Annual Reports and Shareholder Reviews: It’s the End of the Line for the PDF dumping ground.

If we’re going to send people online, let’s do it with respect.


A couple of months ago, National Australia Bank sent a letter out to its shareholders advising them of a change to the way the company would now report. Instead of the the traditional Shareholder Review (and optional Annual Report), the company would now mail a much smaller Summary Review, and would direct shareholders to a PDF posted online if they wanted more detailed information.

On the face of it, this seems laudable—we all want to save paper and resources—and in keeping with NAB’s sustainability policies. But there is a real problem here, and that is that NAB is still sending people to a PDF*. In 2014!

We at Floate have been producing online Shareholder reviews for more than a decade (Ross Floate produced an Online Shareholder Review for NAB – then trying to be called “National” in 1997!) and we’re as well placed as anyone to say that sending people to a PDF is a poor option and one that we thought was beneath a company of NAB’s size and profile.

Most of our clients’ sites in 2014 see 50% or more of their traffic on mobile devices. PDFs render terribly on those devices. Most PDFs were designed with printing in mind, which means they are terrible for reading even on desktop screens. And last, but not least, PDFs still index poorly on the web, making it less likely your information will be found at all.

There may be argument that the printed report is on the way out but, if this is true, the answer is in rich websites (such as we produce for ANZ) that render properly on all browsers from mobile to desktop, provide an experience and information that print simply can’t convey, and that present your company’s information to shareholders and the market in the best way possible.

If you’re driving people to digital, it’s your responsibility to make sure that the experience gets better, not worse. Telling people to whom you previously sent a printed document that they now have to download a PDF and print it themselves is simply shifting the production costs further down the line.

Digital reporting is an opportunity for more efficient and more meaningful communication with your shareholders. Don’t make it a PDF graveyard.

If you have shareholder or stakeholder communications that you want to move online in a meaningful way, give us a call.

*Worryingly, NAB’s shift to this model signifies something that that always worries me: that the company sees communication with stakeholders as a compliance cost rather than an opportunity to tell its story.

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