Slowly, large publicly traded companies are starting to experiment with Internet and social media as alternatives to the dry and boring annual report. Reuters just issued a 1-page version (see it here), with a promise that over the next few days, this will be followed up with more detailed blog posts about the company and its financial results.
Early online annual reports were a pain. They basically were print documents put online and you had to keep on clicking on "next" links to get to the following page. Rendering of tables and data in basic HTML also did not provide good results. Combine that with slow page loads and you get a pretty useless experience.
New display protocols (and certainly HTML5) will give PowerPoint-like fast navigation controls to online documents. I think a hybrid of a traditional slide presentation, advanced (and fast) web navigation, video and other multi-media, plus social aspects will give a powerful distribution platform for financial data. You get the best of both worlds: PowerPoint-style visualization of data and key strategic messes, and nicely-formated text for those who want more details. Certainly for public investor presentations such as this one, but also for confidential documents. You can distribute login details to (potential) investors you want to share your data with and exclude them from the online data room as soon as the deal process has stopped.
There are also great opportunities in sales. I rarely use a PowerPoint presentation anymore to introduce my own services for example. Rather, I just take people through a few sections of my web site, either in person or via a remote presentation tool. SalesCrunch, the company that is organizing my upcoming New York presentations, is trying to create a platform for these remote sales presentations.
Back to the Reuters annual report. I learned something from the way the graphics of the financials are done. I like the dividend history chart, a bit unusual, but it shows both the trend and the detail of the numbers. The big column charts might not be the right format though. Large stable companies do not grow that fast and the columns show hardly any change. Also, the big difference in absolute size between the revenue and profit column does not look optimal. It would have been better to put the $ values as text, but rather make a graph of the % increase.
I am looking forward to the additional blog posts that will come out over the next week.
Thank you Dominic Jones for leading me to this report.