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White paper meaning

What is a white paper?

A white paper is a document that businesses release to promote their products to customers. Startups also use them as a tool for attracting investment.

The structure of a white paper

Unlike other forms of promotional materials, white papers are designed to offer factual evidence to back up the author’s claims. When illustrating the problems that exist in an industry, detailed statistics and case studies from reliable sources will often be included.

From here, the company usually sets out their solution to these problems – providing technical details of how their concept will be achieved. This is often accompanied by thorough market research to demonstrate there is an appetite for what is on offer.

Detailed financial information – including costings, projected profits and potential revenue growth – may be provided. Full profiles of the company’s executives, outlining their role and previous experience, are used to help give readers confidence in leadership. Roadmaps that outline the firm’s milestones for future development are also common.

The tone of a white paper

Compared to conventional marketing materials, which are often relaxed in tone and quite concise, white papers are rather formal. The writing style used is not too dissimilar from academia, where complete attribution is expected. By and large, these documents run into many thousands of words.

White papers have gained a new lease of life thanks to the cryptocurrency industry. During the boom of initial coin offerings (ICOs) in 2017, startups seeking investment used these documents to set out their vision to prospective investors. They were often accompanied by papers that delved into the technicalities behind a project, and “one pagers” or “lite papers” that offered a concise summary about the proposition. Even though ICOs are less common in today’s marketplace, white papers have endured as an effective way of conveying problems, solutions and goals to readers.

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