Email newsletter PDF attachment open rates - any data?


I have several clients who insist on sending really bland emails (e.g. “Please see attached”) and then attaching a beautiful PDF formatted newsletter.
Their logic is that they are able to generate the great-looking PDF for more easily than a formatted HTML newsletter.

Leaving aside the issues of email formatting, best tools etc, my biggest concern is that the information is too remote for the average subscriber.
I have to really identify with your organisation to bother to open the PDF, whereas I’ll probably inadvertently skim read the content if it is in the body of the email.

I have asked tons of average Internet users and they all concur. However, I’d like more concrete evidence to take to clients.
Hard stats, a white paper or something of that sort would be really useful.

I tried to generate open rate stats for the PDF and failed.
The only method I could think of was to add links in the PDF (with Google Analytics campaign tracking codes) and ask readers to click on them (e.g. “Thanks, I got the newsletter”).
I then got messed about by Adobe Reader which throws up a security warning when users click on the links.
Most of the subscribers are not tech savvy enough to interpret the warning and proceed anyway. Many of them would simply cancel the link browsing in fear.

Anyone have any better ideas for tracking PDF open rates?


Forget tracking the open of the PDF, start with tracking the open of the email – PDFs are large files that execute and when sent in bulk get blocked / spam filtered by many corporate and large provider networks.

As you pointed out, email is scanned and skipped. A PDF requires an action… few people take that so no matter how perfect it is, you’re killing your audience reach. By their logic they may as well tell you to make their website into a one page lead capture form so you can mail people a full booklet about their business. It’s a better looking experience after all.

Here’s a few links from best practices but really the proof is in the pudding as they say… Find me a single major B2C or B2B company that sends PDFs other than when you specifically request a whitepaper (and even then most still use links to download it).

That this thread is now #5 for the search “pdf email open rates” says just how few people even try this anymore…