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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 1138 articles

Premium Content Printing Shipments Have a Good Year Despite Mixed Signals from the Economy

Published February 8, 2016

The unemployment improved to a level not seen since the recession began, but it doesn't feel that good. Have the statisticians been running their thermometers under running water until it gets to the number they want? Printing shipments beat GDP for the year for the first time since 1995. Where are the cheers? And then there's a beef with image campaigns. Yeah, it's Dr. Joe time again.


Commercial Printing Prices Less Than December 2007; Paper and Ink Higher

Published February 4, 2016

Since December 2007, the CPI is up by +12.6%. How have the PPI for commercial printing, ink, and paper changed? Commercial printing prices are lower, -0.8%. This means that a commercial printing business has to increase its productivity and profitability to reward its owners and employees to make up for the loss of purchasing power they have in their paychecks.


US Commercial Printing Shipments Best Since 2008

Published February 4, 2016

US commercial printing industry shipments are up for 19 consecutive months in current dollars and 16 consecutive months compared to the corresponding month of the prior year. On an inflation-adjusted basis, the industry has had five positive quarters.


Dr. Joe's Must Reads: Demographics, Apple, and Butchers of Books

Published February 4, 2016

Various topics that caught Dr. Joe's attention the last week: Demographics, Apple, and Butchers of Books


Recovery Indicators Show Economic Slowdown Underway

Published February 4, 2016

The monthly recovery indicators were uneven again. The NASDAQ fell almost -7% in the last month, and ISM non-manufacturing new orders and imports also declined.


4Q-2015 GDP Disappoints at +0.7%; 2015 GDP +1.8%

Published February 1, 2016

Real Gross Domestic Product (RGDP) for the US increased by an annual rate of +0.7% in the fourth quarter of 2015. On a year-to-year basis, RGDP was up +1.8%.


Cloud Product Usage in the Printing Industry

Published January 28, 2016

The chart shows the percentage of US commercial printing establishments of all sizes and their responses to the question about the cloud-based services they use today. The question did not ask them their frequency or intensity of use, just whether or not they use it today. Some of the “non-users” may not even be aware that they are using cloud services, since some services run transparently in the background, such as backup services like Carbonite and others. Others may not be aware that they are using a VOIP phone system. Some cloud services such as Dropbox allow customers to brand their service so it looks like a company file sharing site. Generally, larger printers are using more cloud services than others, but the disparity is narrow.


Dr. Joe: Effects of Digitization, the “Haves and Have-mores” and Not the “Haves and Have-nots”

Published January 28, 2016

Two topics caught my eye this past week. The first is that digitization is now characterized as the “haves and have-mores” and not the “haves and have-nots.” The latter may be referring to Venezuela's economic problems with high inflation and shortages of goods.


Premium Content Revenues Go One Way, Profits Go the Other

Published January 25, 2016

Profits are the focus of Dr. Joe this week. His data show two halves of the industry at the same size but the profits are not divided that way. It's not what you might expect.


Consolidation is Somewhat Different Than Industry Common Wisdom

Published January 21, 2016

Here are data from our survey at the end of 2015 where we asked respondents to identify the status of their companies in terms of consolidation. Generally, formal consolidations are executed by the largest print businesses, and small businesses close their respective shops and reopen a new business with new partners.


Recession Fears and Other Media Ramblings

Published January 21, 2016

Recession Fears and Other Media Ramblings: Recession Watch, Buybacks are Bad: I've Always Said It, Sniglets for the Digital Age, Courtesy of Mr. Tree, Duh! Tax Rates Make a Difference!


Dr. Joe Recommends: Finding International Economic Data

Published January 14, 2016

Need a global perspective of world economics and world events? Many of our readers do, especially those who sell equipment, supplies, software, and other products around the world.


NFIB Small Business Index Still Shows Weak Small Business

Published January 14, 2016

The latest survey of NFIB shows their index bouncing along the level of the early 2000s recession low, and down from the high prior to the December 2007 recession. Passing that level on the way up would have indicated a completed recovery of this sector but it just couldn't make it that far and break through. Using this indicator that means that small business did not emerge from the recession yet. Big business and the stock markets dominate the headlines, but small business remains the front line of the economy, and its difficulties are often hidden from view as being un-newsworthy. Its breakout above the bottom of the early 2000s recession took some time, and the recent trend in the chart looks like it's getting ready to fall below that again. It dipped below that level briefly a few months ago and climbed back out. Will it climb out again? It's worth watching.


Premium Content Early Economic Confusion Puts 2016 on Uncertain Footing

Published January 11, 2016

It is times like these that make one yearn for one-armed economists. What should we believe? The crazy gyrations of the stock market? The collapse of commodity prices? Or what might be a surge in employment? No wonder Dr. Joe's lost his hair. He adds his comments to the economic stew.


What Share of Shipments is Sold by “Marketing Service Providers”?

Published January 7, 2016

For about a decade, many print businesses have marketed themselves as “marketing services providers” with varying degrees of success. Our recent survey showed less than half of print businesses market themselves in this or a similar manner.


Recovery Indicators Look More Like Recession Indicators – Are They?

Published January 6, 2016

Are the recovery indicators becoming recession indicators There's enough negative news of late to be wary about the state of the economy, and a lengthening list of geopolitical issues, for sure.


Eighteen Months of Industry Growth, Beating the Economy, Too

Published January 6, 2016

US commercial printing industry shipments are up for 18 consecutive months in current dollars compared to the corresponding month of the prior year.


Premium Content Printing Profits Dive as Large Printers Have Massive Writedowns

Published December 22, 2015

The third quarter of 2015 marked a huge divergence in the performance of the industry, according to the Department of Commerce Quarterly Financial Report. Printers with more than $25 million in assets wrote down assets amounting to nearly -15% of revenues. This sent the quarterly moving total of inflation-adjusted profits before taxes to +$1.46 billion.


Premium Content Happy to Be Content, But Not To Ship It

Published December 21, 2015

We took a survey of printers and they told us they were really happy. We got data about ad agency revenues and their revenues is still heading up. A big consulting firm says digital content will be bigger than ever. The post office data tells us there's less and less of their work in our mailboxes. The world is full of contradictory trends, and Dr. Joe sorts them out.


Dr. Joe Recommends: USC's Digital Future 2015 Report, New Rules of Marketing and PR Book

Published December 18, 2015

Dr. Joe Recommends: USC's Center for the Digital Future 2015 Report (PDF), e21's “Social Media Is Making Some Regulators Obsolete”, Content Marketing Institute Says “Lincoln Electric Believes Print is Relevant”, and “New Rules of Marketing and PR” Now in its Fifth Edition.


How the Business Structure of Commercial Printers Changed from 2008 to 2013

Published December 17, 2015

The recession started just before 2008 was beginning and the latest data from the County Business Patterns report shows how the business formats of the industry changed by 2013.


Premium Content Commercial Printing is Closing 2015 with Historic High in Key Metric

Published December 8, 2015

Last week's unemployment report did it again, it was all wrapped up in a pretty package but it seemed empty when you looked inside. Contents must have settled during shipping. Speaking of content, employment in agencies and designers are up strongly compared to last year. The content creation business is doing well. Commercial printers are reconfiguring their businesses and produced an historic high in shipments per employee. Dr. Joe has the details.


Recovery Indicators Cause Concern

Published December 3, 2015

The recovery indicators turned in a mixed performance that warrants some caution, concern but not worry, yet. Some outside economic analysts starting to raise concerns about the economy in 2016. Citibank analysts peg the chances of recession in 2016 at 65%, the first such prognostication of a major investment firm that we have seen.


US Commercial Printing Shipments Have a Strong October, +$204 Million

Published December 3, 2015

For 17 consecutive months the US commercial printing industry has scored increased shipments compared to the same month of the prior year. In current dollars, the Commerce Department reported that shipments were $7.729 billion. That meant that October 2016's shipments were +$204 million compared to 2015, a +2.7% performance. For the year through October, shipments are +3.3% on a current dollar basis.


Mobile Plays Big Role in Black Friday

Published December 3, 2015

The rise of mobile marketing has been long expected, and it looks like Black Friday 2015 is key milestone: mobile was more than half of web site traffic for e-commerce sites. Black Friday “brick-and-mortar” traffic was disappointing, but retailers were aggressively pushing sales online because it reduces the risks of riot-like runs for bargains as stores open. Target Stores had so much online traffic for CyberMonday its servers could not handle the volume. It wasn't the first time that Target misforecast demand for online sales. Some of Black Friday shopping may have been “window shopping” for mobile ordering. IBM, which still has a big business in systems for retailers issued a free download report about what was learned on Black Friday. In that report is the chart we highlight this week. If you sell to retailers or to businesses that sell to retailers, the report is worth reading.


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