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Time to Ditch the Annual Report?

It's probably too late for this cycle, but if you're still doing a printed Annual Report, it's time to stop. The Internet has rendered them all but obsolete, as Daniel Gross reports in Slate.

I do know one vital investing constituency that still values them, however: non-Internet-enabled seniors and other older investors. Basically, if you're under, say, 60, you may not love using the 'net but you're not surprised when you find out that you have to in order to get the information you want. But if you're over that age, you may very well be a little put out, or even at a loss for how to use the 'net to access the information.

For this last group of print holdouts, I suggest companies send out easy-to-understand letters saying "we're not printing our Annual Report any more, but if you want us to print out a copy for you, check this box and we'll send it to you."

As for replacing the old printed report: the minimum requirements for public companies is that they file a 10-K and make it easily available to their investors. Everything else is discretionary, so companies ought to start looking creatively at how to accomplish the other element of the Annual Report: corporate branding. Here are some ideas:

  • Create podcasts, online videos, DVDs touting your products and services
  • Conduct webinars or online chats with company management to explain how the company works
  • Create online identities at places like Facebook and LinkedIn and tell your story through those channels