This years Nexxar research showed a remarkable development in online corporate reporting in the UK and US: A strong rise of HTML reports that incorporate the Notes section just as PDF. Is this a major shift in the perception of online reporting? Together with an increasing use of mulitmedia, companies seem to focus more on telling stories than reporting their business performance. A fool who thinks bad figures in economic difficult times might be the reason!
Of course companies save a lot of money by skipping conversion for more than half of the annual report. And notes include most of the tables, which are a technical challenging thing to do online. Companies question to take these costs, argueing that nobody reads them.
I don’t agree on this view!
Every 4th user visits the Financial statements. And around half of them go on to the Notes for deeper explanantions! Looking at the search strings of what people are searching for in the online report, more than 1/3 of the top links go into the back section of the financial reporting. If Notes are not converted into HTML the search results do not reflect a true but an incorrect and misleading view of the reporting! For more stats have a look at the video replay of our Webinar.
Another interesting facet is that corporate reporting rankings so far didn’t comment on this development. Hybrid reports have been surprisingly successful in UK rankings. Mostly it is not even mentioned that these reports leave out valuable information not to display in HTML.
UK IR Society guidelines explicitly asks to make the full report available online. But the winner of their last years Best Practice Awards is just an hybrid report.
I hope hybrid reports are a temporary fashion due to current budget constraints. IMHO they are a serious threat to overall reputation of online reporting. Bad user experience may also negativly influence usage of good HTML reports. I think it is all vendors own interest to keep up good work and thus enhance usability of online reporting.