Integrating the annual report: a new tool for web and print

Sutton Compliance product cuts need to produce separate online and print documents

With the option for added videos of the CEO, interactive images and other shiny new elements, it might seem like the annual report is all about online these days, but the demand for at least some printed copies just hasn’t gone away, observes Gord Sutton, founder of Canadian website and marketing firm Sutton Compliance.

In response, Sutton and his team of coders have come up with a new tool to turn an online annual report or quarterly release ‘into a printed book at the touch of a button’. The Dynamic Print Generator took 14 months to develop in-house, and Sutton stresses that the firm doesn’t use an open-source content management system (CMS).

‘When we convert to a high-resolution PDF for printing, it automatically takes out the 100dpi pictures and swaps them for 300dpi – and if you have a video, it will take that out and put in a still,’ he explains. And while he is aware that many companies already have PDFs of their annual report or other documents, he notes that they might well do – ‘but not one they can make changes to.’

It’s not just about the option to print as and when you want, either, says Sutton. Because clients can make their own changes in the company’s CMS, the often expensive back and forth process is reduced.

The process of sending documents between Sutton Compliance and its client normally takes two days, and Sutton adds that the upcharge on changes to a printed report can run to more than 30 percent of the final cost. ‘The difference here is that clients can do all their own changes,’ he says, though the company does then give it a final run through for style.

So far, three firms have used the new tool for their annual reports, says Sutton, who also wants to roll out the system for use with fact sheets, corporate brochures and company catalogues.

A recent NIRI study of US companies finds most firms still produce a print and an online version of the annual report. Two thirds of respondents publish both types, 16 percent release just a print copy and 5 percent go the online-only route, the association reports. A small number of companies do not produce an annual report.

The study, released in October, notes that the most popular form for online reports is PDF: 91 percent of respondents follow this approach. It also reveals that annual report budgets among US companies have continued the downward trend of recent years.

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