10 November 2011 - Are printed annual reports dying out?

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Tags:  Corporate comms

As a creative design agency, earlier this year we received an invitation to tender for the creation and delivery of an annual report for a leading European telecomms provider.  The client wasn’t particularly interested in delivering a printed version and for them, digital delivery would take precedent over all other forms of stakeholder communication.  A paired-back printed version was to be produced if the remaining budget allowed it.

Closer to home in the UK, the Electronic Communications Act and the benefits it can bring to shareholders and those producing the report are becoming harder to ignore. Shareholders are increasingly confident with viewing reports online, as recent studies by our partners at nexxar.com have proven, but companies are also quick to harness the additional benefits of online reporting - not least of all a measure of how the report is read and digested by way of reviewing the website user statistics.  Anecdotal evidence suggests previous print runs of tens of thousands are now down into the hundreds for some clients and this is a trend likely to continue.

However, all of this brings some unique challenges for most of the creative design agencies traditionally involved in the annual report deliver process and it’s our opinion that the tide is turning quicker than any of the current solution providers initially expected!  The crux of the problem is fairly simple to understand – annual report creation agencies have a long history of delivering printed materials but typically know little of the online world.  In contrast, digital delivery agencies who excel in delivering fantastic online annual reports are typically working to convert a document originally designed for print and they lack the editorial, strategy and process driven skills of their offline counterparts.

Aside from the initial complications and practicalities that present themselves, it’s important that companies who are looking to deliver their annual report online above other deliverables are able to select a creative design agency that can think and strategise independently of the final delivery mechanism. 

There are many challenges involved in delivering a report for an online audience, especially when previous reports have been focused toward an offline audience.  Fundamentally, the way people read a physical in-hand report is much different to the way information is read and digested online.  Everything from the expected reader attention span to editorial strategy, navigational elements, search engine optimisation and much more all have to be carefully considered to create an online report that carries the same impact as a printed report, while remaining readable to all audiences.

BergHind Joseph remain ‘delivery neutral’ and we are well positioned to take advantage in the shift of reporting requirements we are seeing within the market.  We work with our clients to understand their unique communication and audience requirements and we propose a solution to match.  We suspect traditional print agencies will have to reinvent themselves very quickly, while online delivery partners will focus on expanding their current skill-set in order to keep up with client demands over the coming reporting season.  It’s certainly an interesting topic that continues to evolve in line with regulatory requirements and importantly, audience expectations.

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