What is interactive?
There is still no consense on how to name the different ways of presenting Annual Reports online. While browsing these 500+ corporate websites we found a vast spectrum of terms, ranging from interactive, online, weboptimised, Website and HTML to symbols that direct users to a more or less useful online version of their Annual Report. Most of these descriptions don’t tell you anything what to expect. This can be either a fully-fledged HTML report websites with possibilities to shape the report according to your needs, or just a simple image based click through shows with no interaction. Even simple PDF blobs are sometimes advertised as online report.
How Weir Group anounces their Annual Report turn-page solution:
Weir Group 2010 turn-page solution:
Divide and conquer
It seems that we still need to separate the wheat from the chaff before users will ever understand the value an online version of a corporate report adds. Following our market research, it seems that there are 3 respectively 4 categories established in the corporate reporting world:
The Annual Report is downloadable as PDF. Enriched with bookmark and crosslinks this can be a cost-effective way of presenting, especially for small companies! But in fact PDFs are originated from print documents and are not primarily produced for web usage.
2. JPG (also called image based)
The pages of the printed report are converted into JPG/images. A HTML framework allows hardly more than just flipping through the gallery.
The content of the report is converted into HTML. This allows the user to copy/paste, search through the report and use a hugh varity of tools to enhance the user experience. IMHO this is where online reporting starts to make sense, as this adds value compared to a print version. Within this category we further distinguish between hybrid HTML reports, where parts of the report e.g. the Notes section are incorporated as PDF for download, and full HTML, where the entire report is converted.
First findings from nexxar research 2011
Within our research universe of 505 companies, the share of HTML reports is still on the rise. With 42% (2010 40,5%) of all companies HTML stays to be the first choice. The share of companies that solely offer a PDF of their Annual Report rebounded slightly to 38,2% from 37,3% last year. With 19,8%, the stake of JPG reports dropped to the lowest level since we have started our research in 2003! Separating full HTML from hybrid HTML we see that the increase of the last five years is entirely caused by hybrid Reports. The reason is that converting only the front half of the Report into HTML is a major cost reduction. I see this with mixed feelings: On one hand hybrid HTML is certainly a door opener into proper online reporting. On the other hand they damage the image of HTML reports as they sail under the same flag but not offering the same value: Tools like crosslinks or full text search are of limited use when the Notes section is not included.
HTML well established as first choice of format for Online Annual Reports:
Regional differences remain strong
Regarding national differences, the leading markets in HTML reporting remaining the same: UK, Germany and The Netherlands have a share of more than 50% of HTML reports. The Swiss SMI increased extraordinarily strong, the HTML percentage was more than doubled to nearly 23%. Other rising markets are UK, US, Scandinavia, The Netherlands and Canada whereas Germany and Austria declined. Overall regional differences in HTML reporting are staying high in 2011, ranging from a almost 70% stake in UK down to about 5% in France and Italy. The importance of hybrid HTML reports also varies significantly. Whereas in Germany hybrid HTML has almost no importance (2.5%) in the UK rather as many as companies offering hybrid HTML reports (31%) are offering full HTML (36%) reports.
More and more reports incorporate useful features to compare key figures. I would like to highlight two charting tools that enrich the user experience:
#1 Interactive table at SAP
The five-year summary table in the SAP Annual Report 2010 offers charts for each line on mouse-over.
#2 Chart Generator at Henkel
“There are features in Henkel’s chart generator which analysts’ dreams are made on (whether investors or corporate responsibility professionals): a five-year data span, the underlying numbers available in a format, Excel, they can import into their own systems and – rarely glimpsed – an export image option to help populate presentations. But whether the dream will be realised depends on how awake they are to the richness of the control options, especially given how unusual and therefore unexpected they are.”
Quote taken from BC Tip by Bowen Craggs at www.bowencraggs.com
Use of iPad
Obviously the appearance of tablets, like Apple’s iPad, is one of the hottest trends in the corporate reporting industry. Tablets may become the killer application for mass production of printed Annual Reports. It is not only easy to use and very trendy, but combines the strenghts of an online report (search facility, crosslinking of content or inclusion of multi-media) with those of the print side (offline use or privacy of personal comments). The use of iPads for Annual Reporting is still in its infancy. The current apps are all just starting to play with the possibilities. And its not yet decided whether other tablets will gain significant importance beside Apple’s iPad.
A powerful new way of presenting Annual Report information
Most Apps I have found in the AppStore are using the PDF of the printed report as the content resource. We at nexxar followed a different approach, using our full HTML reports. This implies that we are more flexible on using our brilliant online tools like relevance search, online glossary or crosslinks.
For me, the six key questions for iPad Annual reports are:
- Is the complete report available, not just a funny click dummy?
- Is there a search tool that helps me to find what I am looking for?
- Can I link to more detailed information e.g. click on an image to enlarge or click on a Note at the Balance Sheet?
- Is the navigation intuitive, helping me to use the huge content of an Annual Report?
- When zooming, does the content resize and stay clear?
- Is multimedia content used to engage the audience, like video or animation?
We see the market for online reports maturing in terms of vendors, tools and interactive options. Within HTML reports, interactivity stays the main driver. There are still huge regional differences and ignorance in terms of what is an online report. Whether an investment into a fully-fledged online report makes sense or not, largely depends on a companies communication mix. But I am convinced that we will see a further rise in online reporting, as the decline of print runs will continue to shift interest into online. And mobile devices like iPads will play an increase role.