23 February 2021

Should you
publish a digital
or printed
annual report?

When deciding whether to publish a digital or printed annual report, there is now a myriad of options available. Where once printed copies were the only option for distributing annual reports, now there are many digital formats available. While recent research suggests that 71% of stakeholders read a PDF version of the annual report on a screen, there is also the option of an interactive microsite, or even printing the pdf to read offline at a later time.

Which is best will depend upon your target audience. Read on to discover the pros and cons of each medium...

How to distribute your annual report

The way that we all consume media has changed dramatically. Throughout this century, we’ve seen a major shift in terms of a ‘print to digital’ transformation. Glossy hard copy brochures, articles, manuals and many other printed items have been replaced with digital campaigns and automated software.

This does not mean that digital is always best. Print and digital both have benefits when used correctly. Your target audience and company sector may determine which route you wish to take. A company committed to reducing their carbon footprint may prefer to be digital-only, while those with established or tactile luxury brands may wish to produce a printed report.

When planning your annual report, as with any marketing campaign, it’s important to consider the unique properties of both media to decide which is best suited to your particular purpose.

Benefits of printed annual & sustainability reports

According to neuroscience, paper beats digital formats in many ways. Indeed, despite the enormous migration to electronic media, research shows that paper-based content and ads still offer special advantages in connecting with our brains.

In an era of ‘fake news’, print is seen as a more trustworthy medium than digital outputs. Indeed, in the UK, traditional media is trusted by 57% of people compared to 36% for online-only media and 28% for social media. Proof that the printed word is still more trusted than digital statements.

Paper-based content still connects with our brains

Why create a digital annual report

The internet has revolutionised direct communication. Not only is digital media highly convenient, but it enables content to come to life through video and interactivity.

Here are some of the benefits of a digital annual report:

  • Global distribution – There are no geographical barriers or state borders online. Every issue of a report can potentially be viewed by everyone worldwide, at any time.
  • Lower costs – Using digital media avoids the inevitable costs associated with printing and distributing hard copy reports.
  • Reader analytics – Digital media enables you to get to know your report users better. What sections are they spending more time on? What devices are they using? Such insights can help you improve the user experience in future reporting campaigns.
  • Virality – Digital media can have a huge impact, fast. Virality describes your report’s ability to create a viral loop – taking the conversation to social media and gaining a wider reach.
  • Interactive content – You can let readers search your digital document easily, navigate quickly and interact with its content – potentially allowing them to access a deeper level of messaging.
  • Sustainability – There’s no waste with digital media – no excess printed copies to worry about.

Digital or printed annual reports – which is better?

Marketers and preparers of annual reports should take advantage of the unique properties of both paper and digital – depending on their specific needs.

Scientific studies have shown that paper can be more impactful and memorable than digital media. Providing important information in paper format may increase the reader’s comprehension and recall, meaning a hard copy annual report can be more effective for communicating detailed information.

A digital approach, meanwhile, offers its own huge advantages, including instantaneous access, localisation, powerful personalisation and targeting, audio and video, and more.

A digital annual report can demonstrate the importance your company places on sustainability, its innovative culture and its willingness to embrace technology. If a picture paints a thousand words, think how much you could say with a digital annual report that’s media-rich throughout.

A third option is to combine print and digital reports. Maybe send a printed copy to major stakeholders, creating a sense of prestige for your most valued partners. Or create a lite digital version to display the key data, with a printed or pdf version containing the full report.

As we’ve highlighted, the trend to digital from paper is clear. The final decision depends on your target audience and the key messages you want to convey.

Download our guide and discover how to design reports that inspire your stakeholders

 

Want to know the secrets of excellent annual report design?

Download our FREE eBook to discover:

✅ How to get the most from your report
✅ How to increase engagement
✅ Our proven design process

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Contact JDJ Creative for annual report design

If you’re looking for an annual report design partner, JDJ Creative are the specialists. To find out how we can work with you to create exceptional reports, please get in touch.

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