Purpose – This paper seeks to examine the extent to which pictures are used to communicate intellectual capital (IC) information and the changes in volume of IC disclosure when pictures are included. Design/methodology/approach – A content analysis was conducted to determine the impact that pictures have on IC reporting (ICR) results. In determining the extent to which pictures are used in corporate annual reports the paper compares frequencies of IC reported in pictures as proportions of: total IC reported, total pictures and total pages. A key assumption underlying content analysis is that the volume of disclosure signifies the importance of the item(s) being disclosed. The paper compares the volume of IC items disclosed with and without pictures to determine which items firms signal as being most important. Using these volumes the paper determines which of the sampled firms use pictures as a popular reporting mechanism to disclose their IC resources. Findings – A significant portion (42 per cent) of ICR is made in picture form and the majority of pictures (66 per cent) communicate messages about IC resources. Therefore, the volumes of IC items disclosed change significantly when pictures are included. It is found that many firms use pictures to disclose their IC resources, particularly employees and brands which may indicate that these are their most important IC items. Practical/implications – A significant part of IC is reported in picture form in annual reports. Excluding pictures when analysing content in annual reports will result in ICR not being fully captured, a partial understanding of what IC is disclosed and misunderstanding of what IC items firms consider as being important. Originality/value – The authors incorporate pictures into their content analysis. Pictures are not normally included in IC disclosure studies.
Pacific Accounting Review – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 3, 2011
Keywords: Intellectual capital; Visual media
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