Digital Reporting in Europe – 2016 Survey

By Dario Mezzaqui (Message Group) on 12 Oct 2016

What’s happening on the annual reporting landscape?

For the third year, we have visited 800 European corporate websites and opened more than 1.000 annual reports, either pdf files or websites. By monitoring every year by which reports (annual report, corporate social responsibility report, integrated report, annual review) and in what formats (pdf, interactive pdf, html) companies are informing the market about their performance, the research tries to spot, confirm or even deny annual reporting trends.

The research covers the companies belonging to STOXX® All Europe 800  Index representing the largest 800 companies in 25 countries:

  • UK & Ireland: 234 companies
  • Germany,  Switzerland, Austria: 154 companies
  • Scandinavia: 115 companies
  • France & Benelux: 150 companies
  • Southern Europe: 95 companies
  • Eastern Europe: 51 companies

In this article, we will focus on the key developments in the area of digital reporting.


Annual Reports in HTML format are stable

Although in 2016 fewer companies have been investing in some form of interactive report (447 companies vs 573), a more detailed analysis shows that this decrease is due to a redistribution of the communication efforts and a change in digital strategies of the 97 companies who abandoned the iPDF rather than to a penalization of  annual reports as specific websites.

While companies seem to be much less confident in adopting interactive PDFs (-37%), the number of organizations amongst the top 800 listed companies in Europe who decided to build an HTML release of the annual report has only slightly decreased in 2016 (-5%). The analysis of the three year period shows that HTML reports have become an acquired practice for approximately 40% of the undertakings.

Online Annual Reports

From full HTML Integrated reports to Annual Reviews

Whereas in 2015 companies were inclined to publish a full Integrated Report in HTML where the content of the pdf version was poured completely into a dedicated website,  in 2016 the predominant choice has been to do a more condensed version of annual results, either through one scrolling web page or through hybrid versions combining html pages and downloadable PDFs.

Out of the 324 companies doing an HTML report,  in 2016 120 companies (37%) chose to publish an Annual Review as a stand-alone digital solution for performance communication. Within these extremely summarized reports, creative design, interactive animations and video communication serve as a content marketing platform enhancing CEO statements, strategic directions, business models, economic, social and environmental objectives and achievements.

In 2016 digital Annual Reviews has taken the lead

The trend towards merging Annual Reports and CSR Reports into one report, together with the objective of achieving higher levels of integrated representation of financial and non-financial aspects, is pushing companies into giving a holistic vision of their achievements and strategies through one concise, interactive and visually appealing website.

Compared to 2015, summarized versions of annual reports in digital version have quadrupled. In terms of communication, videos, infographics and animations seem to attract the audience more than a technical and compliant full HTML report.

This rapid growth of Annual Reviews reflects some of the ongoing changes in business communication such as:

  • Convergence of marketing and corporate communication: corporate content must be as engaging and attractive as product information
  • Communication departments are broadening their sphere of influence while Investor Relations functions are focusing on protecting their niche
  • Social, environmental and governance issues are moving higher in stakeholder evaluations and pushing companies to incorporate non-financial content in annual reports
Trend in HTML reports

Percentage of companies that have done at least one HTML report

In 2016

  • though less represented in the database when compared to UK or Germany, the percentage of Spanish companies doing at least one HTML report increased from 55% to 75%
  • the Telecommunication sector is experiencing the same percentage (75%) of trasformation of annual reports into HTML projects
  • the most capitalized companies confirm a stronger inclination to develop their annual results communication via digital platforms