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  • Writer's pictureAndile Khumalo

HTML: The Future of Digital Reporting

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

The integrated report is an oversight mechanism to improve governance and accountability. As such, it is imperative that this communication tool should be used to reach as many people as possible. How this is done has begun to change; what was formerly printed on paper is now published in the medium of this century: the world wide web.

According to a study conducted by German experts in digital reporting, nexxar, print runs have been reduced, with a decline of approximately 94% in some organisations.

Many respondents in the nexxar survey additionally forecast that their annual report print runs will decline significantly within the next five years.

The study shows a clear tendency towards digital reporting formats, of which PDF, the reporting standard XBRL and digital annual reports (HTML) are said to have the highest potential and importance. 59% of respondents even accept that in the future, reports will only be provided in a digital format.

It is evident from the results of this study that the importance of the reporting standard XBRL is showing the most growth. This comes as no surprise, since most respondent companies are obliged to provide parts of their annual report content (in particular the financial statements) in this new format by 2020. 

In addition, people’s reading habits have changed. They want precise information – and they want it quickly. This means that important information must be accessible any time, from any place, on any device, easy to find and easy to consume.

Summary Reports

Summary reports only prepare a short overview of the report “highlights” in HTML. The summary approach has one major problem: it does not keep in mind that users of annual reports are diverse. There are swimmers, surfers and divers of data. Some prefer an interesting presentation of data, while others want to really dig into the details. A good online annual report provides a solution that fits the needs of all stakeholders. Nexxar’s research shows that most readers don’t want exclusively multimedia entertainment. When they open an HTML report, they are looking for comprehensive information, i.e. full disclosure of all annual report content.

Searchability and SEO

While PDFs are searchable, the quality of the results and the overall search experience is far superior in an HTML report. With an HTML report, using a search engine such as Google to look for specific information from the report, takes the user directly to the site with the relevant content. When the report only exists as a PDF, the same search leads to the PDF, which needs to be downloaded and then searched again.

Interactive PDFs and Super Summary Pages, which many agencies claim to be the future of digital reporting, have their technical limitations and cannot offer all the features that people have come to expect in the digital era. Only a full HTML report can meet the expectations of today’s digital audience: with interactive and multimedia content, easy navigation and mobile-friendly design, good searchability and options for social media sharing. That is why full HTML reports, and not PDFs or Super Summary Pages, are the future of digital reporting.

This article first appeared on

on 28 April 2020.

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