate more leads when the information is valuable enough for readers to submit their personal details in order to access your findings. This ultimate guide will teach you everything you need to make white paper marketing a formidable addition to your content marketing strategy . 

How to Write and Format a White Paper Infographic

1. What is a white paper?

A white paper is an in-depth report or guide about a specific topic and the problems that surround it. It is meant to educate readers and help them to understand and solve an issue.

In the world of marketing, a white paper is a long-form piece of content , similar to an eBook . The difference between the two is that white papers tend to be more technical and in depth. The facts and opinions expressed in white papers are often backed by original research or statistics that the publisher has aggregated from reliable sources. They often include charts, graphs, tables, and other ways of visualizing data. 

The term "white papers" originated in England as government-issued documents. One famous example is the Churchill White Paper , commissioned by Winston Churchill in 1922.

Today, the term is most commonly applied to “deep dive” style publications. Businesses — especially in the consulting, financial, or B2B sectors — use them to communicate their organization’s philosophy on a topic, make the case for the superiority of their product, or simply to present research findings related to their field.

White papers are no less editorial than other forms of content, but the depth of research lends them an authoritative tone. For this reason, they are good candidates for promoting thought leadership .

Who uses white papers?

In the past, white papers were most often produced by governmental agencies, NGOs, think tanks, consultancies, and financial institutions that needed to present the findings of their ongoing research in a succinct format.

With the widespread growth and adoption of content marketing (the creation and distribution of non-promotional content intended to generate interest in a business and its offerings), white papers have become more common in other industries as well. Any organization that engages in content marketing can benefit from producing white papers.

Their popularity across industries is due to their versatility. While all white papers have certain elements in common, a B2B startup will use them differently than a large consultancy, and both will use them differently from a governmental organization.

Types of white papers

There are numerous types of white papers a business might publish.

  • One type is the backgrounder , in which the benefits of their product, service, or methodology are explained in depth.
  • Another is a problem-solution approach, which walks the audience through the solution to a problem that is common in their industry.

Other types of white papers simply present a summary of useful statistics and information about the state of a particular field or industry. An example of this would be the Content Marketing Benchmarks Budgets and Trends from the Content Marketing Institute.

Whatever type you produce , the contents of your white paper should serve to showcase your expertise in a given area. Your audience is searching for an information document, and will look for an authoritative source — a business they perceive as having in-depth knowledge of a subject.

The contents of your white paper should serve to showcase your expertise in a given area.

The purpose of a white paper

White papers enable you to build trust with your audience. They show readers that you're reliable, experienced, and adept in a given domain. When potential customers search for an informational document to help them understand a problem or opportunity they're facing, and you provide them with a quality white paper that helps, they'll turn to you again in the future.

This perception of authority can also serve to boost sales in an organization. More than half the respondents to the Eccolo Media B2B Technology Content Survey reported having read a white paper before making a buying decision. Buyers prefer to purchase from vendors they trust and see as experts in their field.

Finally, white papers are extremely useful for lead generation . The Content Preferences Survey from DemandGen found that more than three-fourths of survey respondents were willing to exchange personal information for a white paper — more than for eBooks , case studies, analyst reports , podcasts, brochures , or infographics.

With all of these potential benefits, utilizing white papers in your content marketing strategy can produce great results.

More than three-fourths of survey respondents were willing to exchange personal information for a white paper.

2. White paper examples

When you think about white papers, you probably think of PDF articles with thousands of words. But times are changing and so is the way we produce and consume content.

Nowadays, every marketing collateral (including white papers) needs to be well written, well structured, and designed for every type of visitor. 

Here are some great examples of white papers doing exactly that. 

White paper example - CodinGame

This unique one-pager presenting findings from the Developers at Work Survey demonstrates how a white paper should be done. The animated, interactive data charts show off just what's possible with our embed feature.

Open white paper example #1  

White paper example - BDO GDPR

Privacy and the GDPR - BDO

This well-produced special edition produced by BDO and creative agency Monte Media does an incredible job of turning a conventionally dull topic into a piece of content that's engaging and comes to life.

Open white paper example #2

White paper example - content-marketing-strategy

This white paper is a step by step guide to succeeding with content marketing.

See more  white paper examples

Start creating white papers with Foleon

3. How to write a white paper

Starting a white paper can be a daunting task. So much information and research are required that it’s easy to get lost in that portion of the work and let it become a roadblock to actually putting things on paper.

Even after the writing itself has begun, white papers are tricky to do well. Simply listing statistics without some form of narrative arc is a surefire way to keep your white paper from ever being read. Luckily, following a few simple guidelines can help keep a white paper engaging and make the process of finishing it much easier.

Pick the right topic

This might seem obvious, but without a topic that resonates with your audience, your white paper is not likely to be read. When choosing the right topic, you should consider three important criteria:

  • It should be something you are qualified to write about.
  • It should be something your audience is interested in.
  • It should address a topic around which little content has been written already and thus fill a " content gap ."

Naturally, finding a topic that brings points 1 and 2 together is vital. White papers are meant to be authoritative pieces of content based upon the author's experience and expertise, so it's important to write about what you know . But you must match this to the interests of your readers if you're to produce something they'll be eager to engage with .

Don't be afraid to crowdsource information from within your organization. If the topic of a white paper is related to engineering, why not interview an engineer or have them look over what you’ve written? The same goes for other roles. Crowdsourcing knowledge means having the power of a true expert in many fields.

Finally, filling a "content gap" will help your white paper get noticed and gain traction. By addressing a topic no one else has written about definitely, your white paper will be more likely to rank highly on search engines and even be featured elsewhere on the web.

Pro tip: You can even ask your audience what they would like to see in your upcoming white paper. You'll get ideas, make your topic more relevant, and you'll generate buzz around your content even before it's finished. In fact, we used the same method for this guide!

white paper promotion slack

Define your audience

Defining your audience goes hand in hand with choosing the right topic. But moving beyond your audience's interests, it’s important to think of the kinds of people who will be reading your white paper.

  • Are they fellow professionals, well versed in your subject?
  • Are they likely to be reading something they are relatively unfamiliar with?

Knowing this helps establish the voice you should use and whether industry-specific jargon is appropriate. It also narrows the scope of the research you should include. It’s always important to ensure all arguments are logically sound and well supported, but the stats and information presented should be relevant to the specific audience you're targeting.

Part of defining an audience in the age of Google centers around how people will find the white paper. This means thinking about which platforms specific personas use for research and what search terms they put in. Not only will this help a white paper get found by the right people, but it is useful when outlining the white paper later on.

Optimizing for keywords is important, but remember to write for people, not for search engines. Google is getting better all the time at understanding and matching search intent with relevant content . This has become particularly important with the advent of AI-powered language models which can produce long-form content at scale. 

Wrap it in a great intro and outro

Ad with all good writing, your intro should serve to captivate your audience, pique their curiosity, and entice them to read further. It's good practice to provide a brief summary of what they'll find in the white paper and to emphasize exactly what benefit they'll get from reading it.

Your outro is equally important, especially if you're using your white paper to market your products or services. You should avoid any self-promotion in the body of your white paper, but you can certainly mention your relevant product offerings and how to obtain them — perhaps using a compelling call-to-action — at the end.

Pack it with value

White papers are not meant to be advertisements for your company, and you should avoid any overt promotion. Instead, you should provide plenty of useful information that will be valuable to readers even if they don't become customers. Emphasizing value is the key to a great white paper that will get shared and widely read.

Remember, white papers serve to showcase your expertise as a company or brand in a given field. Your readers should come away having learned something useful and with the impression that you're a reliable source of expert information. As pointed out earlier, generating this kind of reputation will lead to greater business success as buyers are more likely to purchase from companies they trust.

Emphasizing value is the key to a great white paper that will get shared and widely read.

Don’t be scared of multiple drafts

No first draft is ever a finished work. Elizabeth Bishop, the renowned and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, wrote seventeen drafts of her poem “One Art” before it was completed. It’s now considered one of the best villanelles ever written .

While a white paper may not need seventeen drafts, there will undoubtedly be points missed and logical inconsistencies in the first version. Finishing a draft, stepping away, and coming back to it with a fresh mind is the best way to ensure quality. If there’s another good writer at your company, getting another set of eyes on it is even better.

Keep it interesting

White papers should be more detailed and thorough than blog posts or eBooks . This may cause them to be more dry and formal, but this doesn't mean they have to be boring.

A trap that white papers easily fall into is using statistics as a crutch and not maintaining interest throughout. Technical as it may be, you still want your white paper to be read. To make this happen, it’s useful to borrow techniques from fiction and creative nonfiction writers.

There are lots of resources for learning about a plot, but generally, it has five parts, as illustrated in Freytag’s pyramid:

White paper plot design

These won’t always correspond perfectly in a factual piece of writing like a white paper, but they can get you thinking about how to create and hold interest. Use those ideas to keep readers’ attention until the very end.

4. Mistakes a white paper should avoid

There are some pitfalls and common mistakes to avoid when writing a white paper. Each of these has the potential to make an otherwise stellar piece of content into a wasted effort. Here's a brief list of things to look out for.

Sounding like a sales pitch

When white papers are used as part of a marketing campaign where businesses showcase their product, a common mistake is to make them sound like a sales pitch . Don't let this happen; it will immediately turn your readers off. In a white paper, your audience is seeking unbiased, educational information that will help them, not try to persuade them. Save the sales pitches for other content, like product brochures .

Lack of adequate research

As previously mentioned, white papers should be well-researched documents. It’s true that conducting lengthy original research may be outside a marketing team’s budget, but merely including a few stats from the first page of a Google search simply won’t cut it.

Aggregating statistics and searching through scholarly work may take time, but the result will be worth it. For your white paper to achieve its intended effect, It’s important to establish your content as an authoritative source to which the audience would want to return.

Poor design

We'll go in-depth into design in the next section, but it's worth mentioning here. The written content of a white paper is what matters most, but neglecting design is a big mistake. Design makes your salient points stand out and helps the reader understand what they're reading. Using visuals (like images, animations , videos, charts, and graphs) that support your arguments is crucial.

Check out this white paper example built with Foleon!. Open the white paper

Not telling a story

White papers are informative and factual. We’ve driven that point home already. That doesn’t mean they should be boring. Backgrounders, problem-solution white papers, and research findings all have a story to tell, and the reader is far less likely to make it through the entire piece without some form of narrative to keep them engaged. Setting up a problem, elaborating on a solution, and including some type of success story is a proven formula for making any type of content more story-like.

Leaving it abstract

Because most white papers will involve sharing research findings, it can be easy to leave them in the realm of theory without explaining how to utilize those findings on a practical level. This is true more of backgrounders but can be the case with problem-solution white papers as well.

A good example is the abundant amount of content on employee engagement. Many B2B cases have covered the importance of employee engagement and the pitfalls of getting it wrong. Too little of this content goes further and gives concrete examples of what companies in specific verticals can do to alleviate the problem.

5. White paper format

Before addressing anything else, we first need to talk about the format you'll use.

A picture is no longer worth a thousand words. Today, its value is in the number of eyeballs it can keep glued to your content and the ratio of those viewers it convinces to click through to other sections of your website.

Your carefully crafted copy and painstakingly gathered statistics won’t earn those clicks on their own. The average human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish . And with 3.3 million Facebook posts, 448,800 tweets, and 149,513 emails sent every minute , competition for your readers' attention is intense, to say the least. Long form mediums like the white paper need serious sparkle just to compete.

How to format a white paper

You'll need more than just black text on a white background. Your design choices regarding things like color, typography, and the use of visuals will play a prominent role in the success of your white paper. Here are a few important principles to keep in mind for creating a quality white paper design.

Keeping mobile visitors in mind

More than 54% of internet traffic is now mobile , and web designers have adapted to this trend by creating what's known as responsive design . Before this, web pages simply scaled according to the size of a user's screen, retaining their layout. Naturally, this made most pages both unreadable and unnavigable on smaller devices.

Responsive design solved this by allowing elements on a page to rearrange, resize, or be completely hidden from view in response to the size of the screen. When a smaller screen is used, font-sizes increase, buttons become larger for touch screens, and the entire layout adjusts to make the page mobile-friendly.

But while this has become standard for web designers in a mobile-first world, producers of other digital content assets like white papers have generally not adapted . Surprisingly, most companies that offer white papers and eBooks on their websites still use PDF format .

The problem with PDFs is that they're unreadable on smaller screens . They're fixed-layout documents — they can't adjust or adapt to different screen sizes. Reading them on a mobile device requires excessive zooming and panning around, which is a terrible experience for users.

Mobile traffic is ever-increasing. If you decide to produce your white paper as a PDF , you risk excluding this vast segment of your audience. It's a design mistake that will cost you views and conversions.

Responsive white paper example - NGData

See examples of responsive white papers

Emphasis and readability

Because in-depth white papers contain lots of text and visuals, as well as supplementary information like footnotes, figures, logos and copyright info, the danger is that your design becomes cluttered. Clutter accumulates before you realize it. You may choose a clean layout and color scheme, to begin with, but as you continue to add content, things can get crowded. Often, you must make tough choices about what not to include to strike the right balance between completeness and readability.

Good design makes bold choices and prioritizes important information. These choices and priorities affect layout, placement, color, font size, page order and more. Use these design elements to create emphasis on vital pieces of information. But be careful. Emphasizing too many pieces of information — or too few — will cause readers to struggle to discern what’s important.

Good design makes bold choices and prioritizes important information.

Have a look at what's trending

Bold fonts and color schemes are in. If you look at the hippest tech companies right now, you’ll see lots of pastels and color gradients. Of course, all that might change tomorrow. But still, a great way to get inspiration when you're just starting is to take a look at what design trends are currently popular.

U2's frontman, Bono, sings "every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief." And he's right. Good designers are always drawing inspiration from other designers. The best way to create a successful design is to spend a lot of time looking at what others are doing successfully. Use Evernote , or a bookmarking service to save white papers and other exceptional designs that you encounter for future reference.

Don’t know where to start looking? Dribbble and Behance are two networks where great designers share their latest work. They consistently have material that’s on the cutting edge of what’s trending.

Design for your audience

While trends may inspire you, it's more important to align your design with your audience and your subject matter.

  • Will you be addressing suit-and-tie financial executives or blue-collar management at construction firms?
  • Are you writing about changes to privacy regulations in the tech industry, or about the effects of farming on biodiversity?

White paper format and design

Your design should support and strengthen your topic. The colors and typography should be consistent with what you're writing about, the tone you've chosen, and the audience you've defined. Writing a white paper for a funeral parlor? Hot-pink headlines might be a bad choice. Taking color psychology into account can help you achieve the look and feel you're after.

Brush up on the basics

No prior knowledge of design? No problem.

If you don’t have a designer working with you in-house, you can still teach yourself the basics of design and check work against those principles. A big part of the battle is knowing the search terms that will get you the knowledge you need. Luckily, good primers on basic graphic design are abundant.

After doing a bit of reading, start creating. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. If you create a white paper and don’t like the design, try to pinpoint what it is about the design that needs improvement. After the reading you’ve done, you’ll have the tools to critique your own work and the work of others. This is the best way to improve and create well designed white papers.

Choosing the right tools

At Foleon, we pride ourselves on providing a tool that makes creating responsive digital white papers easy, even for those with no prior graphic design experience.

Choosing a tool like this, which takes the guesswork out of design, will shorten the time it takes for you to produce great white papers. There is a vast ecosystem of tools out there, each of which is geared toward a different purpose and skillset. The right one will enable you as both a designer and a writer.

See how you can scale engaging content creation .

6. Gating your white papers

For most companies, lead generation and growing lists of contacts for the sales and marketing teams are important activities. Attracting visitors to your site and offering them something of value in exchange for their contact information is a proven method for filling the top of your funnel.

But for this type of inbound marketing to work, two things are needed: exceptional content that visitors are eager to acquire, and a method for gating (or walling off) that content behind a form.

Gated white paper

Many brands skip the first part and move straight to the second. They quickly produce something mediocre and put it behind a form. This might work in the short term for generating lists, but keep in mind that users expect more from content they “pay” for. The quality of your gated content serves as an indicator of the quality of your brand will affect your ability to turn prospects into customers down the road.

So how do white papers fit into your b2b content marketing funnel ? They may act either as lead generation tools themselves or can be used to direct readers to other parts of a website that captures lead information.

What is gated content?

Walling expert content off behind a form designed to capture personal details is one of the most common techniques for generating leads. Gated content is any content that a reader cannot access until after they input some personal information, such as their name and email address. White papers and eBooks are two of the most common types of content used for this purpose.

Typically, a company will create a landing page that includes a description — and perhaps a preview — of what information readers can expect to find inside. The landing page will include a form for visitors to enter their personal information and thus gain access. After entering the required information, visitors are either presented with a download button or receive the gated content in their inbox.

There are plenty of variations on this formula, but the basic technique of providing “free” content and asking readers to “pay” by providing their personal information has been very important part of content marketing for a long time.

To gate or not to gate

While gating your best content is great for lead generation, there are some drawbacks as well. Walling off your white paper will mean it gets read by fewer people as not everyone is willing to give away their contact details.

An open-access white paper will be read by a wider audience. If it’s in-depth and authoritative, it may also do well organically and improve your search rankings. Gating it behind a form, however, will prevent search engines from indexing it.

It’s important to consider what the primary goal of your white paper is: disseminating information and gaining brand awareness or generating leads. If the latter is more important, then gating is a great option.

Semi-gating

Another variation on gated content — and one that’s growing in popularity — is semi-gating . This can give you the best of both worlds by allowing your white paper to reach a wider audience while still retaining the ability to generate leads.

Semi-gating gives readers a taste of your white paper without requiring them to give up any info. You can, for example, make the first few pages of your white paper open access, and then make visitors fill in a form to read more. This works well because digital content is so abundant and brands must offer more for free or risk visitors turning elsewhere.

Allow your white paper to reach a wider audience while still retaining the ability to generate leads.

Offering more content for free also builds trust and brand loyalty among your readers. Let them know your white papers are valuable and helpful, and they’ll be more interested in giving you their personal information. You’re also more likely to gain qualified leads if readers have a chance to sample your white paper before converting.

Of course, semi-gating doesn’t mean giving away your entire white paper. Typically, there’s at least one section of the white paper that is exclusive to those who go through the gating process. Semi-gating can help reach a wider audience, build trust and loyalty, increase lead quality, and still help you capture the contact information you need.

There’s a concept in marketing and design known as friction . Friction is anything that causes the sales process to slow down. It’s like a roadblock that makes it less likely prospects will convert, sign up, download, or purchase. It can be caused by a multitude of things including poor design, confusing navigation, subpar copy, too many form fields, and more.

Your ability to generate leads with a gated white paper will largely depend on how much friction is involved. Asking for more information than you really need is one common and unnecessary source of friction that can lead to losing potential readers.

The entire field of conversion rate optimization is geared toward removing friction — or making user interactions easier. CRO specialists make forms simpler, navigation more intuitive, and design CTAs that are more likely to be clicked. Optimizing your landing page for conversions is a vital part of any lead generation campaign.

But the reality is, asking for personal information will always be an obstacle for a large number of people. So the key here is to make the process easy and noninvasive as possible.

An excellent way to do this is by reducing the number of form fields to the bare minimum and using mid-gating to ensure your ask is timely and yields immediate value for the reader: "Fill out this form to get access to the rest of this white paper, we've saved the best for last!".

Create white papers and eBooks that integrate with your favorite CRM or marketing automation platform. Get started

7. White paper distribution

So, after following the tips in this guide, you create an engaging, informative white paper that inspires readers to take action and deepen their relationship with your company. You mid-gate (or semi-gate) it to capture readers’ information and gain valuable insight into the interests and demographics of your consumer base.

Now, you publish it on your website, sit back, and wait for your Pulitzer.

Only, the traffic never comes… Where did you go wrong? You didn't think about your white paper distribution strategy . 

The importance of distribution

The internet isn’t the same as it once was. Thanks to the massive amount of content produced every day for and an ever-growing number of channels, it’s a lot harder to get noticed. Unless you’re Gabriel García Márquez back from the dead, simply writing something and posting it online doesn’t guarantee readership.

To get eyes on your white paper, you need to be smart not only about writing and design but distribution as well. Some content marketing thought leaders go so far as to claim that you should spend 20% of your time on content creation and 80% on promotion.

Distribution is all about identifying traction channels where your ideal customers consume content and making your white paper highly visible on those channels. Depending on the audience you defined in the beginning, some will be more relevant for you than others.

Social promotion

If you’re at all familiar with marketing, advertising, or online media, chances are you’re aware of how important social media is to visibility. People from all walks of life, and from all over the world, are on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Ensuring that you share your content regularly on these platforms will give you a solid base of promotion on which to build.

But it's not enough to simply write a post and tweet it into the void. Try to find communities like Facebook and LinkedIn groups where your target audience is likely to congregate. Search for relevant hashtags on Twitter and Instagram . Find subreddits relevant to your industry.

Once you’ve found your audience, it’s much easier to connect with them. If you contribute to these spaces regularly, you’ll have an easier time keeping their attention and distributing your white paper.

Influencers and earned media

Public relations isn’t what it once was; influencer marketing has taken its place as the way to get noticed by the masses.

These days, influencers — people with large, engaged followings on social media and newsletters — are better equipped to amplify your content than traditional journalists. They play a growing role in shaping public opinion and even in setting business trends . Shares from an influencer can even help you land spots in major publications the way press releases used to.

Social media is the best place to find influencers in your vertical. When you investigate the best communities in which to promote your white paper, look for the content that people are already referencing and sharing. Eventually, you’ll start to get a picture of who’s putting out content that’s getting widespread traction. These are the people whose voices can amplify your brand.

Start by interacting with them. Begin a conversation, comment on their pieces with regularity, and give them feedback on their work. There are great tools, like Voila Norbert and ContactOut , to help you quickly track down email addresses.

After building enough rapport, try offering to collaborate on future white papers or other types of content. This process can take some time because your goal here is to build a relationship.

Eventually, you can ask an influencer to share your white paper. You might even consider quoting them in the white paper itself — anything that gives them an incentive to share your work is helpful.

Pro tip: Try to find an expert in your white paper related subject and interview them. It will add value to your white paper and you'll increase the chance that the expert shares your content with his or her extensive network.

Email marketing

The jungle of online content may thicken daily, but there are a few places you can still get readers’ attention. Email distribution has stood the test of time in this regard. It provides greater ROI than social , and it shows no signs of weakening.

If the purpose of your white paper is lead generation, email marketing will not be applicable. But for boosting sales, building trust, and establishing your brand as a trustworthy source of information, it's important not to neglect your existing contact base.

Although email may not have the appealing viral possibilities associated with social media, it does have other advantages. Namely, anyone who subscribed to your email list chose to be there. This means you can expect a higher level of engagement from this audience than those who come in via other channels. Capitalize on their loyalty and engagement by encouraging contacts to share your white paper with their networks and thus multiply your distribution efforts.

This was discussed in the previous section, but it's worth mentioning again here: another big advantage of Foleon's gating features is that when your existing contacts share your white paper with their contacts, those people will be confronted with a login form that will allow you to capture their info and expand your email list further.

Going beyond the basics

The techniques discussed above are essential items in your white paper distribution toolbox. However, they’re not the only ones. The best way to distribute your white paper depends largely on your target audience and the industry to which your content speaks.

Take some time to critically evaluate and research how knowledge is shared in your industry. Every industry will be slightly different. Reaching people in these places is the best guarantee of effective distribution.

8. Handling your white paper leads

As we've discussed, white papers can serve a variety of objectives. They’re commonly used for thought leadership and to disseminate important research, relevant to a specific industry.

When it comes to content marketing, however, the most common use for white papers over the last several years has become lead generation. In chapter 6, we discussed how to bring readers to your white paper and capture their information.

Once you've properly gated your white paper and set up a solid distribution strategy, it's time to think about how you'll handle the leads that come in. If not properly tracked and nurtured, leads will quickly become cold and won't lead to increased sales for your company. So how do you follow up with leads and maximize the opportunity you’ve created with your white paper?

How to track your white paper leads

The buyer’s journey outlines the steps a person goes through, from becoming aware of a problem they have, to learning about different solutions to that problem, to eventually purchasing a product or service (hopefully yours) that solves their problem.

White paper customer journey

To maximize the chances your new leads become paying customers, you must take the abstract concept of a buyer’s journey and map it to your specific content ecosystem. The actions your prospects take on your website can be indicative of what stage of the journey they're in.

For example, you may see someone read a blog post on your site, then come back a day later to get your white paper, and then finally sign up for a free trial or an email list. After that, they might decide to make a purchase. As patterns begin to emerge around the journey your customers take, you'll learn what actions on your part can help them to advance.

There are many tools available to help you analyze this journey for yourself. Google Analytics is probably the most widely used. It lets you track and compile data regarding user behavior on your website. You can define goals and generate reports that will show you steps users tend to take before completing those goals.

Targeting stages of the buyer’s journey

As it becomes more clear what actions visitors take before purchasing, you'll better understand where to use your white paper in the buyer's journey.

The question you should seek to answer is, where does it provide the most value to your potential customers? Do you see greater success when accessing your gated white paper is a prospect's first interaction with your company? Or is it perhaps more effective to use it as an offer once visitors have returned a second (or third) time to your site?

You can see that white papers don't exist in isolation but act as a member of an ecosystem. The related blog posts, landing pages, emails, social messages, and follow up sequences must all be carefully orchestrated and properly timed.

This process takes practice. It takes trial and error, and you must be a keen observer of trends . However, that effort will pay off.

...white papers don't exist in isolation but act as a member of a content ecosystem.

Following up with your leads

Depending on where in the buyer's journey you use your white paper, the way you'll want to follow up with leads will be different.

  • If, for example, your white paper targets the awareness stage and the leads you gather are relatively unfamiliar with your company, it might be smart to enroll them in an email sequence that highlights other pieces of content on your site such as blog posts that are relevant to the topic they showed interest in.
  • If your white paper is for people in the consideration stage, and leads are already familiar with what you have to offer, you might consider following up by sending them special offers or exclusive deals — again, closely related to the topic of interest.
  • If you're taking a highly targeted approach to distribution and using your white paper to generate hot leads that you think are already close to making a purchasing decision, the best way to follow up might be for a sales representative to reach out directly by phone.

This is what it means to nurture leads. By proactively keeping in touch with leads and offering them more relevant content, you maximize the likelihood of them becoming a customer.

9. Choosing the right white paper template

In 2021, Hubspot reported that 82% of marketers actively invest in content marketing. Thus, the need to create interactive content experiences that stand out amongst your competitors has never been more critical in your content marketing strategy as the volume of published white papers grows yearly. 

For this reason, the visual representation of your white paper has become increasingly crucial for retaining your audience's interest. In addition to the value your white paper content provides your audience, the single most significant factor at your disposal to maintain content engagement is how your white paper is visually presented. 

For whitepapers, the white paper template you opt for to present your content can significantly influence the success of your publication. The template is more than just a matter of aesthetics; it represents a strategic decision that affects user engagement, experience, and even how your brand is perceived.

Below are some factors you should carefully weigh when choosing your white paper template .

Target audience and content

The two biggest influences that will determine the selection of your white paper template are your target audience and the purpose of your content. 

For example, if you create an annual report that provides Financial Services information or a research piece exploring trends in Software & IT salaries, you’ll want to use a template that easily represents data-rich elements such as tables and eye-catching statistics. In contrast, visually-oriented templates containing hi-res imagery or videos are better suited for online catalogs or digital magazines . 

Think about your target audience's needs and how your template's layout can optimize your content's engagement. 

Creative control with flexible features 

You’ll get the most value out of your interactive white paper with a content creation platform that allows you to harness professionally designed white paper templates that are easy to use and fully customizable with a drag-and-drop interface. This will allow everyone in your team to create content quickly with no coding experience required. 

Custom templates set your white paper up for success by providing a starting foundation to help guide the layout and structure of your content. Custom features allow you to design your white paper any way you like by quickly changing blocks, fonts, and colors according to your brand guidelines with the added ability to add or remove sections. 

Mobile experience and device responsiveness

As of September 2023, over 55% of website traffic is from mobile devices. Therefore, it is essential that your white paper is responsive across all devices. 

Most content creation platforms have integrated tools that automatically adapt your content to different screen sizes. However, to ensure the best possible user experience, you should always test your white paper on multiple devices as part of your content creation process before publishing.

Finally, website speed is one of the most significant factors influencing user experience and playing a pivotal role in organic rankings. According to section.io , 32.3% of visitors bounce from a webpage if it takes more than 7 seconds to load. Ensuring that your content creation platform and hosting services are optimized for website performance is critical in maximizing your readership when choosing your white paper template.

10. Final thoughts

Be prepared to write a lot more content.

By this point, you should have all the ingredients you need to make your white paper a rousing success. However, you’ll notice by now the reality that your white paper fits into a larger ecosystem of marketing actions and content.

In today’s business world, producing quality content is one of the best ways to get your target market's attention. But not everyone will be ready for the same piece of content at the same time.

From white papers to blog posts, to podcasts, the type of content that will drive conversions for your business is something you'll discover over time. What’s certain is that one type won't satisfy all your audience's needs. Because of that, you should be prepared to fill the rest of your buyer’s journey with other appropriate content.

This means lots of writing. There’s no way around that. It means coming up with content ideas, creating them, distributing them, and measuring their success — then rinsing and repeating. After this primer, you should be fully equipped for success writing not only white papers but whatever content you choose along your journey.  

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How to Write and Format a White Paper: The Definitive Guide

Mary Cullen

Table of Contents

What is a white paper, use and value, how to select a white paper topic:, white paper preparation, white paper format, final thoughts.

You’re ready to compile and share your company’s deep knowledge of your industry. A white paper seems like the perfect format. It’s a useful product to highlight your company’s expertise and a valuable tool in marketing.

But, how do you transform your knowledge into white paper content?

White papers are similar but distinct from business reports. In order to write a successful one, you need to understand the difference and include key elements. This article will help you decide if a white paper is right for you, and if yes, how to prepare and produce one.

To write a white paper, thoroughly research a topic and propose a comprehensive solution in a well-structured, factual, and persuasive document.

A white paper should include: 1. Title (accurate but enticing) 2. Abstract (including the Problem Statement) 3. Background (may be detailed and technical or broad and high-level, depending on audience) 4. Solution (the ‘ta-da’ moment of the white paper) 5. Conclusion (the summary of findings) 6. References (using correct industry format)

A white paper is an authoritative document intended to inform the reader on a particular topic fully. It combines expert knowledge and research into a document that argues for a specific solution or recommendation.

The white paper allows the reader to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

White papers are data-centric, text-heavy business documents. Due to a large amount of data and research, white papers are deep reads and tend to have a formal tone.

Businesses write white papers both to record expertise and to market themselves to prospective customers.

White papers are generally written for an audience outside of the business. Therefore, they are a tool to attract readers to the company by offering top-quality, industry knowledge.

However, a white paper is not a sales pitch. It sells the company by highlighting the internal expertise and valuable recommendations, not by bidding for business.

Sales Pitch: 8 Ways ABC Marketing will save money on your social media budget

White paper: Social Media Advertising: Matching marketing needs and platforms

businesswoman-typing-business-summary

Write an actual white paper with individual instructor guidance.

Our Advanced Business Writing Course + Coaching includes written feedback and two live coaching sessions.

Choosing the right topic is essential to have your white paper read. There are three major factors:

1. Audience

As with any business writing, your audience is your first consideration. The white paper must be written with a target reader in mind. The audience may be long-time customers familiar with the industry or new prospective buyers who are entirely new to the field.

Reflect on the reader’s pain points or major questions. Within these topics, look for ones that have not been fully investigated or the available information is out-of-date.

2. Expertise

Your white paper should match and highlight your company’s expertise.

The entire document should provide a complete investigation, including external research and internal knowledge. The business’s own know-how informs the content that is included and how it is compiled.

3. Problem-based and solution-focused

White papers should identify and address a particular problem. The problem should be relevant and timely in your field. The document may focus on issues such as common dilemmas, new trends, changing techniques, and industry comparison.

The white paper must have a proposed solution or recommendation to answer the problem. This solution is based on thoroughly examining the problem and potential solutions.

The selected topic must be comprehensively researched. Pull information from online references, industry resources, and internal documents. White papers are data-focused, so they should be supported by significant research.

There’s no hard and fast rule on citations but you need to cite any information that is not public knowledge and that you didn’t know before beginning your research. However, understand that the reader’s confidence is likely to increase with an increasing number of cited references.

Of course, all resources must come from authoritative sites. In order to write a valuable document, all research materials must be from credible, reliable sources.

Read other white papers

Are there white papers covering your topic or area already? Read them to determine the knowledge gaps and the opportunities to build on existing content. This review will also ensure that your white paper is novel instead of redundant.

Use a mind-map

It can be overwhelming to keep track of the many sources, ideas, and content involved in preparing a white paper. A helpful organizational tool is the mind-map . A mind-map allows the writer to catalog and connect the many different pieces into one visual overview.

We suggest using the free tool MindMeister to organize your content. It’s simple to use and free.

FreeMind is another alternative but some organizations don't allow it to be used since it must be downloaded.

Don't forget visual elements

When designing a white paper, the written content is most important. However, taking the time to create an aesthetically pleasing design cannot be ignored. It should be remembered that the visuals used can greatly contribute to the overall impact of your white paper. By using visual elements such as images, animations, videos, charts, and graphs that reinforce and illustrate arguments, can greatly increase clarity for the reader while making key points stand out.

White papers generally follow a standard document format. The content order may seem similar to other business reports, but there is one major difference:

A white paper places the conclusion at the end.

Many business communications, such as technical reports or proposals, place the main conclusion at the beginning of the document. This order responds to the desires of the reader and their preference in receiving the information.

In a white paper, the content and research inform the reader and increase their understanding of the problem throughout the document. The final section provides the ‘ta-da!’ moment where the reader now receives the solution which is supported by the evidence in the document.

The reader’s journey and preferences in a white paper and business report differ. The major findings follow suit.

If you’re unsure of these distinctions or are looking to improve your business writing skills, consider enrolling in our online self-paced Technical Report Writing Course (see all of our courses here ).

And, no matter the journey, the document must be easy to understand and include informative headings for easy navigation.

Choose an accurate title

A good title is essential. It should clearly indicate what the reader will learn from the white paper. It should also be enticing.

Bland title example: White paper on Law 123.4 Referencing Environmental Impact Assessments.
Enticing title example: The Rules are Changing: White Paper on the Environmental Impact Assessment Legislation Proposals in 2018

The phrase ‘white paper’ does not necessarily need to be in the title at all. Some audiences are seeking that authoritative indicator. Other readers may be scared off from valuable content because of the term. As always, think of what your audience would prefer.

The abstract offers the reader a brief overview of the white paper’s main points. It allows the reader to ensure they have found a document relevant to their needs. After reading, the reader should be able to know if they are ‘in the right place.’

Problem statement

The problem statement specifies the issue the white paper will address. The problem needs to be defined and placed into a context to ensure it’s understood by the reader.

This section provides the background information required for the audience to grasp the problem and, ultimately, the solution. The content may be detailed and technical or broad and high-level. The content depends on the reader and the problem.

If original research is completed for the white paper, the methods should be communicated.

The ‘ta-da’ moment of the white paper.

Based on the preceding information, the solution is now presented. It is developed and argued for using the gathered evidence and the expertise of the author and their company.

This section summarizes the white paper’s major findings. Recommendations based on the solution are provided.

All sources used to develop the white paper must be collected and cited in this section. It adds validity to the document. It also gives the reader content for further research. Depending on your industry, follow MLA or APA citation formats. 

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Writing a good white paper is not a simple task. However, the investment of time and skill can produce a valuable document that shares your company’s knowledge, contributing to overall education and progress in your industry. And, a good white paper increases business opportunities. As you develop an informational document such as a white paper, it's helpful to strengthen your writing process with our Advanced Business Writing course. 

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Stephen L. Nelson

Author. Accountant. Aspiring Apiarist.

How to Write a Business Plan

May 18, 2015 By Stephen L. Nelson Leave a Comment

One of the more common subjects that new business owners ask about is “how to write a business plan?” To help you with this task, let me first clarify what business people usually mean when they use the term business plan and then provide some suggestions and point you to resources that you can use to make the work of writing a business plan easier and more successful.

Defining Three Types of Business Plans

People use the term business plan to refer to three distinct items: a firm’s overall strategy and roadmap (which I’ll call here a “strategic plan”), the 20-, 50-, or even 100-page document that a new business owner uses to prove to him- or herself and others that he or she has thought carefully about starting or growing a business (which I’ll call here a “white paper plan”), and the 10- to 20-page document that entrepreneurs use to promote a new venture to investors and other key stakeholders (which I’ll call here a “new venture plan”).

Strategic Plans

I talk about business strategic planning in another short article , so I won’t repeat that discussion here. Let me note here, however, that a strategic plan is something quite different from a new venture business plan or white paper business plan.

White Paper Plans

If you want to write a white paper plan, know that this process is well documented elsewhere. You can get a detailed outline for a white paper plan, for example, from the United States federal government’s Small Business Administration Web site at www.sba.gov .

If you have access to Microsoft PowerPoint, you should also know that PowerPoint’s AutoContent Wizard supplies a detailed template for creating a white-paper-style business plan presentation.

Note that white paper plans would typically need to include a business pro forma such as you might produce with the business plan workbook (Excel workbook download).

New Venture Plans

If you want to write a new venture plan, you take a different approach. New venture plans, boiled down to their very essence, answer the following five questions that prospective investors need to answer in order to decide whether they should invest:

  • Is a firm’s product or service feasible? For example, can the technology really be developed? Is the necessary legal and regulatory approval obtainable? Does the process work in practice? Obviously, if a firm is already operating, this question doesn’t need to be asked and answered. But for many types of new ventures—especially technology companies—the question does need to be discussed.
  • Do customers want the product or service? In other words, is there true demand? This might sound like a silly question, but potential customers ignore many interesting and seemingly useful products and services.
  • Is the basic transaction profitable? In other words, will people pay a price that produces a profit? Customers might want products and services at a price that firms can’t afford to provide.
  • Is the return on investment adequate? Even profitable businesses might not be feasible if they require too much capital relative to the profits they generate. New ventures not only need to be profitable, but they also need to produce acceptable returns on investments. This return on investment measurement might be measured with either an internal rate of return, which is probably most common, or a net present value, which is most accurate. Note that an input to any return on investment calculation—the investment required to start the venture—is also an important factor in any prospective investor’s deliberations.
  • Can the management team operate the business? Even if you can answer “yes” to the first four questions, that’s not really enough. A new venture will probably fail if the management team lacks the skills to successfully run the business. So the last part of a new venture plan needs to describe the management team and why the’re likely to succeed. The ideal answer to this question is, of course, to be able to show through past performance that the management team has successfully run a similar business.

I think you could use these questions as the highest level headings in a new venture plan. The only other headings you might want to add to such a new venture plan would be for an introduction and an executive summary.

Here are three final observations about new venture plans: First, it’s very unlikely that an entrepreneur can honestly answer “yes” to all five questions.

Many new venture plans do, of course, give yes answers to all five questions. But I suggest that an honest answer such as, “we don’t yet know,” or “it depends on future developments,” will attract better and more sophisticated venture investors and increase your chances of success.

I also note here that in the recent dot-com hysteria, many new ventures were funded even though they could honestly answer yes to only the first question. (Of course, many shouldn’t have been funded, but that’s another topic.)

Second, answering “no” to any of the five questions means the new venture won’t work. Each of the five questions is a link in the chain of success. Break a link and the chain breaks, too.

Third, a business pro forma, such as you might build using the business plan workbook (see link above) needs to be part of or an appendix to your new venture plan. By creating a detailed five- or ten-year forecast, you back up your answers and provide more detail to the people reading, and potentially funding, your new venture plan.

If you’re interested in getting help with writing a business plan, feel free to contact our office for a consultation.

business plan white paper

About Stephen L. Nelson

Stephen L. Nelson is the author of more than two dozen best-selling books, including Quicken for Dummies and QuickBooks for Dummies .

Nelson is a certified public accountant and a member of both the Washington Society of CPAs and the American Institute of CPAs. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Magna Cum Laude, from Central Washington University and a Masters in Business Administration in Finance from the University of Washington (where, curiously, he was the youngest ever person to graduate from the program).

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8 Amazing White Paper Examples To Generate More Leads

8 Amazing White Paper Examples To Generate More Leads

Generating a constant flow of marketing qualified leads is part and parcel of every marketer’s job.

But generating leads, let alone quality ones, is a tough nut to crack.

How to attract the person standing in the middle of your funnel exposed to multiple options?

How can you deepen the connection and build trust in the mind of your prospects?

White papers are one such lead-generating asset that provides value to your customers and aids them in making decisions.

A helpful white paper builds your authority and thought leadership in your industry along with generating qualified leads.

According to B2B marketing benchmarks, 71% of companies prefer white paper as one of the best marketing collateral to impact decisions .

But not every white paper is worth its salt. A white paper needs to be insightful, unique, informational, and inspiring enough to cut through the noise.

In this article, we will break down 8 white paper examples from different industries to see what it takes to make a winning white paper.

Let’s get inspired!

What is a White Paper?

A white paper is long-form content that provides an in-depth solution, analysis, or opinion to a complex problem that your target audience faces, backed with charts, data, surveys, and examples.

One should ask, But isn’t that what an ebook does? Yes, the lines are blurry, but there is a difference.

Ebooks generally cover a broader topic, whereas white papers focus on putting opinions over a specific issue with factual data and research . White papers are more in-depth and technical.

For example, if you want to explain “What is Data Privacy,” go write an ebook, but to explain “State of Data Privacy in 2021 + Key trends,” create a white paper.

Since white papers are so focused, they provide in-depth explanations and carry an authoritative tone, making them a great resource to prove your thought leadership in the industry.

Now let’s jump to the breakdown of a few white paper format examples.

8 Excellent White Paper Examples + Key Takeaways

1. cisco – networking and your competitive edge white paper.

Ciscos-whitepaper

Cisco is a well-known name, but the domain it works in is not.

Cisco develops and provides networking hardware, data security services, telecommunications equipment, and other high-technology services and products.

So to explain problems of such complex domains to the decision-maker of small or big businesses, Cisco has to make a technical yet easily understandable white paper.

And Cisco did just that with its “ Networking and your competitive edge ” white paper. The white paper explains the importance of having a robust, secured, and state-of-art network edge.

To avoid making the content text-heavy, they have balanced the white paper with infographics on each page . Plus, the visual tone of the whole white paper is totally in sync with the topic at hand.

Key takeaways from Cisco’s white paper

  • Create a white paper that can help people understand even a complex topic in the simplest way possible.
  • Create your white papers with the balanced use of texts and graphics .
  • Pull out quotes, essential statistics, and critical pointers for skim readers.

2. Hitachi Vantara – Hitachi Content Platform Architecture Fundamentals

Hitachi-whitepaper

Hitachi is active in different areas of the IT sector but mainly offers storage solutions for enterprises and midsize organizations.

The Whitepaper “ Hitachi Content Platform Architecture Fundamentals ” explains how Hitachi’s content platform is an ideal ecosystem to support existing content-centric applications, newer cloud use cases, and workloads for businesses of all sizes.

The white paper is service-centric and focuses on piquing the interest of buyers in the decision-making process.

Key takeaways from Hitachi’s white paper

  • If your white paper is content-heavy, then structure it into different sections for better readability.
  • Clearly explain the benefits of your product, service, or methodology in overcoming the problems your audience is facing.

3. ADP – 5 steps to rid your small business of payroll stress

ADP-whitepaper

ADP is a big name in the payroll software and HR services industry. Their target audience consists of small and medium-sized businesses that don’t have the luxury to set up in-house HR departments to streamline payroll processes.

It shows that the company has researched, defined its goals, and then came up with the White paper “ 5 steps to rid your small business of payroll stress ”.

This business white paper example has succinctly covered the major points with the balanced use of words and graphics . Moreover, they have also used a case study to bolster their claims.

Key takeaways from ADP’s white paper

  • Put on your explore glasses and start defining your audience. Who are they? What are their challenges? Which platform do they use the most? Zeroing down on your audience will aid you in finding the topics that your audience loves and creating a lead-generating white paper.
  • Talk about your accomplishments. Share successful case studies of previous clients or product users.

4. HSBC – Are equities overvalued?

HSBC-whitepaper

The finance white paper from HSBC is a perfect example of thought leadership. Using the in-house generated data, HSBC nicely explained the reasons for the overvaluation of the equity market and why asset allocation could be the solution to it.

The subtle use of author’s designation with their names on the main page adds more credibility to the white paper.

Key takeaways from HSBC’s white paper

  • Write an intriguing title that captivates your audience, piques their curiosity, and entices them to read further.
  • Get subject matter experts to write or contribute to the white paper to exhibit more authority and build trust in your audience’s minds.
  • Use graphs and research to validate your opinions.

5. Aetna – The forgotten killer: Cardiovascular disease

I know the title “ The forgotten killer: Cardiovascular disease ” is a little morbid, but it is of great value to Aetna, a leading health insurance company, to evoke emotions in their audience and show where they stand.

They frequently release white papers to push health care and disease prevention information to aware people. This works as top-of-funnel content for the insurance company.

This white paper sheds light on the growing cases of Cardiovascular disease (CVD) worldwide and how countries are innovating technologies to nip the bud in it.

When it comes to health-related content, people prefer credible information that they can trust. So to make the information more trustworthy, the white paper has given citations to authentic sources in the footer.

Key takeaways from Aetna’s white paper

  • Write captivating intros and outros that entice your readers to scroll down the pages.
  • Always cite the sources from where you have taken the ideas or data to incorporate in your white paper. Documenting the sources adds extra credibility to your articles and helps readers learn more about the topic.

6. Sungard AS – A Four-Step Plan For Business Continuity

SungardAS-whitepaper

Sungard AS is a well-known name in the risk assessment and management sector. They have also established the same authority in the intro of the white paper “ A four-step plan for business continuity .”

The white paper explains the need to map out a business continuity plan to avoid the unprecedented threats and crises that can affect the future growth of your business and lead to an overall shutdown.

We can see that the white paper topic is rather generic; hence the company has the unique advantage to target all walks of businesses at once.

Key takeaways from Sungard AS’s white paper

  • There is no written rule that white papers need to be boring. You can make things interesting by creating a proper flow of information. Start with conflicts/problems; Talk about solutions; Introduce your brand as a tool to get things done efficiently.
  • Ensure the methodology you share with your audience is adequately segregated in steps and backed up with infographics.
  • In the end, we all are looking for more sales. So, create a separate CTA page talking about the benefits of your product/service to drive people on the cusp of making a decision.

7. Google – Google Cloud Security and Compliance White paper

Google-workspace

The Google Cloud Security and Compliance Whitepaper is a text-heavy 28-page explainer about the efficiency of Google cloud products and services in keeping the data of any workspace safe and secure.

The white paper checks all the marks to be a well-informed and readable article with subtle color fonts, imagery, and simple language. Still, it is a time-consuming read for multiple people. So, why are we discussing it then?

The real strength of this white paper example lies in how Google repurposes the information into numerous content formats for different audiences.

Look at the infographic Google made from the white paper to make the information accessible to the readers with time constraints.

A key takeaway from Google’s white paper

  • Creating a white paper is just the beginning. Further, you need to repurpose it using different content formats, such as infographics, charts, graphs, checklists, videos, and more .

8. UBER – Fast-Forwarding to a Future of On-Demand Urban Air Transportation

Uber-whitepaper

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could book a private aircraft to arrive at your doorstep and reach your office in it, dodging all the morning rush?

Well, soon, you will be able to do that with Uber’s VTOL aircraft.

And the testament to that statement is written in Uber’s white paper – Fast-Forwarding to a Future of On-Demand Urban Air Transportation . The white paper weaves a great story to deliver the need for VTOL in urban cities and mention all the barriers to achieving the feat.

Using this white paper, Uber not only promoted the idea of future transportation but also booked itself as the principal authority in the making of it.

Moreover, to make the report more credible, they have mentioned reviewers from NASA, MIT, and other elite organizations that provide air transport.

Key takeaways from Uber’s white paper

  • Create white papers that talk about future trends and innovations in your industry to establish yourself as a thought leader.
  • Add names of distinguished subject matter experts to support the credibility of your opinions.

A white paper is an essential part of your marketing arsenal. It helps you educate your readers, build trust, generate qualified leads, and even help you get sales.

Hence, it is important that you creatively explain the benefits of your product, service, or methodology in overcoming your audience’s problems.

Moreover, ensure that the white paper you create solves a complex problem in an easy language without being too dull. Nobody likes a boring read. Incorporate infographics, charts, graphics, footnotes to make your White paper enjoyable.

Use the key insights mentioned in the blog to create a thought-provoking and lead-generating whitepaper.

Frequently Asked Questions

🌟 How do you start a white paper?

Here are a few steps you need to follow while crafting your white paper:

  • Define the target audience
  • Come up with a valuable topic
  • Create a captivating headline
  • Organize your draft with a clear outline
  • Start with a great intro
  • Write. Re-write. Proofread. Repeat
  • Give a killer CTA

🌟 What is the purpose of a white paper?

Typically, the purpose of a white paper is to provide a solution, opinion, or information to a specific problem your audience is facing. It is also used to generate leads and influence prospects looking to use your product or services.

🌟 How many pages should a white paper be?

Well, the size of the white paper depends on the topic you are discussing. Still, it’s recommendable to create an 8-10 page long white paper. If you are dealing with a text-heavy topic, then balance the word and page count by providing infographics wherever you can.

🌟 Do white papers have references?

Yes, white papers must have references to add a sense of credibility to the data you have discussed. It also gives your readers a way to read more on the topic.

🌟 How does an ebook differ from a white paper?

White papers are more technical and specific content, written for people who have expertise in the subject being discussed. Ebooks are excellent marketing collateral to aware people with low subject matter expertise.

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How to write a business plan

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  • Jeanine Hoekstra
  • 7 February 2020
  • Edited 11 October 2023
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The time you put into writing a business plan may be your first investment, but certainly not your least. Writing a business plan is not mandatory, but it is very important. What is a business plan? Why do you need one? And what should you include? The article helps you with the 3 most important steps you need to follow.

Being well-prepared increases your chance of success. A business plan gives insight into your entrepreneurial skills, goals, market position, and the feasibility of your idea. This also comes in handy if you want to involve external parties in your startup, such as financiers. But what is a business plan exactly? Why should you make one? And what is included? Find out how to write a good business plan.

1. You and your company

2. your marketing plan, 3. your financial plan.

  • Dowload a business plan example

You start your business plan structure by writing down information about you and your company. Who are you? What is your drive? Why do you want to start a business? And what are your entrepreneurial skills?

With your business plan, you present yourself to, for example, a bank or investors. They do not only look at your idea but also at who you are and what you have done in the past.

Personal information

Write down basic information, such as your name, address, place of residence, family composition, driving licence, education, and previous employers. Basically, this part of your plan includes everything that you would put in your resume.

Personal characteristics

Write down why you want to become an entrepreneur. Describe your drive, the skills that make you a good entrepreneur, and your strengths and weaknesses. The KVK Test of Strengths (in Dutch) helps you visualise your entrepreneurial skills, such as financial matters, administration, marketing, networking, and your plans to develop.

Tip: if you start a business with a partner , you have to include the characteristics of each entrepreneur.

Your idea is the foundation of your business adventure. You are now going to put the idea that is in your head on paper. Do this in just a few lines. You will notice that if you can describe your idea in a few lines, elaboration of your business plan will be easier. After all, it gives you focus.

Describe what your idea is and what customer problems it solves. And tell here what makes your product unique and differentiates it from competitors' products or services.

Discuss your business idea with an experienced entrepreneur free of charge. Make an appointment here and learn from the experiences of an established entrepreneur.

Your company

Here you describe how you actually want to put your idea into practice. Describe very precisely what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, what you stand for, what your objectives are, and who your target group is. This helps you discover whether your business plans are feasible. In this part, you include information such as:

  • Legal structure Describe which legal structure you choose and why.
  • Part-time business Are you still working as an employee or do you take care of your children or parents next to your part-time business ? Then write down how you think you can spend enough time on your own company. Is there a non-competition clause included in your contract? If so, explain how you plan to deal with that.
  • Company name Which company name do you choose? Have you registered your company name yet?
  • Register with the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce KVK When will you register your company with KVK ? Or when did you do that?
  • Location Are you starting a business from home or from an office? Do you need specific environmental permits or a zoning plan ? Also, write down why you choose to rent or buy. Tip: Do the Location Scan (in Dutch) and get an overview with basic information about the population and competition in your place of business. And check how many companies are located in a particular industry are located in an area, quickly and easily with the Company Counter .
  • Insurance, permits and other obligations Which legal requirements and obligations do you have to meet? Do you need certain diplomas or permits ?
  • Terms and Conditions Write down your terms and conditions . Or explain why you choose not to set them up.
  • Administration Are you going to keep your business records yourself ? Or will you hire a bookkeeper or accountant?
  • Staff Are you hiring staff or not ? And why?
  • Future prospects Where do you want your company to be in a few years? And what will you do to achieve this goal?
  • Old Age Pension (AOW) How do you arrange your pension ?

Tip! Present your business plan to friends and family. Or better yet, someone from your network. They can take a fresh look at your plans and give you advice. Having your business plan drawn up by a third party may come across as less professional. 

If you are unable to write a business plan, you have various options for calling in help. You can ask a student to support you via a college or other relevant educational institution. Also, you can ask commercial parties for paid support.

In this part of your business plan, you will discuss your target group and your target market. A marketing plan is a systematic approach to bringing your product or service to the attention of your (potential) customers. Make the objectives from your business plan concrete. Here is how:

Conduct market research

Conducting market research is the first step in defining your marketing strategy. Are your customers as convinced of your product or service as you? Through market research, you find out whether there is a market for your product or service. You also map out your competition .

Your financial plan is a tool for determining whether your business plan is financially viable. You also use it to submit your funding application to one or more lenders. The plan will help you convince them to invest money in your business.

Download a business plan example

You know what parts of your business plan are indispensable. It is even easier if you can fill in an example business plan. Even if you don't know how to get started, an example business plan is useful. You can download such an example (in Dutch) from Qredits  or  ikgastarten.nl . Some freelancer/zzp organisations also offer business plan templates for free.

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The White Paper Plan

 a blueprint for developing your white paper.

This is the second installment in a three-part series on white paper planning. To read the first article in the series before proceeding with this one, click here . You'll find a link to the final article in the series at the end of this post.

If you'd like to get the whole series – and many additional tips – in a single PDF, click here .

The White Paper Plan

In my previous post, we discussed a few of the reasons  why many white paper projects fail . And I singled out what I believe is the most frequent of those reasons: inadequate planning.

In this article we'll look at a solution for that problem.

That solution is the  White Paper Plan .

As its name applies, a White Paper Plan (or "WPP") is a plan for creating a white paper. It is a document agreed to by all project stakeholders, which governs the development of a white paper.

You can think of a WPP as a “constitution” for your white paper’s development. Like any constitution, it must be ratified by those it will govern. But once ratified, any subsequent decisions affecting the project must be in accordance with it.

Benefits of a White Paper Plan

By taking just a little time at the beginning of your white paper project to develop and gain approval of a solid WPP, you’ll gain a number of important benefits that will greatly increase your chances of reaching the goals you want to achieve.

First, developing a White Paper Plan with your chosen writer helps you – the marketing manager in charge of the project – engage with that writer and define the project. If you’ve never developed a white paper before, this planning process will help you understand your responsibilities. Then, the plan itself will help you manage the project successfully and avoid nasty surprises and delays.

Second, developing a WPP also helps your writer engage with you, understand the goals you want to achieve, and assist you in defining the project.

Once approved, the WPP helps manage the project . It will even allow your writer to take the reins and manage the project for you, if you wish. And it will help your writer deliver the project on time and to your satisfaction by speeding key processes and minimizing problems and rework.

Finally, creating and adhering to a White Paper Plan greatly increases the chances your white paper campaign will exceed your expectations and please your management. An approved WPP helps you keep your white paper project on track, resolve conflicts and minimize risks.

What a White Paper Plan Does

Basically, a White Paper Plan performs four basic functions .

First, it defines the scope of your white paper project . This includes defining your marketing objectives for the project, the team that will work on the project, and the basic parameters (style, topic, scope, etc.) of the white paper itself.

Second, the WPP provides a constant and consistent frame of reference for the development team throughout the development process. As mentioned earlier, a WPP acts as a constitution for your white paper project, keeping the project on the agreed course and all participants on the same page.

Third, a WPP resolves differences before development begins . Having the objective, topic, scope and other top-level details of your white paper clearly defined and agreed to by all stakeholders – before development begins – heads off arguments before they can occur. This reduces distractions later in the project, and minimizes, if not eliminates, mid-project scope changes and their associated scrap and rework.

Fourth, a WPP makes for smoother communication among team members . Having a strong WPP in place insures that everyone involved in the project shares the same understanding of the project’s scope and objectives. This greatly streamlines the interview, writing and review processes for the writer.

Next Time: How to Create a White Paper Plan

In my next post, we'll look at a proven, 7-step process for quickly creating an effective white paper plan. To proceed to that post, click here .

Take-away Points

1.  A White Paper Plan is an effective solution for the most frequent cause of white paper failure: inadequate planning.

2. A White Paper Plan performs four basic functions :

a. Defines the scope of your white paper project

b. Provides a consistent frame of reference for your white paper development team

c. Resolves differences before development begins

d. Facilitates smooth communication among team members

3. A White Paper Plan provides four important benefits :

a. Helps the marketing manager engage with a writer and define the project

b. Helps the white paper writer engage with the marketing manager to help define the project

c. Helps the marketing manager and the writer manage the project

d. Greatly improves the chances your white paper campaign will achieve its goals and exceed expectations

Want help planning and crafting white paper that won't fail?  Call CopyEngineer at (+39) 011 569 4951 . Or email me at  [email protected] .

If you would like to read a more detailed version of this complete series, with plenty of tips for making your White Paper Plan – and thus your next white paper – a more certain success, sign-up for my free, monthly e-letter, Technical Response . When you do, you’ll receive a copy of my new special report: How to Plan a White Paper: A Proven 7-Step Process for Minimizing Headaches and Maximizing ROI .

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What is the difference between a business plan and a White Paper for an ICO?

  • Yossi Konijn
  • January 1, 2018

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Everybody’s talking about Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) lately. If you’ve been sleeping in the past few months, ICOs are a way for a company to offer crypto-assets to the public in order to raise funding, and many startups have been doing just that to raise initial capital, often instead of raising angel or VC rounds (side note 1: that’s not exactly true, but that is an article for another day) .

There are many different aspects to performing a successful ICO (see SirinLabs ’ recent $157.8 million ICO ), but I want to take a look at the core document that is provided for the company’s investors – the white paper.

What is an ICO white paper?

A white paper is a document that details all the relevant information for anyone who is interested in purchasing a crypto-asset. White papers have existed for ages, but until recently were used mainly to detail technical data and use case investigation for technological products.

Offering a crypto-asset white paper is a tradition that started with Satoshi Nakamoto’s nine-page white paper, which was a detailed support manifesto for the original bitcoin currency. Since then, any company that issues a new crypto-asset have pitched their new offering using a white paper.

(Side note 2: like any document, white papers can be professionally written, or can be a haberdashery of crypto-slang that was purchased on Fiverr.com and is not worth the virtual paper it was published on. In this article I will only comment on the former version).

So, it’s a business plan?

Yes and no. There are many similarities between a white paper and a business plan. Mainly, they both need to convey the essence, plan, and uniqueness of the company to the reader. However, there are also many differences.

Ok, so how are white papers and business plans different?

Let’s start with the similarities. Both a business plan and a white paper must address five major aspects of the underlying business:

  • The need / problem – why does anyone need another crypto-asset. How will it solve an existing problem, or make our lives better?
  • The Solution – how are we solving this problem and why are we doing it with crypto-assets (or blockchain in general).
  • The Team – who are we, why are we uniquely qualified to do this?
  • The Market – who will be using our solution, how big is the market? How many users are there? How are they segmented?
  • The Competition – what other solutions may be solving the same problem? How are we doing it better?

However, even when the two are similar, the business plan and white paper actually address different aspects of the same coin (pun semi-intended). A business plan will focus on the company and how it creates value by addressing the need in a specific market. The white paper, on the other hand, must focus on the crypto-asset, and how it will create value which may not be directly linked to the issuing company. For example, in a white paper about a coin used for car sharing, the business plan will focus on the company providing the software to enable car sharing while the white paper will need to focus on the drivers and riders and their interaction using the crypto-asset.

This is also where the similarities end. In order to convince (e.g., put their mind at ease) investors and coin purchasers that the new crypto-asset offers an amazing investment opportunity, the white paper must address several other issues, including (and this is in no way a comprehensive list):

  • What is the platform the crypto-asset is using, and how is it using it? In the case of blockchain infrastructure this segment must be extremely detailed to convince readers why a new infrastructure is actually needed and how it will work better than existing infrastructure.
  • How are new crypto-assets issued (mined? minted? Pre-offering)?
  • How are the crypto-assets protected? What’s to prevent people from stealing/copying/duplicating crypto-assets?
  • How do the asset-holders hold, sell, buy, and transfer the crypto-asset?
  • What are the different use cases for the crypto-asset? How will they change and grow over time?
  • How does the crypto-asset interact with other existing businesses and crypto-assets?
  • Has the underlying product or service launched? If not, why not and when?
  • Who are the existing miners, node-operators, or stake-holders in the underlying blockchain? What is their incentive structure?
  • How many coins are there? How many are planned? What is the issuance model?
  • What are the blockchain economies here – what will create new value for the crypto-asset and how?
  • What is the ecosystem for users, merchants, and traders? How will it grow and expand? What is the company’s stake in making this happen?
  • What are the terms of the ICO? How much is pre-allocated to the team and what for?
  • What size of fund raise is needed to make this vision into a reality?
  • Who are the early investors and how much was pre-sold at what terms?
  • Are there any guarantee structures?

Wow, that’s a lot

Yes. And that is just the proverbial tip of the ice berg. Writing a good white paper is about providing information. The more information you have, the more the educated investor feels comfortable purchasing your crypto-asset.

However, just like a good business plan, a white paper should be readable, tell a store (albeit a more technical story), and highlight the company’s strengths and vision.

What can you do with all this information? First off, do not treat the writing of your white paper lightly. This is a serious endeavor. Do not think that by shelling out $100 on fiverr.com you will have a document that is sufficient to raise $10 million and above. Second, write your white paper (or have a professional write it for you), and make sure you are addressing all the key issues.

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In the age of generative AI, only true pioneers will have a competitive edge

Everyone is talking about ChatGPT, or the gazillion other generative AI tools that create content out of “thin air” using short prompts. The number of LinkedIn posts, TikTok videos, YouTube tutorials, and online courses I have seen about how to use these tools to do anything from creating blog posts to setting up a fully functioning startup in minutes, is mind-blowing.

It’s true, generative AI tools will make a lot of tasks easier, but if someone thinks that it will help them shine or stand out in any way, they are wrong. Here are three main reasons why.

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The good news: venture is crashing. It’s time to seed again

TL;DR – we are facing (another) economic downturn. But every cloud has a silver lining. This time the downturn provides the opportunities to start seeding

Interested in knowing more?

Drop us a line and keep in touch.

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Create a form in Word that users can complete or print

In Word, you can create a form that others can fill out and save or print.  To do this, you will start with baseline content in a document, potentially via a form template.  Then you can add content controls for elements such as check boxes, text boxes, date pickers, and drop-down lists. Optionally, these content controls can be linked to database information.  Following are the recommended action steps in sequence.  

Show the Developer tab

In Word, be sure you have the Developer tab displayed in the ribbon.  (See how here:  Show the developer tab .)

Open a template or a blank document on which to base the form

You can start with a template or just start from scratch with a blank document.

Start with a form template

Go to File > New .

In the  Search for online templates  field, type  Forms or the kind of form you want. Then press Enter .

In the displayed results, right-click any item, then select  Create. 

Start with a blank document 

Select Blank document .

Add content to the form

Go to the  Developer  tab Controls section where you can choose controls to add to your document or form. Hover over any icon therein to see what control type it represents. The various control types are described below. You can set properties on a control once it has been inserted.

To delete a content control, right-click it, then select Remove content control  in the pop-up menu. 

Note:  You can print a form that was created via content controls. However, the boxes around the content controls will not print.

Insert a text control

The rich text content control enables users to format text (e.g., bold, italic) and type multiple paragraphs. To limit these capabilities, use the plain text content control . 

Click or tap where you want to insert the control.

Rich text control button

To learn about setting specific properties on these controls, see Set or change properties for content controls .

Insert a picture control

A picture control is most often used for templates, but you can also add a picture control to a form.

Picture control button

Insert a building block control

Use a building block control  when you want users to choose a specific block of text. These are helpful when you need to add different boilerplate text depending on the document's specific purpose. You can create rich text content controls for each version of the boilerplate text, and then use a building block control as the container for the rich text content controls.

building block gallery control

Select Developer and content controls for the building block.

Developer tab showing content controls

Insert a combo box or a drop-down list

In a combo box, users can select from a list of choices that you provide or they can type in their own information. In a drop-down list, users can only select from the list of choices.

combo box button

Select the content control, and then select Properties .

To create a list of choices, select Add under Drop-Down List Properties .

Type a choice in Display Name , such as Yes , No , or Maybe .

Repeat this step until all of the choices are in the drop-down list.

Fill in any other properties that you want.

Note:  If you select the Contents cannot be edited check box, users won’t be able to click a choice.

Insert a date picker

Click or tap where you want to insert the date picker control.

Date picker button

Insert a check box

Click or tap where you want to insert the check box control.

Check box button

Use the legacy form controls

Legacy form controls are for compatibility with older versions of Word and consist of legacy form and Active X controls.

Click or tap where you want to insert a legacy control.

Legacy control button

Select the Legacy Form control or Active X Control that you want to include.

Set or change properties for content controls

Each content control has properties that you can set or change. For example, the Date Picker control offers options for the format you want to use to display the date.

Select the content control that you want to change.

Go to Developer > Properties .

Controls Properties  button

Change the properties that you want.

Add protection to a form

If you want to limit how much others can edit or format a form, use the Restrict Editing command:

Open the form that you want to lock or protect.

Select Developer > Restrict Editing .

Restrict editing button

After selecting restrictions, select Yes, Start Enforcing Protection .

Restrict editing panel

Advanced Tip:

If you want to protect only parts of the document, separate the document into sections and only protect the sections you want.

To do this, choose Select Sections in the Restrict Editing panel. For more info on sections, see Insert a section break .

Sections selector on Resrict sections panel

If the developer tab isn't displayed in the ribbon, see Show the Developer tab .

Open a template or use a blank document

To create a form in Word that others can fill out, start with a template or document and add content controls. Content controls include things like check boxes, text boxes, and drop-down lists. If you’re familiar with databases, these content controls can even be linked to data.

Go to File > New from Template .

New from template option

In Search, type form .

Double-click the template you want to use.

Select File > Save As , and pick a location to save the form.

In Save As , type a file name and then select Save .

Start with a blank document

Go to File > New Document .

New document option

Go to File > Save As .

Go to Developer , and then choose the controls that you want to add to the document or form. To remove a content control, select the control and press Delete. You can set Options on controls once inserted. From Options, you can add entry and exit macros to run when users interact with the controls, as well as list items for combo boxes, .

Adding content controls to your form

In the document, click or tap where you want to add a content control.

On Developer , select Text Box , Check Box , or Combo Box .

Developer tab with content controls

To set specific properties for the control, select Options , and set .

Repeat steps 1 through 3 for each control that you want to add.

Set options

Options let you set common settings, as well as control specific settings. Select a control and then select Options to set up or make changes.

Set common properties.

Select Macro to Run on lets you choose a recorded or custom macro to run on Entry or Exit from the field.

Bookmark Set a unique name or bookmark for each control.

Calculate on exit This forces Word to run or refresh any calculations, such as total price when the user exits the field.

Add Help Text Give hints or instructions for each field.

OK Saves settings and exits the panel.

Cancel Forgets changes and exits the panel.

Set specific properties for a Text box

Type Select form Regular text, Number, Date, Current Date, Current Time, or Calculation.

Default text sets optional instructional text that's displayed in the text box before the user types in the field. Set Text box enabled to allow the user to enter text into the field.

Maximum length sets the length of text that a user can enter. The default is Unlimited .

Text format can set whether text automatically formats to Uppercase , Lowercase , First capital, or Title case .

Text box enabled Lets the user enter text into a field. If there is default text, user text replaces it.

Set specific properties for a Check box .

Default Value Choose between Not checked or checked as default.

Checkbox size Set a size Exactly or Auto to change size as needed.

Check box enabled Lets the user check or clear the text box.

Set specific properties for a Combo box

Drop-down item Type in strings for the list box items. Press + or Enter to add an item to the list.

Items in drop-down list Shows your current list. Select an item and use the up or down arrows to change the order, Press - to remove a selected item.

Drop-down enabled Lets the user open the combo box and make selections.

Protect the form

Go to Developer > Protect Form .

Protect form button on the Developer tab

Note:  To unprotect the form and continue editing, select Protect Form again.

Save and close the form.

Test the form (optional)

If you want, you can test the form before you distribute it.

Protect the form.

Reopen the form, fill it out as the user would, and then save a copy.

Creating fillable forms isn’t available in Word for the web.

You can create the form with the desktop version of Word with the instructions in Create a fillable form .

When you save the document and reopen it in Word for the web, you’ll see the changes you made.

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The Booming Business of Cutting Babies’ Tongues

One family’s story of “tongue-tie release” surgery on their newborn..

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and email [email protected] with any questions.

From “The New York Times,” I’m Sabrina Tavernise, and this is “The Daily.”

A “Times” investigation has found that doctors are increasingly performing unnecessary medical procedures that generate huge profits while often harming patients.

Today, my colleague Katie Thomas — on the forces driving this emerging and troubling trend in American health care and the story of one family caught in the middle of it. It’s Monday, February 19.

So Katie, tell me about this investigation.

So I am a health care reporter who writes about the kind of intersection of health care and money. And I was working with two other colleagues, Sarah Kliff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg. And together, the three of us had long been interested in, are the medical procedures and the tests and other things that we get when we go to the doctor or into a hospital — are they always necessary?

But what we were really interested in exploring was not just are these procedures and are these tests, et cetera — are they necessary, but in some situations, could they actually be harmful to patients? And so that’s what we decided to try and take a look at. And so we had gotten started in our reporting when we got a tip. And it was from a mom in Boise, Idaho. And her name was Lauren Lavelle.

Nice to meet you.

Hi, how are you?

And my colleague Jessica Silver-Greenberg and I went to her house to meet with her.

And where does her story start?

I am a mom of two. I live in Boise. My daughter, June, is four, and I have a 17-month-old, Flora.

Her story starts when Lauren gets pregnant with her daughter, June.

So by the time we got pregnant with June, November of 2018, about eight months after we had the miscarriage, I think I was just more hesitant and nervous than anything.

Lauren and her husband had trouble conceiving, and so they were so happy when they learned that they were going to have June. And like most first-time parents, they were also a little bit nervous.

But being type-A and super prepared, I did all my homework. We hired a doula. I wanted an epidural. Having a natural childbirth absolutely was not for me.

And Lauren is very organized. She’s always on top of everything, and she makes all sorts of plans. And she gets a lot of different providers lined up ahead of time —

I didn’t know anything about breastfeeding, like zero things.

— including one that she has hired to help her with breastfeeding.

Where did you find out about her?

So I asked our doula for a list of recommendations, and she gave me a very short list. At the time, there were very few lactation consultants in the Valley. And Melanie was one of them.

She ended up deciding to work with Melanie Henstrom, who was a local lactation consultant in Boise.

She sold this package at the time. I don’t know if she still did, but it was like prenatal visit breastfeeding class. And then, she’ll come to the hospital and help you latch, and then she’ll come to the house a couple of times after. And I thought, well, this sounds perfect. Great. You know, I’m covered there.

So one week after her due date, she gives birth. And it was a difficult labor. It took 24 hours. Lauren was completely exhausted. But once June arrived, the family was very, very excited to have her.

And I remember June coming out and that surreal feeling have when you see your first baby for the first time, like oh, my God, there’s a baby in the room.

And June was a healthy baby, but she was having trouble breastfeeding.

She would not latch. Like, she wouldn’t even attempt. She would scream. It was the only time she ever cried — if you tried to make her to breastfeed.

And so as her pediatrician was making the rounds, they noticed that June was having trouble and said that June’s tongue is really tight.

We can clip it if you’d like.

And that they could clip it.

What does that mean exactly, Katie — clipping her tongue?

What it means is that there’s a small percentage of babies whose tongue is very tightly tethered to the bottom of their mouth. And for a very small percentage of babies, their tongue is almost tied so tightly down that they can’t nurse well.

So it makes breastfeeding very difficult if a baby has a tongue like this.

Exactly. If you bottle-feed your baby, the baby can basically adjust and make do. But if you want to breastfeed, some babies have trouble, basically, latching on to their mother when they don’t have that tongue motion. And so some version of clipping these tongue ties has been done for centuries. Midwives have been doing it. Pediatricians do it.

And traditionally, what it’s been is a very quick snip right underneath the tongue just to loosen up the tongue. And traditionally, that procedure is extremely straightforward. There’s little to no follow-up care. And basically, the baby naturally heals as it learns to breastfeed.

And so we said, OK. They explained that it was completely painless. They’d do it with scissors. She wouldn’t even feel it. And all of that was true. They clipped it. I don’t even think she woke up.

But in June’s case, it didn’t seem to help much, and she and Lauren were still having problems breastfeeding afterwards. So while she’s still in the hospital, she calls up the lactation consultant that she had hired — Melanie Henstrom — just to let her know what was going on. And from talking to her on the phone, Melanie said that the situation was actually much worse than Lauren had thought and that Lauren’s baby needed another tongue-tie procedure — a deeper cut under the tongue.

How did she make this diagnosis, Katie? Was it over the phone? How did she know this?

Yes, Lauren told us that it was from a phone conversation. And in addition to that, she also warned her that, basically, Lauren and her husband should really take this seriously and consider getting it done, because if she doesn’t get it fixed, it could lead to a whole host of problems beyond just problems breastfeeding.

She’ll have scoliosis, and she’ll suffer from migraines, and she’ll never eat, and she’ll have a speech impediment, and she won’t sleep — I mean, just, like, the long list of things over the phone.

And Lauren starts panicking.

I mean, first of all, I felt — I’ve never felt more terrible in my life than that first day or so after giving birth. Like, the comedown from the hormones, the drugs — all of it — the sleep deprivation. And then, here was this baby we’d wanted, we were told we probably would never have after one miscarriage. And she’s so perfect, like, the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen. And you think that she has some deformity that’s going to ruin her.

But Melanie says it’s OK. She has a solution. And she tells Lauren that there’s a dentist in town who can handle cases that are as severe as June’s.

A dentist? Why a dentist?

Well, there’s a procedure that’s done in a dentist’s office that’s a laser surgery. And dentists use this high-powered laser machine that can quickly cut the flesh that connects the lips and the cheeks to the gums. So according to Lauren, Melanie tells her that by chance, this dentist has an opening, because she said a family coming in from Oregon had just canceled their Saturday appointment.

So I thought, OK, wow, people are coming in from Oregon to see him. So we talked about it. We both felt unsure. But we said, well, let’s at least take the appointment, and then we can at least meet with the dentist, and also, someone can look at her mouth and assess.

And so Lauren agrees to go in and meet the dentist.

Like, I think some people, when they hear this story, think, like, why would you believe that? It just sounds so scammy. But to me, there is a lot of things that you hear in the hospital that sound insane. Like, it’s no different than someone saying, like, your baby’s orange because their bilirubin levels are too high, so we got to go put them under these lights. Like, that sounds insane. That sounds more insane than, your baby’s having a hard time eating because their tongue is too tight and it needs to be cut. Like, that seems rational, actually.

And all of this seemed really weird to Lauren at the time. But in the context of the hospital and having a baby, lots of things about health care are weird.

So one day after they got back home from the hospital, Lauren and her husband pack up the car and go to the office early in the morning.

You know, I was wearing my hospital diaper and an ice pack, took the elevator up to his office, and —

And what happens?

So Melanie greets them at the door. They sign some paperwork, and pretty soon, the dentist, Dr. Samuel Zink, arrives.

And then, he, like, very briefly — very briefly — looks in her mouth and is like, yeah, she’s got whatever — however he classified it — grade 4 or whatever he says — class 4 — and she has a lip tie, which — that had never been mentioned to us before, so it’s very much on the spot, this new piece of information.

You know, pretty quickly, the dentist diagnosed June as having a couple of ties. He confirmed that she had a tongue tie, and he said it was severe. He also said that she had tightness under her top lip, called a lip tie. And so the baby actually needed to get two cuts. And again, Lauren said that the dentist and the consultant told her how important it was for her to do this for her baby.

One of us says, like, what happens if we don’t do the procedure? , Like what are our alternatives? And it was basically like, there’s no alternative. Like, you have to do this. Otherwise, again, long —

So Lauren and her husband decided to do it. But before the procedure starts, Melanie actually stopped Lauren from coming into the room.

Melanie turned around and put a hand on my shoulder and said, oh, no. And I said, oh, am I not going with you? She goes, well, we can’t tell you no, but if you hear her cry, it’ll impact your milk supply, like, adversely.

What do I know? So I said, oh, OK. And she pulled out the white-noise machine and said, what do you want to listen to? And I had no idea what she was talking about. I had no idea what it was. And so then she just turned it on — white noise — and left.

What happens next is, Melanie turns on a white-noise machine in the room.

And that was the moment that I was like, get your baby and get out of here. And I didn’t listen to it. It was like all of my mom intuition firing, being like this isn’t right, you know. It’s like, I don’t know how to describe it, but your full body — you have to get your baby and get out of here. And I just ignored it.

She said her maternal instincts really kicked in, and she just had this instinctive fear about the procedure and whether June would be OK. But the procedure itself was very quick. Within just a couple of minutes, Melanie returns with June.

And she was screaming. Like, screaming, and so worked up. This was, like, hysterical, inconsolable. And she was also choking on something, like, gagging.

And June was so worked up. Lauren had only had her for a couple of days, but she said that this was on a different level than any other way she had ever seen June crying. And June just wouldn’t stop crying.

And she looked over to Melanie, and Lauren said that she remembered Melanie saying this was very typical. And so they pay the dentist. They pay $600 for the procedure, and then they go home.

Over the next several days, June did not get better as Melanie had assured them. You know, she was basically inconsolable, Lauren said — just crying hysterically. And Lauren and her husband — they don’t know how to comfort her. They’re new parents. They’ve only had a baby a couple of days. And they’re almost beside themselves.

There was nothing we could do. And I remember finally, I said, like, this is not normal. We’re going to an emergency room.

And they decided to go to the emergency room, where a doctor looks inside June’s mouth and finds a large sore in her mouth that he says is probably causing her so much pain.

And so he said, you know, it breaks my heart to see a sore that big in a baby this small. It was like the floodgates opened, and there was nothing but guilt and shame. Like, unmanageable guilt and shame.

Like, what have we done? Who are these people? What have I done to my baby? Will she ever be the same? Like, what did I do?

So at this point, Lauren is really understanding that her intuition about this surgery was probably right and that she and her husband may have really made a mistake with this. What does June’s recovery look like?

So June never did end up breastfeeding successfully, which was the main reason why Lauren and her husband had decided to do this procedure.

That was the whole point, right?

That was the whole point. Right. And over the next couple of years, June had a number of issues that there’s no official medical diagnosis for, but Lauren has attributed a lot of her behaviors to what had happened to her when she was just a few days old.

I mean, you couldn’t close a fridge door too loud, or else it would set her off. Or, we would attempt to take her for a stroller walk on the Greenbelt, which is the walking path, and she’d be asleep in her car seat, you know, stroller, and someone would try to pass us on their bike and ring their bell, and it would startle her, and it would just set her off. So she just was very, very, very fragile.

So Lauren just wanted to get answers, and she really wanted to hold Melanie and the dentist accountable. So she gathered all of the paperwork that she had — texts, emails, other correspondence — and she went to the Idaho Board of Dentistry, where she filed a complaint against the dentist. And then, she also went to a professional organization that certifies lactation consultants and filed a complaint with them as well.

And did she get anywhere with either of them?

At first, no. The Idaho dentistry board didn’t want to investigate, and Lauren appealed, and she lost her appeal. And she didn’t initially hear back at all from the lactation board.

No one wanted to take responsibility. That’s the thing. No one wanted to stick their neck out there. What’s the alternative? The story never gets told?

And that’s when she decided to reach out to us. And after our story came out, the lactation board finally told Lauren that they were investigating Melanie.

And Katie, you guys were reporting the story. I’m assuming you reached out to both the dentist and to Melanie. What did they say?

Beyond a very brief phone conversation that I had with Melanie in which she defended her work and she said that she had a number of very satisfied customers, she didn’t respond to detailed questions about Lauren’s story or the stories of her former clients. And Dr. Zink did not respond to our requests for comment, but he did tell the dentistry board that Lauren’s baby’s procedure was uneventful and that an extremely small percentage of patients do not respond well to the procedure.

And how big of an issue is this, Katie? I mean, how common is it for mothers to have an experience like Lauren’s?

So after we got the tip from Lauren and we dug deeper into her story, we found ourselves really surprised by how big this industry was for tongue-tie releases. And in part, it’s been driven by this movement for breastfeeding and the Breast is Best campaign and a growing number of parents who are choosing to breastfeed their children.

In turn, that has sparked this big boom in tongue-tie releases. One study that we found showed that these procedures have grown 800 percent in recent years.

Yeah. And also, as we started talking to other parents around the country, we learned that some of them had similar stories to what Lauren had told us. There’s plenty of instances where there’s no harm done to the baby at all when they get these procedures.

But we also found cases where babies were harmed, you know, where they developed oral aversions, which basically means that they don’t want to eat because they fear having anything put in their mouth, including a bottle. We found cases where babies became malnourished, had to be hospitalized. We found more than one instance in which babies had to be given a feeding tube just weeks after the procedure.

So these sounds so painful and awful for a newborn — these problems. But I guess there’s always a risk, Katie, in any medical procedure, right? I mean, how much of this is just the risk you sign up for when you agree that your baby should have a surgery?

Well, that’s true. I mean, there’s always a risk. But what you’re supposed to do is weigh the risks against what the potential benefits of a procedure are. And when we really started drilling down into what those benefits were and into the medical research, we found there just wasn’t a lot of potential benefit for these procedures, if at all, in many cases.

Really? So the procedures don’t have a medical reason to exist?

That’s right. We reviewed all of the best-quality medical research on this. And other than that old-fashioned snip under the tongue, which does show that in some cases, it can reduce pain for breastfeeding mothers, but otherwise, all of this growth and all of these other more invasive procedures — we found there just wasn’t good evidence that they helped babies. And the more we looked into tongue ties and started to connect it to the other reporting we were doing, we started to realize that it was driven by some really big forces in our health care system that really had the potential to harm patients.

We’ll be right back.

So Katie, we talked about this new surge in a procedure that surgically unties infants’ tongues from the bottom of their mouths, often needlessly, sometimes even harmfully. And you said your reporting found that this surgery was actually part of a broader trend. Tell me about this trend and what’s driving it.

So that’s what this investigation was really about — to find the procedures that are doing unnecessary harm to patients and to really understand why this is happening. You know, like, what’s driving the prevalence of these procedures? And there’s just a lot of unnecessary surgeries out there, but we decided to center our reporting on three particular surgeries that had the potential to harm patients, in addition to tongue ties. We focused on a particular hernia surgery, a bariatric surgery, which can be overdone and cause harm, and a vascular surgery done on patients’ legs to help us understand the forces that were at work that were driving all of this.

And what did you find when you dug deeper into those surgeries?

Well, it’s very complex, but we ultimately found three main drivers that were underlying all of these. First, there’s a financial incentive for the doctors to perform these surgeries. There’s also a real push from the medical device companies that make these surgeries possible. And last, there’s a huge information void for solid medical advice that a lot of these doctors and companies take advantage of in order to push the surgeries.

OK, so let’s start with the money, Katie. How exactly is that incentivizing doctors to perform a lot more of these procedures? Like, what are the mechanics of that?

So the reality of our health care industry today is that in many places, even in places like non-profit hospitals, the doctors who work there are not getting a salary, a straight salary that’s just kind of, you get paid for showing up to work that day. Instead, they’re actually getting paid based on the procedures that they’re doing, how complex those procedures are, or possibly how lucrative.

And it’s not every doctor. There are still doctors that get paid salaries. But it’s increasingly the case that doctors have — at least a part of their pay is tied to the procedures that they’re doing.

Interesting. So the procedure is growing in importance in terms of actual compensation for doctors.

Right. I mean, in part, it’s kind of baked into the health care system that we’ve always had. You can even think about it as the small-town doctor who operated his own independent practice or her own independent practice. It’s essentially a small business, and they would get paid based on the patients that they saw.

But increasingly, even in, for example, large hospital systems where you might think that a doctor is just getting paid a salary to work in a hospital, in fact, a chunk of their bonus, for example, can sometimes be tied to the procedures that they’re doing, and that is increasingly the case.

Interesting.

And so one particularly egregious example of this was at a hospital that’s in New York — Bellevue Hospital. And basically, what my colleagues found there was that they had basically turned their surgery department into an assembly line for bariatric surgery, which makes your stomach smaller and can lead to weight loss. But what we found was that they were greenlighting patients that, basically, didn’t meet the qualifications for the surgery, which is a serious surgery. And what they found was that there were several situations where people had very serious outcomes as a result of getting the bariatric surgery there.

OK, so this is an extreme case of a hospital turning to a particular surgery to drive profits. And it wasn’t uncommon in your reporting, it sounds like.

No, it wasn’t the only example, but it was the most striking. And when we reached out to Bellevue, they defended their work, and they said that their practices were helping patients who wouldn’t otherwise get care. But our reporting was pretty conclusive that the program was churning through a record number of surgeries.

So what else was driving this increase in harmful surgeries that you guys found?

So we found it wasn’t just the hospitals who were benefiting. The other major player that benefits are these companies that are making the tools and the products that doctors are using during the procedures. And in order for them to sell more of their products, a lot of time, what they end up doing is promoting the procedures themselves.

So like medical device makers, like the company that made the laser in June’s surgery.

Right. And they do this in a number of ways. They’re giving them loans to help them buy the equipment, and in some cases, they’re even lending them money to help set up those clinics where the procedures are performed.

So they’re really underwriting these doctors so that they can perform more surgeries and, ultimately, sell more machines.

Yes. And the other things that they do is — the laser companies, for example — they will host webinars where they will have dentists who frequently perform these procedures show other dentists how to do the procedures. We even discovered this conference that was created by one of the laser companies, and it had kind of a wild name. The name of the conference was Tongue Ties and Tequilas.

(CHUCKLING) Right. It brought in dentists to talk about how to make money off the procedures. You know, how to promote themselves on social media, how to actually perform the procedures, and of course, when they were all done, they got to celebrate with an open tequila bar.

OK, so a lot of this really amounts to these companies trying to popularize these procedures, basically, like, to get the word out, even if the procedures don’t really work or, in some cases, cause harm.

Right. But they also play a big role in the other factor that’s driving a lot of this, which is the information that they put out there about the surgeries. These companies often sponsor research, which doctors often rely on to guide their practices. And part of what we’ve found is that it can create this echo chamber where doctors feel more comfortable and justified in doing these procedures when they have this whole alternate universe that is telling them that it’s OK to do these procedures, and in fact, it’s beneficial to patients.

So tell me about this echo-chamber effect.

The best example of this we found was a doctor in Michigan named Dr. Jihad Mustapha. He calls himself “the Leg Saver.” And what we found was that he and several other doctors do these procedures called atherectomies, which is basically like inserting a tiny roto-rooter inside an artery to get the blood flowing.

And Dr. Mustapha in particular was not only a very prolific performer of these procedures, but he actually founded his own medical conference, and he even helped start a medical journal that was devoted to using these procedures. And you know, tongue ties — there’s really no good evidence that these are actually beneficial to patients. And in fact, despite his nickname as “the Leg Saver,” one insurance company told Michigan authorities that 45 people had lost their limbs after getting treated at Dr. Mustapha’s clinic over a four-year period.

45 people lost their limbs?

I mean, that is the ultimate version of harm, right?

Right. Now, he did speak to us, and he defended his work and said that he treats very sick people. And despite his best efforts, some of these patients are already so sick that they sometimes lose their limbs.

And how much did he receive for each procedure?

Doctors like him typically receive about $13,000 for each of these atherectomy procedures.

But we found that misinformation, or poor information, also applied when doctors were learning new types of surgeries.

Really? Like how?

So one of the areas we looked at was the area of hernia surgery that I mentioned. And there’s a particular type of surgery. It’s a very complex version of a hernia surgery, called component separation. And the expert surgeons that we spoke to said that it’s difficult to learn, and you have to practice it over and over and over again to get it right. But one recent survey of hernia surgeons said that one out of the four surgeons had taught themselves how to perform that operation.

Yeah, not by learning it from an experienced surgeon but by watching videos on Facebook and YouTube.

I mean, how unusual is that? I guess, to me, it strikes me as very unusual. I mean, I think of learning about how to take my kitchen faucet apart on YouTube, but I do not think of a doctor learning about how to perform a surgery on YouTube.

Right. And it has actually become increasingly popular in recent years, and there’s not good vetting of the quality of the instruction. We even found videos on a website run by a medical device company that was intended to be a how-to for how to do these surgeries, but the video contained serious mistakes.

Wow. And Katie, all of these videos — some of them with serious mistakes — I mean, is this something that would be subject to medical regulators? Like, is there any kind of rules of the road for this stuff?

You know, there’s less than you would expect. Sometimes hospitals have rules about what sort of education their doctors need before performing a surgery. But we were surprised that there was a lot less regulation than we thought there would be and much less vetting of these videos than we anticipated.

So essentially, what you found was this complex, oftentimes interconnected, group of forces — device companies pushing their products, hospitals bolstering their bottom line, and rampant misinformation that, as you said, all really trace back to the same motivating factor, which is money. But wouldn’t the fear of being sued for medical malpractice prevent a lot of this behavior?

You know, this kept popping up during the course of our reporting. I do think we have this idea that any time a doctor does anything wrong, they’re going to get sued. But it just wasn’t always the case in our reporting. There’s a lot of statutes of limitations, time limits on when somebody can file a lawsuit, and other ways that make it somewhat hard to really hold a doctor accountable.

One example is the regulatory organizations that oversee doctors. The one doctor that I mentioned earlier — Dr. Mustapha — state investigators had found that his overuse of procedures had led people to lose their legs. And yet, he ultimately settled with the state, and he was fined $25,000. That actually adds up to about two of these atherectomy procedures.

So it sounds like malpractice is not necessarily going to be the route to rectifying a lot of this. But I guess I’m wondering if the federal government could actually rein some of this in before the patients are harmed.

It’s possible. But this is just a very difficult issue. Some of the themes that we explored in this reporting are really just firmly embedded in our health care system in the way that it works. The fact is that we have a for-profit health care system, right? So everyone, from doctors to hospitals to the device companies, benefit when more procedures are done. All of the incentives are pointing in the same direction.

And so trying to find one or two simple solutions will probably not easily fix the issue, as much as we all hope that it could.

So is the lesson here, be much more discriminating and vigilant as a patient? I mean, to get a second opinion when you’re standing in front of a doctor — or a dentist — who’s telling you that you or your baby needs a procedure?

Yes. I think that is one of the takeaways. But look, we understood that even reporting on all of this was risky, because people could hear about these harmful surgeries and start wondering if everything that their doctors tells them is a scam. And of course, while some of these procedures are harmful, a lot of procedures are lifesaving. But ultimately, for now, patients are kind of left on their own to navigate what’s a pretty complex and opaque health care system. When you have somebody standing in front of you saying, you should do this, it can be very confusing.

And this is something that Lauren talked a lot about — just how confusing all of this was for her.

There’s a lot of information that you’re getting that is truly like someone is speaking a foreign language. And because they do it all day long, it’s not user-friendly. Like, it isn’t designed for the comfort or understanding of the person receiving the information.

There is so much blind trust and faith that you have in the system, in the providers who are giving you this information. You trust, like, this is what they do all day long. So there is no real reason to question. That is the system that we have in this country.

Katie, thank you.

Here’s what else you should know today. On Friday, the Russian authorities announced that opposition leader Alexei Navalny died in prison. He was 47.

Navalny, a charismatic anti-corruption activist, led the opposition to Vladimir Putin for more than a decade. His popularity was broad, extending far outside the realm of liberal Moscow. And that proved threatening to the Russian authorities, who attempted to poison him in 2020.

Navalny survived and later extracted a confession from his would-be assassin on tape. Navalny believed that Russia could be a free society, and he had the extraordinary ability, through sheer force of his personality, charisma, and confidence, to get others to believe it, too. Though he had been in prison since 2021, his death still came as a shock.

[SPEAKING RUSSIAN]

His wife, Yulia Navalnaya, made a surprise appearance at a security conference in Munich shortly after the Russian authorities announced her husband’s death.

She received an emotional standing ovation.

In Moscow, my colleague, Valerie Hopkins, spoke to Russians who were placing flowers in his honor —

— and expressing disbelief that he was gone.

Then I asked them if they believe in the beautiful Russia of the future that Navalny talked about. And they said, yes, but we don’t think we will survive to see it.

At least 400 people have been detained since his death, including a priest who had been scheduled to hold a memorial service in Saint Petersburg.

Today’s episode was produced by Asthaa Chaturvedi, Diana Nguyen, Will Reid, and Alex Stern, with help from Michael Simon Johnson. It was edited by Michael Benoist, with help from Brendan Klinkenberg, contains original music by Diane Wong and Dan Powell, and was engineered by Alyssa Moxley. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly.

That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Sabrina Tavernise. See you tomorrow.

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  • February 20, 2024   •   40:44 Stranded in Rafah as an Israeli Invasion Looms
  • February 19, 2024   •   35:50 The Booming Business of Cutting Babies’ Tongues
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  • February 14, 2024   •   33:06 The Biden Problem Democrats Can No Longer Ignore
  • February 13, 2024   •   27:23 Why the Race to Replace George Santos Is So Close
  • February 12, 2024   •   21:57 Why Boeing’s Top Airplanes Keep Failing
  • February 11, 2024   •   42:04 The Sunday Read: ‘The Unthinkable Mental Health Crisis That Shook a New England College’
  • February 9, 2024   •   34:05 Kick Trump Off the Ballot? Even Liberal Justices Are Skeptical.
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  • February 6, 2024   •   31:45 The U.N. Scandal Threatening Crucial Aid to Gaza

Hosted by Sabrina Tavernise

Featuring Katie Thomas

Produced by Asthaa Chaturvedi ,  Diana Nguyen ,  Will Reid and Alex Stern

With Michael Simon Johnson

Edited by Michael Benoist and Brendan Klinkenberg

Original music by Diane Wong and Dan Powell

Engineered by Alyssa Moxley

Listen and follow The Daily Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Amazon Music

A Times investigation has found that dentists and lactation consultants around the country are pushing “tongue-tie releases” on new mothers struggling to breastfeed, generating huge profits while often harming patients.

Katie Thomas, an investigative health care reporter at The Times, discusses the forces driving this emerging trend in American health care and the story of one family in the middle of it.

On today’s episode

business plan white paper

Katie Thomas , an investigative health care reporter at The New York Times.

A woman holding a toddler sits on a bed. The bed has white sheets and pink pillows.

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Inside the booming business of cutting babies’ tongues .

What parents should know about tongue-tie releases .

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The Daily is made by Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, M.J. Davis Lin, Dan Powell, Sydney Harper, Mike Benoist, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Rachelle Bonja, Diana Nguyen, Marion Lozano, Corey Schreppel, Rob Szypko, Elisheba Ittoop, Mooj Zadie, Patricia Willens, Rowan Niemisto, Jody Becker, Rikki Novetsky, John Ketchum, Nina Feldman, Will Reid, Carlos Prieto, Ben Calhoun, Susan Lee, Lexie Diao, Mary Wilson, Alex Stern, Dan Farrell, Sophia Lanman, Shannon Lin, Diane Wong, Devon Taylor, Alyssa Moxley, Summer Thomad, Olivia Natt, Daniel Ramirez and Brendan Klinkenberg.

Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Paula Szuchman, Lisa Tobin, Larissa Anderson, Julia Simon, Sofia Milan, Mahima Chablani, Elizabeth Davis-Moorer, Jeffrey Miranda, Renan Borelli, Maddy Masiello, Isabella Anderson and Nina Lassam.

Katie Thomas is an investigative health care reporter at The Times. More about Katie Thomas

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