What “Paperless Reporting” really means
The common practice of going “paperless” is to replace hardcopies with PDFs. However, the experience is usually more ideal within a desktop computer but less so on mobile devices. A PDF document when opened in a smartphone would look like this:
We embrace the concept of “paperless reporting” because it helps conserve the environment; but isn’t distributing a document which was made to be printable a bit contradictory?
Paperless Reporting should no longer be misrepresented by “flippable” e-books made from PDFs. Instead, the 21st century approach should be developing HTML Reports for the following reasons:
1. Browsing trumps reading
With information constantly feeding into our mailboxes and social media feeds, we have shifted into a habit of just reading headlines, skimming through content, embracing infographics and other multimedia content. We have moved away from reading chunky paragraphs of text but seek for shortcuts to acquire all necessary information. These “shortcuts” could be to export financial figures into spreadsheets with a click of a button, to view a two-minute speech by the CEO in place of the Executive Summary, or to compare and compute figures using charting tools. Our behaviors in obtaining information have changed, and being interactive cannot be achieved via text-heavy PDFs.
2. We are always holding onto our smartphones (with one hand)
Admit it, the thought of a gadget-free day scares you. Our personal and work lives are now so dependent on smartphones and they have become the main device we use to browse content. Some of us even browse with just one hand, which makes it impossible to zoom in and out of a PDF file or a website not developed with Responsive Web Design (RWD) technology. New-age annual reports should be developed in HTML with RWD, ensuring they are mobile-compatible.
3. Web links (URLs) allow for timely and easy sharing
E-mails have revolutionized our way of communication since the 1990s, yet new channels continue to appear. We are now more accustomed to receiving information via messaging apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat, and LINE; or via social media channels such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Not only are sharing URLs a more time-efficient way to provide information, the brief snippets also create an enticing feeling to the content. In addition, it is not possible to share selected pages within your 100-page report independently, but now you can do so using URLs.
4. Identify and understand your readership
After all the hard work in compiling all the content for your reports, it would be great to learn if your viewers enjoyed them. We often think that feedback could only be received verbally or in written form, yet analytics applications can now be embedded into HTML reports to track traffic and duration of viewing on the back-end. You can find out which sections of your report are more interesting, where your viewers are located, how they found out about your report etc. All these data can provide insightful findings when producing and distributing future reports.
In fact, “Paperless Reporting” has been an IR standard in the U.S. and has recently been enforced as a requirement by the SGX in Asia. We believe it won’t take long for this to become a global standard/requirement; yet we urge that IR managers put in extra effort to think what does “Paperless Reporting” really mean and in what format it should be done to ensure meaningful and valuable usage.
EQS Group was founded in 2000, and has since grown to be a leading global provider of digital solutions for investor relations. EQS works with many stock-listed companies around the world to create the web-version of their annual reports. Within Asia Pacific, EQS operates offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, serving over 500 companies in the region. Contact us to learn more: firstname.lastname@example.org.