TIMELINESS is vital for investor relations websites to remain relevant to investors. A site that contains out-of-date information will quickly lose users to other sources of information.
And that’s what may be happening to corporate investor relations websites hosted by Thomson Financial and other large vendors. As I wrote recently, according to the Alexa website traffic service, there has been a steady drop in relative traffic to IR content hosted on a key Thomson Financial domain.
There are many reasons why the average investor relations website is becoming increasingly irrelevant to investors. I’ve addressed some the issues in the post What to do about slumping IR traffic.
While some of my opinions and suggestions are open to debate, I’m sure most people would agree that timeliness is a non-negotiable trait of an effective IR website. And that’s what makes the following case so important.
While reviewing the website of oil giant Chevron Corp. today, I noticed that a quarterly highlights module provided to the company by Thomson Financial hadn’t been updated to reflect the company’s Q1 2007 results, which were reported on April 27 and filed in a 10-Q on May 4.
The most recent information Chevron shows is from the prior quarter ending December 31, 2006. This is shown in the following screenshot:
This got me thinking, and I wondered what I would find if I visited other websites that provide financial statement data on companies. Many free websites do this, and more are coming online, including BusinessWeek’s excellent new Corporate Insight Center, which launched less than a week ago.
The screenshot below shows that BusinessWeek’s financials for Chevron, which are provided by Standard & Poor’s Capital IQ division, contain data from its most recent quarter. In other words, an investor wanting the latest information would do better to use BusinessWeek’s site rather than Chevron’s IR website with its outdated Thomson Financial data.
Next I went to Google Finance (sceenshot below). It also correctly shows figures for the most recent quarter. Google Finance uses data from Reuters, which Thomson wants to acquire.
Then I went to Yahoo! Finance, which sources its data from Edgar Online. Surprisingly, it doesn’t show the most recent quarter’s figures. That’s bad, and I’m speculating that Yahoo! Finance is the one dropping the ball here because Edgar Online also provides the financial statement data to Nasdaq.com, and its figures are current. This is shown in the two screenshots below:
My next stop was CNNMoney. Its figures are current. They’re provided by Hemscott.
The last site I visited was MSNMoney. Like Google Finance, it also uses Reuters data and its figures were current, as you can see from the screenshot below.
With all these other sources of information showing figures that are more current than that provided by the company’s own website, why would investors want to use the company’s website?
This issue is not confined to Chevron. On the contrary, hundreds of companies include third-party financial data on their websites. Our reviews over the past seven years have consistently found that there is a long and unacceptable lag between when companies report their results and these financial sections or “fundamentals” are updated. (There are many other issues with big vendors’ IR website products that we have tracked for years and not written about publicly.)
The question is why are companies using unreliable third-party data sources for their IR website content. Surely they, as the definitive sources for information on their companies, should be providing the data themselves and updating it simultaneously to reporting their results. That’s what the leading companies in our survey of IR websites are doing.
This problem has existed for years. You can’t tell me companies that use Thomson Financial and other big vendors don’t know about it.
So why don’t they do something to fix it? Because, dear reader, they don’t give a damn. And everyone knows it.
P.S. Just in case you’re wondering if the problem lies with Thomson or Chevron, let me assure you the problem lies with Thomson Financial. Below is a screenshot taken today from AOL Money & Finance’s “Fundamentals” pages for Chevron. They use Thomson Financial as their data source and the information is actually served from a Thomson URL. As you can see, their most recent quarterly data for Chevron is to the end of December 2006.