A THOMSON FINANCIAL survey of North American investment analysts has shone a light on their technology use and found that many are still in the dark about new technologies like RSS and podcasts.
The global financial information and services giant surveyed 304 sell- and buy-side analysts in an online poll to probe their needs when researching companies on the Web.
The survey found that only 7.4% of respondents said they used blogs as a resource when researching companies. Meanwhile, just 7% preferred to receive information via RSS, far behind outright favorite email, which 77% said they prefer.
And when it comes to much-hyped podcasting, the picture is even bleaker. Only 3.7% of analysts cited them as a source of information they like. All respondents where U.S. or Canadian analysts.
Adoption rapid in past six months
However, Thomson Financial VP Corporate Executive Services David Bairstow points out that uptake of RSS has been rapid, indicating that it could well move quickly to the mainstream.
“Six months ago, you didn’t hear much about RSS. Now it is being adopted rapidly. As more companies begin to offer RSS feeds on their websites, analysts will find them more useful,” he said.
As for podcasts, Bairstow says their convenience may drive adoption. He says analysts who are stretched during compressed earnings periods may grow to rely on downloadable conference calls when they cannot attend all calls in person.
IR Web Report’s benchmarking survey finds that only 5% of 525 IR websites reviewed in the past six months have RSS feeds and fewer still offer podcasts or MP3 downloads. Put in context, RSS offerings are up from 1% of companies in the prior six-month period.
Investors indicate sites hard to navigate and incomplete
Another important finding from the study is that investors view IR websites as difficult to use and not always complete and up to date.
Fully 76% of respondents said difficulty finding up to date information detracted from the usefulness of an IR website. Difficulty printing documents was the second most common issue at 65%, followed by poor navigation, selected by 63% of respondents.
On the content side, more than half of the analysts said sites with insufficient data and archives were a problem, while 49% cited outdated information.
These findings reinforce recent criticism in the media and in comments to the Securities and Exchange Commission in the U.S. that companies’ online disclosure practices are poor and need to be addressed, possibly through new rules or guidelines.
One-third don’t like to register for information
Thomson Financial’s survey highlights one another issue that detracts from the value of IR websites and may even drive investors away. In the survey, almost one third of analysts indicated they don’t like registering to access information on IR websites.
This is something we advise companies to avoid in our guidelines for conference call archives. However, most companies continue to require investors to register to access webcasts, including most Thomson Financial clients.
Bairstow said his company defaults to a registration screen on most of its clients’ websites, but will remove the registration requirement when companies request it.
Ironically, registration requirements may well be one reason for the slow adoption of RSS feeds by analysts.
In a recent development, vendor Shareholder.com has decided to make investors register to access RSS feeds on their clients’ websites. This is dumb because it discourages use of corporate feeds, in part because investors don’t have to register to subscribe to free RSS feeds anywhere else on the web.