What Ever Happened to the Annual Report?

Back about 15 years ago, I had a neighbor who was big into the market. His mental health revolved around the health of his stock portfolio. This annoyed me, especially since his portfolio always hovered around a half a million dollars. But one spill-over benefit of this preoccupation was his annual reports. He had them neatly arranged on his living room table—Apple, ATT, IBM, etc.

I loved picking up these “works of art” and admiring them…not the numbers, but the printing. I loved knowing that I was looking at the top print jobs in the world. The eight-color production, the varnish (flat and gloss), the spot UV—all combined to make the equivalent of a $75 coffee table book. The annual report was the “This is what our company is all about in all its grandeur” corporate promo piece.

While I didn’t have a stock portfolio, I had a new special-order, 1995 red Mustang convertible. And everyone who stepped into my apartment knew it. My glossy Mustang car book was proudly displayed on my coffee table.

What happened?

What happen to the annual report on the coffee table, or the car book for that matter? They’ve been replaced by the Internet and the Flash-ridden corporate Website. After all, you can get the same information on the Web, right?

But the problem is, you can’t put the Web on the coffee table. You can’t covertly show off to your friends—or that girl you just had over on a first date.

The printing industry has always been—and still is—all about doing the best job at servicing your customer. Whatever they want to print, you and your firm strive to provide the best service and the best quality at a competitive price. But what if your customer doesn’t know what they SHOULD print?

Clay's recruiting and strategic consulting efforts over the past 20 years have provided firms in the printing and communications industries the talent and perspective that has enabled them to navigate the constant change they’ve faced. His current company, the bleedingEDGE, provides digital printing firms with 1:1 marketing solutions that enable their small- and medium-sized clients to compete with larger competitors using a cooperative strategy and production model. In addition to the normal 1:1 marketing techniques of personalization and customization, the bleedingEDGE incorporates timing strategies, generational analysis and sociological factors in producing results well above the norm.
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  • http://BobButkins Bob Butkins

    I worked for a company in PA that did over 100 high-end Annual Reports a year. In CA, I worked for a company that produced web and sheetfed car books. It was not unusual to print $150,000 projects with color correction and retouching budgets of $25,000 — to create the premium image piece of the year for that company. (And you better not have a hickey on the President’s face!)

    I am sorry to say that neither will be “coming back”, especially AR’s. You are forgetting about the legal reasons why AR’s went by the wayside. If you were a publicly traded firm, you had to mail out an Annual 30 days before the Shareholders Annual Meeting to comply with SEC regulations. The SEC changed those regulations and corporations stopped printing the AR. Now they post electronic downloads from the corporate web site. So in addition to all the cost and New Media pressures on Annual Reports, the legalities also killed the Annual Report printers.