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Majority Still Prefer Printed Annual Reports: Biz Daily Survey

By Jared Heng

Between now and 2020, the amount of digital information created and replicated in the world will grow to a staggering 35 trillion gigabytes as all major forms of media shift from analogue to digital, according to International Data Corpora- tion (IDC).

The amount of digital information created and replicated in a year, or what IDC calls the “Digital Universe”, soared by 62 per cent to nearly 800,000 petabytes last year, despite the global recession. IDC expects the figure to hit 1.2 zettabytes this year, noting that the explosive rate of growth will result in our Digital Universe being 44 times as big as it was in 2009 by 2020.

To get a general feel of the impact of such growth in digitisation on reader preferences over the medium of annual reports received, Biz Daily did an online survey throughout the entire month of July.

Out of 188 respondents, 153, or 81 per cent, said they read or opened the annual report when they received it either in printed form or CD-ROM.

Among 176 respondents who were also shareholders of listed companies, 38 per cent preferred to receive the full print copy version of the annual report, while another 27 per cent preferred the abridged print copy version. This brought the total proportion of respondents preferring the print version to 65 per cent, or more than half of the respondents. A further 17 per cent preferred the CD-ROM version, while another 16 per cent would want to download the report directly from the company’s website. The findings showed that the print version of the annual report is still very much in demand among the respondents, compared with the CD-ROM or website versions.

It is interesting to note that a significant number of respondents still preferred the full version of the annual report. When asked whether they were satisfied with the fact that many companies have moved to issuing the abridged copy, 54 per cent out of 172 respondents said “Yes”. However, almost half, or 45 per cent, said “No” and would request for the full version.

When asked the main reason why they preferred the print version (whether full or abridged), half, or 50 per cent of 152

respondents, said reading the print copy was less taxing on their eyes. A further 34 per cent said they had been reading the print version for many years and were more comfortable with sticking to it. A mere 14 per cent cited a liking for graphics as the main reason, while only one respondent said he did not have a computer. In particular, no respondents cited a lack of knowledge on how to open a CD-ROM as the main reason, which seemed to imply a basic level of IT savvy among the respondents.

Among respondents who preferred the annual report on a CD-ROM, the majority, or 74 per cent, said the main reason for their preference was that it saved paper and trees. Only 16 per cent cited the CD-ROM’s portability as the main reason, while another 8 per cent justified their preference with a liking for animation features (if applicable) included in the CD-ROM.

Of the 165 respondents who answered the question on what best reflected them when they received the annual report, 71 per cent said they read the summary of financial statements and other sections. Only 24 per cent said they focused solely on the summary of financial statements, while a mere 3 per cent just looked at the graphics.

Industry Feedback

“Reflecting the growing use of paperless communications around the world, only a small number of our shareholders requested for a printed copy of the abridged Annual Report to be sent to them this year,” Nicholas Ionides, Singapore Airlines’ Vice-President of Public Affairs, said in a recent e-mail statement to Biz Daily.

“Currently, we produce only the printed version of the annual report, which is also available online at our corporate website (uobgroup.com). We are happy to produce the annual report in any other format, including CD-ROM, if shareholder and stake- holder feedback suggest that we should do so,” a UOB spokesperson said.

While no conclusive, global trend on annual report readers’ preferences can be drawn based solely on the survey results, the findings do show that the individual preferences are not influenced by technology alone.

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