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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.

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

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Recent Commentary & Analysis from Dr. Joe Webb

Displaying 1-24 of 1220 articles

Manufacturing May Be Declining, but Real Retail Sales are Still Positive

Published September 22, 2016

Data about manufacturing from the ISM and the Commerce Department have show a contraction compared to the prior year. In some cases that slowdown and contraction has been in process for 18 or more months. Retail sales and consumer spending have been the brighter spots of the economy. The inflation-adjusted growth rate of retail sales has been slowing since the beginning of 2015.

 

Worth Reading: History of JFK's Economic Legacy

Published September 22, 2016

 

Premium Content Traditional Publishing Ebbs, and Oh, Those CMOs

Published September 19, 2016

Remember that “content is king” thing? The king is losing money. Worldwide ad agency Carat is forecasting moderate growth in advertising, but major shifts in the way ad budgets are spent. It's a fascinating look at worldwide communications with significant implications for printers of all sizes. And then those CMOs... just when they think they have it figured out, they're getting fired again.

 

Pew Offers Essential Insights into Book Readership

Published September 15, 2016

The Pew Research Center's recent report about book reading gives us a peek at the relationship of print and digital media. The report says “A growing share of Americans are reading e-books on tablets and smartphones rather than dedicated e-readers, but print books remain much more popular than books in digital formats.” The chart shows what formats their respondents used in the year prior to the survey. Only 6% were digital-only readers. The report states that 26% read no book in the last year; they may have read other things, but not books. Contrary to many reports about the “demise” of e-books, that has risen from 17% to 28%. It's been stuck there for three years. Print-only readers were 39% (remember: that used to be the entire market of book readers). Print and digital readers are now at 29%. Add the 6% digital-only, and you're at 35%. Content needs to be available in multiple media. Media selection is based on many factors, such as time, convenience, price, income, education, age, and others. Pew also offers insights into the use of audiobooks. The report is free can be downloaded from the Pew Research Center. One other note: when you hear that tablet sales are down or that e-book reader sales are down, keep in mind the versatile use of smartphones and their growing role in content engagement. Among readers 18-29 years old, 22% of them are reading books on their smartphones, 4x more than read them on e-book readers.

 

Premium Content Employment, Shipments, and Profits: The Objects of Inflection?

Published September 12, 2016

Employment and GDP reports did not inspire, and July's printing shipments made us ponder. In the printing profits data, smaller did better, again. Ponder this: have print's gargantuans lost their economies of scale? Big was supposed to be better, smarter, and sturdy. It turns out that the big interest in big printers was of the loan payment kind. If pondering makes you hungry, you might consider some food shopping. They say the price of food is down but, alas, we learn it's just less up.

 

Four of Six Recovery Indicators Fall, Two Now Below Levels of Last Recession

Published September 8, 2016

The recovery indicators were hit hard last month last month, with two of them falling below the levels at the start of the last recession. Those levels were the readings of these indicators for December 2007.

 

US Commercial Printing Shipments Have Rough July

Published September 7, 2016

The reversal in trend for US commercial printing shipments went from somewhat benign to significant in July's data. Last year, the industry was relatively stronger than 2014, but shipments have been on a downturn for the last four months of reporting.

 

Real GDP for Q2 Revised Down Slightly to +1.1%; Durable Goods Orders Still Contracting

Published August 29, 2016

The latest revision of real US GDP for Q2-2016 dropped from +1.2% to +1.1%. The estimate for Q3 from the Atlanta Fed is above +3%.

 

Don't be in the One in Seven

Published August 25, 2016

One in seven US households has negative net worth, according to Bloomberg. It was based on a new report by the New York Federal Reserve. According it Bloomberg, “

 

E-Commerce and US Retail Sales

Published August 25, 2016

E-commerce has been running at the rate of 15% annual growth for many years, but is just 8% of retail sales. That seems tiny in relation to what we've seen happen to print promotions like catalogs and direct mail, and the rise of zombie or troubled shopping malls. The problem is that big ticket items, like autos, raise the size of retail sales. Those items may be researched online, but their actual purchase is not made until it is transacted at a car dealer. Restaurant purchases are also a distorting issue in the data. This chart explains it a little better. E-commerce sales is at the bottom (red line). In the second quarter, it was just short of $100 billion. The blue line is retail sales less vehicles and parts. The green line has food service sales deducted. The black line had e-commerce sales deducted, and shows retail sales through traditional channels. Those sales through older channels are lower than they were at the start of the recession. All of the growth in non-auto and non-restaurant retail for the last decade has occurred in e-commerce channels.

 

Straightforward Economics; Can You be Trusted with “The Good Leads”?

Published August 22, 2016

There are signs of economic slowdown despite what cable's talking heads say. The disparity of consumer prices and printing prices help explain the forces of consolidation and why print businesses need to have a constant review of their costs and value creation capabilies. The Australia Census folks may need to paper over a computer problem. Nothing helps improve sales more than leads, sales leads, the good leads.

 

Commercial Printing Employment: Production Employees Up +0.7%, Administrative Down -8.1%

Published August 11, 2016

Since January 2013, the number of production employees in commercial printing establishments has grown slightly, and is up +0.7%, from 307,700 employees to 310,000. Other employees, which are mainly administrative including sales, are down -8.1%, from 145,000 to 133,300.

 

Premium Content Changes in Employment, the Economy, and Print

Published August 8, 2016

Nothing is ever what it seems, and that goes for last week's employment report (again). Ripples of consolidation are seen in printing employment data. There's growth in the advertising and design markets, and pain in publishing. Dr. Joe puts GDP and printing shipments into historical context. The iPhone is a means to explore the topic of trade. No, Dr. Joe's not trading in his iPhone.

 

US Commercial Printing Shipments for First Half of 2016 Up +1%; Q2 Shipments Decline

Published August 5, 2016

In data released by the US Department of Commerce, commercial printing shipments for June 2016 were down -$58 million compared to last year (-0.8%). On an inflation-adjusted basis, shipments were down -$130 million (-1.8%).

 

Recovery Indicators: 3 Up, 2 Down, 1 Unchanged

Published August 4, 2016

The NASDAQ had a good month, rebounding by 6.5% last month. Compared to last year at this time, the NASDAQ is up +0.6%, which is a negative return compared to inflation (less inflation it is -0.5% because the CPI is +1.1%).

 

GDP Revisions Show Declining Growth Rate Since 2014

Published August 2, 2016

The annual multi-year revision of US GDP data was released on Friday. The new data reflect more complete reporting of the thousands of data series that are used in the calculation of GDP and less reliance on estimated data. The revisions cover GDP from 2013 to the present reporting.

 

S&P 500 Real Sales per Share Reflects Struggling Economy

Published July 28, 2016

A way of judging the health of the economy is to calculate the inflation-adjusted sales of all of the companies in the S&P 500 and divide it by the total number of public shares. This index should have a natural upward bias. S&P 500 companies are very large, and acquire or merge with other companies, many of which are outside of the 500 companies. Buybacks of stock, which has been a trend of note these last five or so years, reduce the number of shares, or slow the growth in shares, reduce the denominator, again, giving it an upward bias. Instead, this measure has suffered. It peaked in 2007, and has yet to surpass that level. This means that corporate profits, which have generally been good (though slowing lately) have been managed by refinancing of debt to lower interest rates and reductions in costs and expenses. Those better profits are not the result of increased revenues. Slow, sluggish economic growth is reflected in these figures, and is a reminder that one should not look only to GDP as an indicator of the true health of the private sector.

 

Are You Ready for Atomic Memory in the Hands of Big Brother when You're Texting and Walking?

Published July 28, 2016

Dr Joe on Atomic Memory, Audio-enabled mobile coupons, Digital ad spending of US retailers, Barron's market data calendar,

 

Premium Content Look What I Found! Print!

Published July 25, 2016

An Olgivy & Mather executive discovers print. We need to discover it, too, looking at print through the eyes of our clients and prospects. It's not that print is dead or not dead, there is a generation of media buyers for whom print is not alive. This ad exec's comments are vital in understanding how to make print relevant and, surprisingly, new.

 

Premium Content Employment Data Discombobulation Might Require an IRL Meeting

Published July 11, 2016

Commercial printing's workforce reflects consolidation and leaner management. Last week's employment data was so haphazard it looks suspiciously like a dart board was involved. The USPS still needs to be Spooner-fed. If this all sounds confusing, perhaps it's time for an IRL with Dr. Joe.

 

Recovery Indicators Better than Recent Economic News

Published July 7, 2016

The recovery indicators showed better economic activity in June. This ended the second quarter in a manner that seemed contrary to many recent economic data.

 

Are We Headed to QE4?

Published July 7, 2016

This chart shows the Fed's balance sheet in the format known as the St. Louis Adjusted Monetary Base. Prior to the doubling of that balance sheet, it was growing at the annual rate of 6%, which was basically comprised of the long term rates of 1% for population growth, 2% for inflation, and 3% for economic growth.

 

Dr. Joe Recommending Reading

Published July 7, 2016

Recommended reading and news from Dr. Joe Webb

 

May Printing Shipments Up +1.2% Versus 2015; Trend is Flattening

Published July 6, 2016

US commercial printing shipments for May16 were $7.37 billion, the highest level in current dollars for the month since 2013. For the first five months of 2016, shipments are up approximately +$476 million in current dollars (+1.4%) and up +$79 billion after inflation (+0.2%)

 

US Q1-2016 GDP Revised to +1.1%

Published June 30, 2016

US real GDP for Q1-2016 had its third and final revision in this reporting cycle, and was +1.1% on an annualized basis compared to Q4-2015. Q1 had been reported as +0.5% in its advance report, +0.8% in the preliminary report, and now as +1.1%. Real GDP remains very low compared to the post-WW2 +3.3% rate.

 

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