Ever since the invention of printing, probably no other medium has influenced our information behaviour as much as the Internet. When searching for specific information, the World Wide Web is the most likely place to find it. In the future of corporate reporting “online” is therefore no longer a question, but the answer.
“Good reports tell a story – but so do bad ones!” This is how I have been hearing my colleagues from the print sector promote their products for some years now. Unfortunately, the question as to the necessity of (good) online reporting often tends to be overlooked. Even though print runs have been decreasing over the past few years and the number of online users continues to rise steadily, many companies still decide to do without professional HTML reports. But in the end, even the best story is missing the point if it fails to reach its recipients.
If it can’t be found, it doesn’t exist!
What is often forgotten is that the triumph of the Internet has long become a reality in our daily lives, not only among investors, but also among other stakeholders. Nowadays, no company can afford to not have a web presence. One of the main reasons for the implementation of HTML reports is that they can be easily found by search engines. As the starting point for the conquest of the digital world, search engines can be regarded as gatekeepers of the Internet. The order of the obtained search results plays a major role in deciding whether (and to what extent) the information found is considered relevant. And if it can’t be found, it doesn’t exist!
If a company only uploads a PDF version of its annual report, it will have no chance of drawing users’ attention. PDFs are indexed only once, while HTML reports with several hundred pages are referenced multiple times by search engines. Furthermore, the ranking of HTML reports can be improved by means of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). In general, the more accessible and semantically correct an HTML report is coded, the better the ranking.
No medium is more transparent than the Internet!
Good online reports are also a sign of an open and transparent information policy. No other medium is as transparent as the Internet. Nowhere else can information be accessed and cross-linked quite as efficiently. Users may benefit considerably if full advantage is consistently taken of the opportunities offered by online reports. They may, for instance, download tables as Excel files, easily create individual charts of a company’s key delevopments by using the Chart Generator, and compare any given information to what has been disclosed in previous years with just one click.
Many additional advantages of online reporting are still not fully exploited. The possibilities of visualisation, new web technologies or the mobile trend are important agendas to be pursued in the future. Now is the time to inform stakeholders comprehensively.