Turn, zoom, flash! French big caps going their own online reporting way?

Instead of turning to HTML like in other countries french companies increasingly 'enhance' their image-based reports with flash.

Today surveys in UK (SmithsRatings, The Group) and Germany (Kirchhoff (PDF)) underline the dominant role of HTML in online corporate reporting. Our yearly Nexxar Benchmark analysis shows this long-term trend since 2003 with now 40-60% of companies in British FTSE-100, German DAX-80, Dutch AEX-50 and US-american Dow-30 provide their annual report in a format that meets the basic usability needs of investors.

In almost all developed capital markets of the western hemisphere the conversion of annual reports into HTML is clearly rising, wiping out PDF and – even more dramatic – image-based reports (aka JPG show) that lots of articles and comments have stigmatised being not convenient for online use.

But not so in France! A surprisingly high amount of CAC-40 companies (17!) decide for an image-based conversion of their annual report. Only three companies provide a state-of-the-art HTML report and the remaining half (20) solely offers a PDF for download. Instead of turning to HTML like in other countries (see development of UK and Netherlands in our research since 2005) french companies increasingly ‘enhance’ their image-based reports with flash.

Apart from a few more in Spain and Italy those flashy reports can be found nowhere else in the world, making it mainly a french phenomenon. Considering that 20 out of 50 EuroStoxx companies are French one might assume they would look to their peers? Obviously french solution providers have a firm hold on IR and CC officers when it comes to corporate reporting.

What does this flash enhancement do with the report and what is good or bad about it?
As by nature a 1:1 picture of a printed report suffer basic problems of not fitting portrait format pages on to a landscape format screen. Side guide, page numbers etc. take best space on the top of each page and multi-column information further fuels the need for scrolling. Copy and paste of text for reuse in articles, blogs or research is not possible, font-size and font-family even make them hardly legible.

But the biggest downside is ignorance towards typical online navigation and orientation. Whereas webpages ususally offer a flat hierarchy into content via teasers, quick- and crosslinks – the JPG show gives you a turn to next page click button that leaves you alone estimating what information you need to scroll through on the next page. Togeher with slow loading due to file size implication of images, the user experience that stays is like using a plane to drive the streets!

The flash enhancement doesn’t change any of the mentioned problems but it makes the report work more smooth. It enables zooming into pages or highlighting of search phrases. Both helpful, thus only necessary as the report is not done in proper HTML and not fitting on my screen.

To sum it up, the french way copes with major disadvantages of image-based reporting by trying to fix some of the symptoms instead of curing the disease.

Below I have put together some thoughts on french big cap flash reports. Click through yourself and share with me your personal user experience. I am looking forward to reading your comments on this blog!

  • BNPParibas -> somebody please tell me, why there is a go-to-page function in all these reports?
  • Dexia -> Find the zoom! and when you have, try the second zoom too. very intuitive!
  • Accor -> Search for “dividend” even highlighted. search for “dividen” (mistyp) -> no results.
  • Air France -> Does anyone really expect orientation from the thumbnail overview?
  • LVMH -> Recommending a page sends a PDF, switching language leads to the corporate homepage.
  • EDF -> very futuristic bookmark system -> sticky notes!
  • France Telecom -> Share a laugh by using the “reading simplified” function

Just bad in any direction -> L’Oreal, Veolia Environnement, Bouygues

(jw)

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  1. What has not been said: Has anyone tried to read a picture gallary yet? I read Thomas Reuters IR Survey 2009, which is published in such a format. IT IS A HORROR to read it!!!!! No scrolling and reading for longer is even more strainious than reading normally is on the PC.