Getting Analytics From Research PDFs Like A Boss

Getting insights on PDF usage has traditionally been nearly impossible; however, new capabilities from Adobe are enabling a more granular understanding into how PDF content is viewed and consumed. This article demonstrates the technology, referencing the value this may offer research providers, such as banks.

Ben Hutchinson
Feb 24 · 6 min read

Few companies, business units, or employees would express a desire to being anything but data-informed today. This desire, however, is often born out of more than just competitive pressures or elevating consumer expectations. Rather:

  • Emerging regulations may demand enterprises stand up a more rigid corporate data foundation.
  • Consumers demands may necessitate broader access to operational data across an enterprise as they look for transparency into their own product consumption, algorithms behind any decisioning, and insights into how their personal data is being processed.

Case In Point : Investment Banking & Research Distribution

The confluence of these factors has recently been seen in a less obvious domain: the interaction between fund management companies or institutions and some of their traditional suppliers of industry and stock research — the sell-side research and brokerage departments at investment banks — and their collective response in the advent of so-called “MIFID II” regulations.

These regulations — regulations which have forced transparency upon how banks charge for investment research, requiring it to be explicitly priced rather than bundled with commissions for executing trades — have brought on deep industry discussions into the costs of research production, the value clients derive, and pricing.

The derivative impact has been myriad; from an industry revenue and staffing perspective, that research budgets were set to fall 30% going into 2020, accompanied by an 8% decline in research personnel across 12 major banks. With research expenditure dropping 20–30% since the new rules came in, the industry has been scrambling to attribute the expense. In tandem,

Implications For Content Distribution

Technically, this also governed changes in approaches to how the underlying research content, traditionally packaged up as PDF documents, is distributed. The need for a greater understanding of client consumption has led some banks to require greater control over the channels and mechanisms through which they distribute. This has led to a tightening-up on siloed human email lists and , such as UBS reportedly suspending certain feeds to Bloomberg in 2018. The trends point towards banks generally aiming to drive traffic and content consumption through their own authenticated portals, as they seek to get a deeper handle on end-client consumption and more precisely monetise the content consumed.

In this respect, and specifically, the integration it offers with Adobe Analytics, is of note. It enables providers of long-form content to gain greater transparency into engagement around their own web PDF content ecosystems. Let’s take a look at the new SDK, what it looks like technically, the additional high-level analytics questions this can open up, the associated business benefits, and how it can be installed.

When Adobe Aesthetics Marry Richer Analytics

From a viewing perspective, the new Adobe DC View SDK was developed “in response to fractured viewing experiences of PDF content across the web.” , it offers an ‘Adobe quality’ reading experience and is simple to install via a few lines of Javascript. A is available for you to explore . Yet, beyond improved aesthetic quality and consistency, the new SDK offers additional benefits from its integration with Adobe Analytics, the core focus of the remainder of this article. Combined, the two enable a deeper tracking of how users view and consume PDFs, areas where marketers and content authors have traditionally been somewhat blind.

explains the approach to instrumentation but the tracking implementation will sit largely alongside an existing Adobe Analytics deployment. It will leverage the same report suite aligned to the host page within which the PDF is being displayed. This means that page and PDF interaction data can sit side-by-side, providing the same analytical context to the environment and experience that the end consumer faces. Additionally, the SDK will automatically unlock data relating to both PDF consumption and underlying interaction, providing insight into the , able to be filtered down at the account level (explore ).

Developer implementation efforts are modest since little additional client-side tagging is required; the SDK automatically handles the interaction events and associating the data to be sent to Analytics through the image beacon request. Most efforts from an Analytics implementation perspective are therefore confined to setting up some processing rules for reserved Analytics variables in the Adobe Analytics Admin Manager along with any desired enrichment through classification procedures as described below.

Business Benefits Unlocked Through Richer PDF Analytics

To wrap up and bring this all to life, please take a look at this sample report screenshot below. It serving a fictitious financial brochure PDF via the embedded Adobe DC View SDK, which has been integrated with Adobe Analytics to provide data collection and tracking.

Analysis Workspace project appraising PDF engagement and interaction against a fictitious customer account.
Demonstration web page serving Bodea PDF brochure via the new Adobe Document Cloud View SDK

Within the Analysis Workspace project shown above, PDF engagement data is shown filtered against a hypothetical authenticated customer account. The sample report illustrates the benefits this may offer research authors in understanding consumer interest and preferences and in naturally in optimising future content structure. The data could naturally sit alongside other content consumption metrics for other types of page or video content served via the same portal. This would enable a richer picture of the customer and consumer content preferences, with

In addition, extensions via may also arm the content author with an ability to group analysis of PDF engagement by content type rather than at the individual report level, opening up a deeper understanding of engagement against:

  • industry thematics
  • stock earnings commentaries
  • macroeconomic/market strategy quarterly releases
  • analyst authors
  • sector or vertical
  • content length, etc

In closing, and to link this all back to the MIFID II requirements at the outset, the data may also carry value beyond optimising future content and content structure. It may also be of service to banks and research providers who need to cost-effectively service fund management companies and institutions from an account management perspective — those expecting more insight into the content that their staff are consuming in an automated, low-latent, and low-cost fashion. Please explore the screenshots above and below, key technical links and demonstration pages, and get in touch if you would like to explore this further.



Illustrative source of search query data which becomes available for analysis in Adobe Analytics.
Illustrative source of download interaction data which becomes available for analysis in Adobe Analytics.

Adobe Tech Blog

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Ben Hutchinson

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Adobe Inc, London

Adobe Tech Blog

News, updates, and thoughts related to Adobe, developers, and technology.

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