The Web is an interactive and non-linear medium, and as such it requires its own communication concepts. This is why online reports often include specials (i.e. additional contents) that are not part of the print report. Such specials include, for instance, the Fast Facts.
Print media follows a linear principle, meaning that contents are read from cover to cover. This approach is frequently used by authors to build up suspense or to tell a story. A detective novel, for instance, would be a total bore if the reader was to read the end first.
On the Web, this is obviously different: The Internet is a non-linear medium. In contrast to printed matter, contents are read selectively according to what is chosen by the user. Instead of following a linear sequence, users decide themselves which topics they consider relevant. In the case of online reports, this means that the contents must be presented differently than in print reports and, above all, must have a clear structure.
On the Web, users do not read, but rather skim (or scan) contents. On the one hand, this is due to the greater time pressure that is often associated with the Internet. On the other hand, many studies show that reading on screens causes eye fatigue more quickly than reading on paper. Online contents thus need to be shorter; they also require a clear structure and need to be highlighted more efficiently. The principle to be applied on the Web is to keep it short and simple.
Fast facts: an entire business year in only a few minutes?
This is also the central idea behind a new trend that can mainly be observed in online reports from English-speaking areas: by means of the so-called Fast Facts layer, companies sum up all the key figures and key developments of a reporting period in a nutshell. Short and well visualised, key messages are presented as sliders on 8 to 10 HTML pages. Links to further information allow users to delve deeper into selected sections of the dense plethora of information provided in the report. After having gained a first overview, the users may then decide themselves which sections of the report to learn more about.
The Fast Facts approach allows companies to add real value to their online reports. The relevant contents are specifically designed for the Web and summarise the key developments and highlights of the reporting period. As a result, the importance of online reports in corporate communication is emphasised even more.
Legal & General Online Annual Report 2013
See online: Legal & General Online Annual Report 2013
British American Tobacco Online Annual Report 2012
The year in Kickstarter
See online: The year in Kickstarter