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Cleaning out Dr. Joe's Inbox

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By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: August 25, 2009

If you're a social media skeptic, or don't know what it is, you must watch this video. The video is chock full of interesting data, and was created to support a new book about social media, called Socialnomics. The video was put up on YouTube on July 30, and has had more than 260,000 views at the time I am writing this.


The Kansas City Fed has done an analysis of unemployment, and expects that the rate will stay above 10% through 2011, and still be at 7% percent in 2016. As summary of the report and the full document are available online. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I remember that economists were wringing their hands about high unemployment to the point where they were proposing that full employment should be considered as 8%-10%. I hope the KC Fed's report is wrong, but we should remember that modeling employment can be quite difficult, and the tools to do it might be faster and more sophisticated, but they might not be better.


The Conference Board's leading indicators rose 0.6 points, and you'd think that every economic problem had been solved by the way markets reacted and talking heads yapped about it. What was it compared to a year earlier? +0.2. That's all. There is a component of the leading indicators that is based on the spread of certain interest rates. With the Fed manipulating the money supply and rates (it's actually bought debt back that it had released only weeks before, recently), the possibility that the leading indicators calculation can send a false signal up or down is greater than ever.


Despite the downturn in direct mail because of the financial implosion, there are still many good reasons to include direct mail as part of the promotional mix. It might be smaller formats, it might be less frequent, but it does get delivered. That's important to anyone who's trying to go to a totally online marketing solution, especially after this report from ReturnPath which shows that 20% of e-mail is undelivered, and mainly undetected by various tracking methods that are supposedly capturing it. Do customers who have shifted away from print to e-mail promotions know this? Do they know that the way to keep an e-mail list fresh is with direct mail? Do they know that printers can be great partners in the e-commerce effort? Are there printers who understand this?


American Business Media expects that Saturday delivery of mail is a goner. You can't cut costs and be prosperous, except in the short run perhaps, but the USPS is giving it a try.


The format for an e-book is still up for grabs. PDF is by far the leader for documents in general, but when it comes to proprietary formats for Amazon Kindle and Sony E-Reader and numerous others, that's a different story.


Sony has to do be careful in promoting its e-book so that it doesn't turn into a Microsoft Zune, which has never competed in any significant degree to the iPod. This Advertising Age article shows the power that Amazon has in promoting its own products that Sony does not. (Be sure to get the article right away because AA's links expire quickly). Remember, Sony was first to the market.


The strategy behind Google books was discussed by its engineering director at a recent meeting. The company's book initiative was in the Wall Street Journal recently, where their hunt for owners of copyrights, which has been very difficult. It's a fascinating effort.


Speaking of Google, the company is using billboards to promote its office software.


Two articles about newspapers worth reading together. The first deals with the five reasons newspapers are failing, and the second identifies ten newspapers that are getting it right.


AOL, the poster child for the excesses of the Internet bubble, is a mere shadow of its former self. Now, it's basically in the content creation and management business, and may actually be a profitable business.


Southwest Airlines has discontinued its printed timetables. For Dan Webb, my former in-house information tech advisor, this has special meaning.


The “10 Stupidest Tech Blunders” is an entertaining read. Read about who turned down Facebook, thought the iPod wouldn't be successful, and what company was almost Google.


As far as that iPod, its companion iTunes store now accounts for one quarter of music sales.


8.6 million households are now getting coupons by text messages or by e-mail.


In Monday's Column

I'll be following up on this week's review of print's benefits with my take about what the new benefits might be, and how our old benefit set might be re-cast in light of the media upheaval since 2006.

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink.com's Economics and Research Center.

What do you think? Please send feedback to Dr. Joe by emailing him at drjoe@whattheythink.com.

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