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Dr. Joe Webb

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

Recent Commentary & Analysis from Dr. Joe Webb

Displaying 1-24 of 1283 articles

Premium Content The Old Guard and the Economy Limps into Print 17; a Different Industry Takes Charge

Published September 12, 2017

Who didn’t envy or aspire to become a big, high profile printing business? The print business has been turned on its head, where small and medium businesses are outperforming their much bigger counterparts. The latter are still dealing with the relevance of legacy processes and assets while trying to bring new focus to rich digital media interactions to static formats like print. There’s no doubt: The Third Wave is being released at a pivotal moment. While the industry is churning, there are warning signs in the economy and for content creation markets. Dr. Joe is getting that 2008 feeling: he doesn’t like it.

 

Dr. Joe's Key Recovery Indicators

Published September 11, 2017

The recovery indicators (when we started these we thought they’d be around for about a year or so) had four of its six factors turn negative, with one of those falling back to its recession level of December 2007. Yes, that’s when the recession started. That long ago.

 

Catching the “Third Wave”

Published September 5, 2017

We’re in another wave of media change, the first with the consumer Internet, the second with social media, tablets, and smartphones, and now a third with an infrastructure built for heavy volume and high speed. Through two waves, there were printers who got out ahead with savvy judgment that went against the common wisdom and blazed their own paths of market engagement and abandoned industry practice. This third wave is already more intense, as printing shipments in the last six months are down more than -7%. Success in this third wave demands a new philosophy, a different understanding of capital, and a new assessment of risk. Dr. Joe offers The Third Wave, a new book, that addresses these issues.

 

Dr. Joe Recommends: Robots and Unemployment, Edge computing

Published August 17, 2017

Dr. Joe recommended reading.

 

Updated Commercial Printing and New GDP Data

Published August 17, 2017

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released the Q2-2017 GDP data and revisions to historical data beginning with 2014. Back in mid-May, the Commerce Department updated historical commercial printing shipments (NAICS 323) as part of its manufacturing shipments revisions. This week’s chart shows an updated view of both data series in current dollars (sometimes called “nominal;” both terms mean that data are not adjusted for inflation). The red line is year-to-year growth rate in GDP, and the blue line is year-to-year change in quarterly shipments. Since around 1997 printing shipments have not met GDP growth except for a moment between 2010 and 2015. The most recent printing shipments trend at the right of the chart are remarkable for their direction. A discussion of the GDP revisions and the current status of printing shipments can be found in the column of August 7.

 

Premium Content GDP Revisions Offer New Perspective; Printing Shipments Remain Troubling

Published August 7, 2017

Revisions to GDP last month showed a slower economy in 2016 and a better one in 2014 and 2015. That’s fine – but we have to make decisions today, not three years ago. Do changes to economic data really matter? They do, but perhaps not the way you think. The stock market is up and setting records, so the economy must be great! A different metric says otherwise. Economic data: it’s a strange place. And commercial printing shipments? Pass the ibuprofen, please.

 

Premium Content Print is a Baby, Not a Geezer: The Newness Crisis

Published July 24, 2017

What’s new? You should say “print,” because so many of the media decision-makers have not had noteworthy experiences with the medium. Selling what you know can actually be dangerous, because you need to know what your client and prospect know, first. Only then can you have a chance at relevance. Print is actually a baby, and reference to its glorious past diminishes the many new offerings and tactics that can involve printed materials and specialties in meeting the challenges and objectives of communicators.

 

Premium Content They Say It’s Great, But That’s Up for Debate

Published July 10, 2017

The economy is sluggish on the positive side, and it would be grand if commercial printing would be the same. Recent printing shipments trends are a concern as the industry continues to reshape itself in response to a dynamic communications marketplace that is seems to re-create itself daily. One Midwest printer lands a big contract for signage… but of the kind that a third wave of media change mandates.

 

Did You Know Interest Rates Have Been Falling?

Published July 6, 2017

The Fed has been so reticent about raising rates, and in the process, rates for the 10-year US Treasury actually were negative in February. No, that’s not market rates, that’s the 10-year rate less the year-to-year Consumer Price Index. Since that time, the rate calculated in this manner has moved up 80 basis points. The rate peaked in September 2015 and it’s been down since then. The Fed is having problems making the decision to raise rates, and often announced more rates in a future period but increasing rates at a slower pace. They have a target inflation rate of 2% (which means you lose about 25% of your savings over 10 years on a compounded basis). If you believe that the inflation rate is calculated in a manner that makes it seem lower than it actually is, then the Fed’s desire to see inflation at the 2% rate before they start pushing interest rates higher may be be difficult to reach or sustain. That means long term rates will stay artificially low (on purpose) for a longer period of time than most experts expect.

 

Dr. Joe Recommends: Technology Through 2050

Published July 6, 2017

The Economist has published a fascinating book, Megatech, edited by Daniel Franklin. Mr. Franklin gathered some of the world’s leading technologists and thinkers to describe the technologies in the labs and the trends that are already in play as they lead to 2050.

 

Premium Content Preference and Data and Prices, Oh My!

Published June 26, 2017

Prices tell us a lot about how media is changing and what’s ahead. It’s funny – the categories that are growing the most are the ones where prices are dropping. That’s strange. But media preference surveys can be misleading because they can assure media producers of the love of the marketplace, and divert their strategic attention to competitors impinging on that affection. What does Mary Meeker know? A trade association executive says she’s biased. That’s okay. Dr. Joe has different data.

 

Friend to the Industry Kip Smythe Has Died

Published June 12, 2017

Sadly, the industry lost one of its loyal behind-the-scenes advocates, Kip Smythe. His coordination of efforts involving industry research, statistics, standards, trade, and others, was appreciated by everyone who worked alongside him. Dr. Joe has a special remembrance.

 

Premium Content Recovery Indicators Move to Half Here, Half There; Shipments and Profits Fall, Concerns Raised

Published June 12, 2017

US commercial printing shipments and profits are in a pattern that suggests another re-set of media communications strategy is underway. The national employment data looked great on the outside, but were disturbing on the inside… again. The latest publishing revenues suggest that content’s kingship status is not what everyone thinks it is.

 

Dr. Joe Recommends: A Symphony of Content, A Perspective of Context

Published May 25, 2017

The Content Marketing Institute and Ion Interactive released their report about “The Symphony of Connected Interactive Content.” It has some very good insights into the use of media at each stage of the sales process.

 

Inflation-adjusted Shipments per Employee

Published May 25, 2017

The Commerce Department’s revisions to industry shipments show a much different picture of a key metric for the industry, sales per employee. The chart was created using 12-month moving totals of inflation-adjusted shipments and the 12 month moving average of total industry employment. The latest reading through March 2017 is $182.65 per employee, a meager +1.5% higher than it was at the end of 1992. It fell from a peak of $195.51 which was just before the burst of the housing bubble, the rise of social media platforms, tablets, and smartphones. The fall in this calculation has some interesting characteristics. Historically, large printing businesses focused on magazines, catalogs, and newspaper inserts, had sales per employee that were significantly higher than the industry averages, anywhere from 30% to 50% higher.

 

Premium Content Commerce Department Revisions Send 2015 and 2016 Shipments Down More than -4%

Published May 21, 2017

We love numbers, especially when they go in a direction we like. Accuracy of the information we use in decision-making should not be a matter of liking numbers, the numbers are what the numbers are. What happens when one set of numbers you relied on are revised on the basis of new and better information and describe a different scenario than before? Dr. Joe helps sort it out… we think.

 

Births and Deaths of Commercial Printing Establishments, 2010 to 2014

Published May 11, 2017

The Commerce Department tracks the number of business establishments by industry, and among he more interesting reports is the calculation of new and closed businesses. The data take a while to be released, and these new data about 2014 were recently made available. There’s a word of caution here. If someone was a corporation and decides to become a partnership or a proprietorship, that counts as one business closed and one business opened. And then there’s “poor man’s mergers” where two business owners decide to close their two businesses and open one new one. Same people, same equipment, no real change except to the tax authorities and government statisticians. The most important number is the net change of births less deaths. In the worst of the recession, the net number was 6% of establishments. For 2014, that had fallen to a little more than 2%.

 

Media is Constantly Changing, and It’s Not Always Clear How

Published May 11, 2017

Everyone knows that communications is a very dynamic marketplace, and even newer concepts like “content management” are not exempt from the forces of creative destruction.

 

Economy, Employment, Print, and Management Decisions

Published May 8, 2017

The economy is showing signs, but no one can figure out what kind of signs they are. GDP is down, employment is up. Apple confounds the analysts with a financial report worthy of corporate envy, but the analysts were not happy, and seem to blame Apple for the analysts bad guesses! And then there’s printing shipments: let’s change the subject… it seems many printers are doing just that by changing the process. Do policies in your company insulate you from the detection of market changes and opportunities? It’s not always denial, it’s procedure. That’s not a good thing.

 

Printing Industry Lags Other Manufacturers in Defined Management Processes

Published April 27, 2017

In what is not a surprise to many, the job shop operational structure of many printing businesses put the industry near the bottom of all manufacturing industries in terms of its management processes.

 

Dr. Joe Recommends: Consumer Trends and the Right Perspective about Economic Data

Published April 27, 2017

Consumers drive everything, and Crimson Hexagon’s new report derived from the monitoring of social media conversations provides insights into technology, health and fitness, transportation, and entertainment.

 

Importance of Hard Data: How Soft Data Can Mislead Decision-Makers

Published April 24, 2017

Every generation has a different perception of what the world is like. That difference may be appearing in surveys of consumer confidence and similar measures that businesspeople and economists have relied on. Hard data can be so cold, and those surveys added context and perspective with a view toward the future that historical data could not. Now it seems that “soft data” is softer than thought and may be misleading decision-makers about the marketplace.

 

The Fed’s Balance Sheet and the S&P 500

Published April 13, 2017

The financial markets were rattled a little bit by the recent minutes of the Fed meeting where they discussed the unwinding of their interventions and the ballooning of their balance sheet. The data are reflected in the St. Louis Fed Adjusted Monetary Base. The chart shows how the run-up in the S&P 500 stock index relates to the Fed’s quantitative easings

 

Dr. Joe Recommends: Restructuring of the Consumer Retail Market, Print Campaigns into Google Analytics

Published April 13, 2017

Dr. Joe Recommends: The Restructuring of the Consumer Retail Market. Eddy Hagen’s Blogpost about How to Get Print Campaigns into Google Analytics

 

Premium Content Something’s Happening and It Just Doesn’t Feel Right

Published April 10, 2017

Friday’s unemployment report of 4.5% showed a thriving, healthy labor market in an economy bursting with growth. Not so fast… the cross-currents of the economy are quite different depending where you are, especially in the suffering retail markets. Media technology changes are letting communicators switch from gas guzzlers to more finely tuned approaches that squeeze budgets but offer similar results. There are print businesses thriving in this chaos, and Dr. Joe explains why even they have to remain vigilant and proactive.

 

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