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F19 Digital Reporting - Blog

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Marcel Rosenbrand Reporting consultant and founder of F19 Digital Reporting. marcel.rosenbrand@f19.nl

Online first: a more efficient way to publish annual reports

Looking for a more efficient way to produce your annual report? Want to spend less time on it and still have an easy-to-navigate process and a better end result? If you do, Online first publishing is the answer. This is a highly efficient way of working, especially when you not only need a paper version, but also one or multiple online versions of your annual report. Those time-consuming processes of first of all making a layout for the paper edition and then doing it all again for the web version are a thing of the past. Content is created, edited, formatted and checked online first, making the whole process a lot more straightforward and efficient.
More and more organisations are seeing the benefits of Online first publishing and have turned to this principle for their annual reporting process. So what exactly does it entail, what are the benefits and what do you have to look out for?

What is Online first publishing?

Online first publishing – sometimes referred to as multichannel publishing – makes online content the central focus in the process. Instead of first producing a paper version, which is then used as the basis for subsequent versions in other formats (i.e. Offline first publishing), content is collated, edited and formatted at a central online location. From this central location, the content is subsequently published to multiple channels simultaneously and in different formats. Channels include online channels, such as desktop, tablet and mobile, as well as PDF. 

5 benefits of Online first publishing

1. Fewer errors
Given that the process is partly automated, it involves fewer human interventions, reducing the risk of errors. Figures can, for example, be synchronised from Excel and automatically converted into tables and (interactive) charts (see example).

2. Better collaboration
In the online environment, creators can work together in optimising the content. There is just one single source version that everyone works on. Version control lets you keep track of who has changed or added something and when.

3. Faster publication
The PDF version and the online version(s) of the annual report can be published at the same time. These publications are automatically generated from the source version. During the production process, creators can preview the content in the various channels.

4. More secure
Working in a secure central environment to which only authorised persons have access is a more secure way of working. In traditional Offline first processes, files are often kept at multiple locations. They also often involve people emailing each other different versions. This greatly increases the risk of data leaks.

5. Communications with greater impact
When the communications matrix favours the online channel, it is not logical for the underlying process to be focused on creating a paper annual report. With Online first reporting, you can start thinking at an early stage about what would be the most effective way to present content both online and offline. Learn more about effective reporting here.

Make the most of all the benefits of Online first publishing

To make the most of all the benefits, it is best to align the internal process with the new way of working of Online first publishing. Bear the following in mind:

1. Involve all internal stakeholders
Online first publishing requires a new way of working. Change often meets with resistance. You should therefore make sure you get all internal stakeholders, such as the finance department, the communications department and the CSR department, on board early by making it clear what the benefits are for them.

2. Make sure that your platform has a content import and synchronisation feature
Prevent endless cutting and pasting. A good Online first reporting platform offers the option to import and synchronise content. Even interfaces with existing consolidation management or reporting systems and databases are possible. This will save you a lot of time and prevent errors.

3. Match your story to the channel
A common Online first publishing mistake is that all channels are used to convey exactly the same content. This is entirely illogical for end users. Mobile users have different expectations to users who download the PDF version. You should therefore use an Online first publishing platform that lets you easily custom publish content in different formats - from one single source. One such platform is Facetbase, F19’s Online first publishing platform.

4. Security and hosting
An annual report contains information that is confidential up to the date of publication. It is therefore important to make appropriate security and hosting arrangements.

Example: Bouwinvest's online annual reports

Bouwinvest manages five Dutch real estate investment funds. Bouwinvest firmly believes in responsible business practices, integrity and openness. This is reflected in the Bouwinvest funds' transparent annual reports. In a web-based platform, stakeholders can navigate through five different fund reports. Content is presented in various formats: HTML, PDF and Excel. Interactive tools and charts and social media features increase the usability of the information for external stakeholders.  
Bouwinvest uses F19’s Online first reporting platform Facetbase for multichannel publication of their content.

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