AT&T : Propagating reports

Different strains of an annual report appeal to different audiences.

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The feature

AT&T, US telecommunications company, produces three distinct versions of its annual report.

AT&T offers one online and two PDF-based annual report publications from within the Investor Relations section of its About AT&T corporate minisite. The 2013 Online Annual Report is a contemporary six-section microsite designed for smartphone and tablet with a single column format and embedded video. Five of the sections have feature-style reporting about AT&T products and services as they affect people’s lives. The opening section covers a traditional range of content including a chairman’s letter and financial highlights.

The two, downloadable PDFs are the ‘Complete’ and ‘Highlights’ versions of the 2013 report and are designed for print on a two-column grid. They share the same title as the online report, Mobilizing your world, and open with a similar ‘official’ overview. The Complete report augments this with the lengthy Financial Review 2013, which covers the detailed financial numbers and commentary along with roll calls of board members and executive officers.

The takeaway

AT&T has been producing online and PDF versions of its annual report for several years and its annual report archive offers a fascinating opportunity to trace their evolution into distinctive publications. For the past two editions, the online report has blossomed into a production with an identity of its own. In part this is down to its design – it’s not conceived of as a more ‘interactive’ platform for print-designed content – but more interestingly, and tellingly, this is allied to an independent editorial approach that brings reporting and accounts of a different (journalistic) strain to bear on AT&T’s activities. The result is more company review than company report, and clearly has been developed to appeal to and engage an audience beyond the core analyst and shareholder one.

The PDFs continue to service the core audience as well as statutory requirements, and do so in a format well suited for the task. Research at the end of 2013 by Bowen Craggs suggests that traditional users of the annual report prefer PDF even for reading the report online, so AT&T is wise to persist with its PDF productions while continuing to develop its separate strain of publication.
First published 20 May, 2014
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