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Role of outsiders in the distribution of information over the internet in corporate e reporting

Who are the Outsiders?


The Working Group found it useful to classify outsiders in two groups—content providers and enhancers used by companies to present information through links to the investor relations Web site and independent investor sites and forums

Role of outsiders in the distribution of information over the internet in corporate e reporting


Content Providers and Enhancers 


This group includes service providers whose services are often hyperlinked from a company’s investor relations Web site, although most also provide information through their own Web sites.
The information provided by those companies usually is available from other sources; however, they usually add value by enhancing the information or providing it in a form that makes it more compatible with Web sites.
  • Stock price information and trading services            www.digitrade.com 
  • EDGAR SEC filings                                                  www.sec.gov
  •  Edgar Online Enhanced SEC filings                         www.edgar-online.com 
  • First Call Consensus earnings forecasts                     www.firstcall.com 
  • FreeEdgar Enhanced SEC filings                               www.freeedgar.com
  •  Media General Financial Services, 
  • Inc. Stock charts, stock trading information, 
  • “fundamentals” analytical data                                   www.mgfs.com
The FreeEdgar and Edgar Online services are a good example of how content providers can improve the usefulness of information. 

The SEC’s EDGAR service provides a complete copy of all filings by public companies. However, the EDGAR documents are in text format. 

They are exact reproductions of the printed documents and can be very dif- ficult to navigate from a computer console. 

The FreeEdgar and Edgar Online services take these raw documents, provide annotated and hyperlinked tables of contents, and, most important, allow users to download financial statements as spreadsheet files.

Investor Sites and Forums 


These are Web sites that provide a range of information about individual companies. Some are little more than collections of hyperlinks to company and other related Web sites. 

Others include collections of news about a company and general investment articles. Still others appear to be designed as Internet portals31 for investors. 

Most offer a combination of free and subscription services. Some of the significant investor sites include:


Role of Investors Site 

  1. Company description, address and phone numbers, locations 
  2.  Subsidiaries and affiliates with traded securities 
  3. Lists of products and services 
  4. Company history 
  5.  Information about officers and key employees 
  6.  Information about and links to principal competitors 
  7. Information about patents and trademarks 
  8. Information about insider trades 
  9.  Information about company PAC political contributions 
  10.  Summaries of sales, employee counts, and net income 
  11. Products and operations by segment 
  12.  News coverage and press releases 
  13.  Links to the company investor relations site 
  14. Financial statements in standardized format (but without footnote disclosures) 
  15. Segment information 
  16. Comparisons to industry and market 
  17. Links to company filings on the SEC’s EDGAR service

Ratings of Investor Relations Web Sites


Time and resources prevented us from surveying users’ reactions to financial and business information disseminated over the Internet. The several surveys and ratings prepared by others provided valuable insights and are summarized below.

Bulletin Boardroom, Inc. During its review, the Working Group identified several Web sites with banners announcing the site as a “Top 25 Web site.” The banner represents an award from Bulletin Boardroom, Inc., which maintains a Web site (www.off-on.com) dedicated to monitoring and evaluating the quality of investor relations Web sites. The company also publishes OffLine, a publication dedicated to investor relations on the Internet.

The Motley Fool In January 1999, the Motley Fool (www.fool.com) Web site published a special feature on investor relations online. The article includes a “wholly unscientific” analysis of investor relations Web sites for 10 well-known companies. Consistent with the disclaimer, the criteria used to evaluate individual sites tend to be more subjective than those used by others, but the results and rankings were consistent with other “best-of” lists.

Dow Jones Business Directory The Dow Jones Business Directory (bd.dowjones.com) rates corporate Web sites as a whole rather than the investor relations portion of a site. However, its general criteria are similar to those used by Off-Line. The Dow Jones Business Directory lists content, speed, navigation, and design as its criteria.

Bowne Internet Solutions This listing (www.investor-rel.com) does not appear to have been updated for 1998 annual reports. The criteria used to select companies are not listed, but the Web site provides a list of suggested “effective site components” that includes: 
Investor FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 
  •  Calendar of events 
  • Speeches and presentations 
  • Automatic updates via e-mail 
  • Links to SEC filings 
  • Stock price 
  • Annual reports in HTML or PDF format 
  • Translation and localization to different countries 
  • Research coverage 
  • Industry information 
  • News articles 
  • Dividend reinvestment information 
  • Company e-mail directories 
  • Proxy statements
  • Monthly data 
  • Downloadable spreadsheets 
  • Financial data in graphic presentation 
  • Audio and video 
  • Information about shareholder mix 
  • Spatial navigation.
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