The printed annual report lives on

Nov 28, 2014
<p>Almost half of investors prefer printed report to online documents</p>

An increasing number of listed companies may be offering online annual reports but the trusty hard copy remains most popular, according to research from PR Newswire & Vintage.

Despite a decline in hard copy reports since the adoption of the SEC’s notice and access rule, 47 percent of investors still prefer printed annual reports. This compares with 40 percent who opt for the online version, reveals the newswire service’s latest ‘Shareholder confidence 365’ white paper.

PR Newswire looked at the updated results of its survey at a recent Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) webinar moderated by Bradley Smith, director of marketing at the firm’s IR and regulatory compliance services division, PR Newswire & Vintage.

For Brian Rivel, president of Rivel Research, what is most surprising from the research is ‘the extent to which the buy side uses the annual report,’ he said during the PRSA webinar. For the companies in which buy-siders own shares, Rivel says ‘they have [the annual report] on their desk all year long, they refer to it all year long and the thing is dog-eared by end of the year.’

But when asked whether they actually read the annual reports of companies they currently own – online or otherwise – only 65 percent of investors say yes. Seventeen percent say no, while 18 percent state ‘other’, with some explaining that while they read the most recent quarter, the annual report might be reserved for when extra research is required.

When it comes to researching new stock opportunities, even fewer respondents say they always read the annual report (60 percent). A quarter say they do not, while 15 percent state ‘other’, with comments including: ‘I read the most current quarterly data’, ‘The annual report is often too old’ and ‘I read the 10K; the published annual reports are less useful.’

Commenting on the research, Smith explains that PR Newswire & Vintage counsels clients to view their annual report as an ‘annual autobiography and, like all autobiographies, it needs to tell a complete story – not just report figures. For a surprising 47 percent of investors, that story still needs to be delivered in print, maximizing all the marketing attributes of ink on paper – glossy or otherwise. You are literally delivering materials into the hands of an investor.’

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