IBM : A bad place for good stories

The tech giant wastes high-quality editorial by burying it in the online annual report.

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The feature

IBM’s 2015 online annual report features ‘150 stories of IBM today’ in six categories – cognitive solutions, cloud platforms, ecosystems, clients, research and people.

The primary navigation makes reference to the nuts and bolts of annual reporting – financial highlights, stockholder information, etc – but the stories take centre stage.

Visitors can scroll to ‘explore all’ stories or browse by category. The stories we looked at are visually and editorially impressive, employing the latest online publishing techniques and multimedia to engage readers; and they look good on mobile or desktop screens.

The takeaway

IBM’s stories are impressive, but it is a waste to publish them in the online annual report.

People only usually look at annual reports once, whereas this material should be given the widest possible audience, and the big traffic is likely to be on the main website. There tends to a be a viewing surge for annual reports when they come out, then a steep drop in interest, largely because they are usually promoted for a few weeks then forgotten about.

Annual reports are also ‘frozen’ (by law for the audited material, but that means everything else is frozen too) - so the opportunity to constantly provide new stories and build an audience is lost.

It is a symptom of the ‘annual report first’ mentality that still dogs companies. Our view is that you should put material that is compulsory in the annual report - mainly statutory audited material (this is exactly what IBM does in the PDF version of the report). Everything else should go on the main site, boosted where possible by social media.
First published 10 August, 2016
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