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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.com's Economics and Research Center.

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Recent Commentary & Analysis from Dr. Joe Webb

Displaying 1-24 of 1195 articles

Premium Content Mixed Signals, Chaos, and Bureaucracy

Published June 27, 2016

Last week, the polls were wrong and Brexit rattled the markets. But the people most worried were central planning bureaucrats who wonder how to make sure it never happens again. The number of business establishments and microbusinesses are still growing. Durable goods orders send another recession signal. It’s another week of mixed and mixed up signals, something economists like because it makes them look busy.

 

Industrial Production Continues its Negative Turn

Published June 23, 2016

The Fed’s own data probably caused them to have a more dour outlook about the economy. The chart shows that US industrial production started slowing at the end of 2014 and has been in outright contraction since Fall 2015. MarketWatch mentioned the skinflint ways of corporations as they have decreased investment. The amount of investment is a function of the future outlook, based on sales and cost forecasts, inflation adjustments, financing costs, and after-tax returns. For many projects those future assessments look murky. The financial engineering emphasis on stock buybacks might have some corrupt undertones, but it is often the last choice for what to do with “excess cash” when capital investments are not attractive. Industrial production is one of the key economic data series that did not make it back to pre-recession levels, and its current performance is often considered recessionary. Yet, the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow estimate of Q2-2016 GDP is at the unattractive but much better than last quarter +2.5% level. That turnaround has yet to appear in any manufacturing data.

 

The Fed Backs Off – No Increase, More Worry

Published June 23, 2016

The Federal Reserve’s latest statement shows continued befuddlement about why they can’t get inflation moving higher and why the raw numbers of employment are weak. So they called a time out and will wait for things to change.

 

Print: The Antidote for Ad Blocking?

Published June 23, 2016

Is this print’s chance to make a flanking move into the marketing budget. The eMarketer analyst says “Ad blocking is a detriment to the entire advertising ecosystem, affecting mostly publishers, but also marketers, agencies and others whose businesses depend on ad revenue.” He then says, “The best way for the industry to tackle this problem is to deliver compelling ad experiences that consumers won’t want to block.”

 

Advertising Rebounds in Q1-2016 v 2015; Publishing Still Struggles

Published June 16, 2016

Advertising agency had a much better first quarter than last year, up by nearly $3.9 billion on an inflation-adjusted basis (+16.5%) according to the most recent Quarterly Services Survey. Advertising revenues had slipped in 2014 and 2015, in similar pattern to the decline in durable goods and other manufacturing orders and shipments.

 

Prices for Advertising Rise for Magazines, Stable for TV and Newspapers, Down for Digital

Published June 16, 2016

The direction of the real prices of advertising seem to move in counterintuitive ways. Remember, prices are the result of interactions of supply and demand and expectations for their future changes. Just by looking at a price you cannot tell why it is what it is without having additional information. The chart shows that magazine advertising has gone up by more than 20% since 2010, but it's hard to know how much might have been bundled in those prices. Pricing reports sent to the Bureau of Labor Statistics are supposed to be in constant units, but it's hard to determine those in service environments, and it's hard to quantify a wink or a nod in an advertising agreement. But all advertising has its version of winks and nods. Newspapers and television have not changed much, with newspapers having a steadier ride but television having a bumpier one. Internet advertising is about 25% cheaper than it was in 2010. Digital advertising of some sort is about half of advertising dollars today. While it's growing in size it's decreasing in cost, with more and more digital advertising opportunities being created every day. There's an old saying in economics that supply creates its own demand, and that might be exactly the case here.

 

Get Linked Into What Dr. Joe's Reading Lately

Published June 16, 2016

Dr Joe on Microsoft buying LinkedIn, restaurant kiosks, investments in rewards programs, mapping GDP.

 

Smaller Printers Are Giants in Profits

Published June 9, 2016

The changes in the media markets led to the declines in magazines, catalogs, newspaper inserts, and many of the products produced by large printing organizations. For years, these companies were giants in the industry, but recently this sector has been restructuring through consolidations. Writedowns in goodwill and for closed plants have cut the profits of these organizations.

 

Premium Content Q1 Printing Profits Rebound; Large Printers Still Lag Smaller Establishments

Published June 7, 2016

The profits before taxes of US commercial printers rebounded in the first quarter. Profits for the quarter are estimated at $1.37 billion, the highest level since the third quarter of 2013, when they were $1.42 billion adjusted for inflation. Profits were $810 million for the first quarter of 2015, making this a significant turnaround.

 

Premium Content Consolidating Printing Employment, Shipments End a Streak, and an Ugly Employment Report that Dresses Nice

Published June 6, 2016

Things are not what they seem. Streaking was not good in the 1970s, it’s definitely not good on presses, but streaking is great when it’s a growth streak in printing shipments. Unfortunately, the latter has ended, so let’s start a new one. The employment report was bad but that made interest-rate worriers happy. There’s nothing like getting statistically giddy over the numerical misfortune of others. Maybe they need to find a niche like a very happy Vancouver printer did.

 

Q1-2016 Real GDP Revised Up to +0.8%; Economy Already Recovering from Mini-Recession

Published June 2, 2016

The first estimate of Q1-2016 GDP was +0.5%, and that was revised up slightly to +0.8%. The concerns about recession are being reduced lately with some better economic news that show the economy on its sluggish pattern of sub-par growth in the +2% range, well below the post-WW2 average of +3.3%. As noted many times, there are numerous economic indicators that have yet to reach their pre-recession levels. Since this pattern has been so long in duration, even non-money denominated statistics, such as employment, have to be adjusted by population growth to discern true underlying levels. The chart shows Real GDP on a more conservative year-to-year basis as reported and with the volatile effects of inventory changes removed. The economy still seems to be digesting some long-term inventory rebalancing, some of which is related to global currency and other economic issues. The slowdown of the first quarter still seems to be limited to the first six weeks of the year. At the time of this writing, the Atlanta Fed's GDPNow estimate of Q2-2016 is at +2.5%. While that is a disappointing level, it is consistent within the lackluster level of economic growth that has come to be known these past years as “new normal.” Since 2011, real GDP has averaged only 2%. The difference in the average may not seem a lot, but a 2% annual growth rate will result in an economy doubling in size in 39 years; at 3.3%, it doubles almost 16 years sooner.

 

A Dr. Joe Potpourri: Meeker’s 200 Slides, Marriott Gives Points for (un)Cleanliness, and OECD Says the New Normal May Not be New, but It’s Still Here

Published June 2, 2016

A Dr. Joe Potpourri: Meeker’s 200 Slides, Marriott Gives Points for (un)Cleanliness, and OECD Says the New Normal May Not be New, but It’s Still Here

 

What Dr. Joe's Reading: USPS Makes No Cents, CMOs Seek Doers and Thinkers, Managers Work Overtime over the New Overtime Rules

Published May 26, 2016

What Dr. Joe's Reading: USPS Makes No Cents, CMOs Seek Doers and Thinkers, Managers Work Overtime over the New Overtime Rules

 

Retail Sales Growth Rates Reflect Changes in Competition and Consumer Preferences

Published May 26, 2016

Department stores are still having problems. Their year/year growth rate has been negative for more than a decade. E-commerce sales are maintaining a 15% growth rate. At that rate, they double every five years. The last peak in growth for retail sales excluding motor vehicles was in late 2011, and that rate, unadjusted for inflation, has slowed to the 2% range. Retail sales are a function of household income, and their costs, and they remain sluggish as median household income has still not reached the level it was at the beginning of the recession. In the meantime, shopping malls, the department stores that anchor them, and mall owners are having problems. A Weekly Standard article about Amazon has some insights into it. The downslide of brick and mortar retail stores and malls can create collection problems for printers who sell to them, but there are changes underway that might hold some opportunities for those printers who seek them. Developers are using mall complexes for new buildings that include office space and even hospitals and hockey rinks. There are also new efforts to treat the shopping experience not just as a matter of location, but holistically to include all digital touchpoints inside and outside the mall. How will much of this be communicated? It will often require signage, working closely with store owners and local mall management. Those printers, attuned to the nature of communications logistics and data management, can find opportunities there.

 

Premium Content Government Shipment Revisions Make Everything New Again (Not Really)

Published May 23, 2016

Eventually, the numerous economic data published by the Federal government are right. Like wine, it takes time. As businesspeople, we can’t always be that patient.

 

Printing Industry Shipments Revised from 2007 to 2016, with Minor Changes Since 2009

Published May 19, 2016

The years 2008 through 2013 had slight revisions higher; the end of 2013 to present had slight revisions lower. The Commerce Department's revisions to all manufacturing data are leading up to a multi-year revision of GDP data at the end of July.

 

One Printer Uses “Print is Dead” to Get Into the Minds of Content Creators and Decision Makers

Published May 19, 2016

One printer has taken the “print is dead” concept and is making presentations to communicators about how print works with digital media.

 

Manufacturing Still in Contraction

Published May 19, 2016

The latest Federal Reserve industrial production index showed a slowdown since late 2014 and an outright contraction since mid-2015 is still in process. The business press focused on the comparison to the prior month, which looked like an improvement. The chart, however, compares to the prior year. Recent consumer retail data have been more optimistic, and the premise that we had a “micro-recession” at the beginning of the first quarter seems to be justified. There is growing pressure to weaken the US dollar to make manufacturing exports less expensive to international customers. The Atlanta Fed's GDPNow estimate for Q2 GDP is now +2.5%. At that rate, it would be a rebound from Q1's +0.5%.

 

Graphic Design Employment Up +6%, Agencies up +2.8%

Published May 12, 2016

Content creation is in a strong uptrend based on the latest employment data. Graphic design employment is up +6%, and has taken over from public relations employment as the surging area of hiring.

 

Dr. Joe's Reading for a New Day

Published May 12, 2016

Recommended reading from Dr. Joe Webb: It's the end of days for London's print newspaper New Day. Atlanta Fed's GDPNow Model Estimating Q2-2016 GDP at +2.2%, Lingering Effects of Recession, Justice Denies Staples and OfficeDepot... Again. Rubbing Sahl in an Old Wound

 

Premium Content Do You Have a Culture of Honest Data?

Published May 9, 2016

The latest employment report had analysts scratching their heads. One ugly report does not a recession make, and things may not be as bad as it seemed. It could just be the same old lackluster recovery. Joel Quadracci had some interesting comments about Quad's restructuring efforts that have a good lesson for all managers. Honest data can take a beating in politics, whether they're in elections or in business offices. Does your business have a culture of frankness in the way it reports information?

 

19 Consecutive Months of Improved US Commercial Printing Shipments

Published May 5, 2016

US commercial printing shipments have increased compared to the prior year for 19 consecutive months. March 2016 shipments were up +$85 million (+1.1%) in current dollars compared to 2015, and +$22 million (+0.3%) after adjusting for inflation. February 2016 shipments were revised up by $2 million.

 

What Dr. Joe's Reading about Apple, Digital Signage, and USPS Worker Mood

Published May 5, 2016

What Dr. Joe's Reading about Apple, Digital Signage, and USPS Worker Mood

 

Recovery Indicators Better than the Recent General Economic News

Published May 5, 2016

The recovery indicators are more positive than the general economic news. One of our indicators, the NASDAQ, is down -1.7% since last month. It's been on a rocky road for the last three quarters. Its recent peak was 5218.86 in July, and it has not gotten really close since. Stock market concerns have focused on a decline in the rate of corporate profits, and Apple's recent financial report did not really help matters. There was a bullish rise in non-manufacturing orders. Manufacturing new orders index might look like a decline, but it is still indicate moderate growth. Proprietors income, a measure of the health of small business, was up only slightly. Other reports of small business health have not been good, especially the recent NFIB Small Business report. This month's recovery indicators don't indicate recession, a word that is bandied about with greater frequency lately, but support the continuing unsatisfying levels of slow but positive growth.

 

Q1-2016 GDP +0.5%; Inventory Correction Finally Arrives

Published April 29, 2016

US real GDP for Q1-2016 was reported at annual growth of only +0.5% compared to Q4-2015. On a year-to-year basis, the growth rate was +1.95%. The inventory adjustment that the economy has needed finally came, with the lowest net inventories in two years. Real GDP growth less inventories was +2.3% on a year-to-year basis.

 

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