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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 1270 articles

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.

 

US Commercial Printing Shipments on a Per Capita Basis

Published March 30, 2017

Yes, that sounds boring, but the data have been made interesting by including details about the last forty years or so of industry history and technological change. We added some statistical forecasts from our models that take the data out to 2025. When we started this chart almost ten years ago, those outlying years were near zero. They’re not any more (whew!). The data are inflation adjusted and based on the population data and forecasts of the US Census Bureau. It’s interesting how there are periods of relative stability, a change, followed by another period of stability. Technological change has been a much bigger factor affecting consumption than general economic conditions.

 

Dr. Joe Recommends: Digital Advertising Contracts Traded on NASDAQ?

Published March 30, 2017

Yes, that headline is correct as explained in a recent article. It’s the New York Interactive Advertising Exchange. Its founders were interviewed recently and explained the business.

 

Premium Content Profits and Capex and Bears, Oh My!

Published March 26, 2017

Industry profits for 2016 were higher than 2015, but big printers were not riding high, they were writing down. Big used to mean big, but now small and medium are the rage as the changing nature of print demand makes the theme of short-run specialties for long-term profitability a big idea. And then there’s capital investment that makes all that possible. Its rebound continues in a manner that reflects a different industry. Is the post-election business enthusiasm a bubble about to burst? Dr. Joe explains.

 

Ad Agency and Publisher Revenues

Published March 23, 2017

Advertising agency revenues are having a slow rebound from their pullback in 2015. Publisher revenues are still having problems as ad pages and circulation are contracting. Clearly, agencies are finding other areas to garner revenues, especially in managing digital initiatives. Mobile communications are where their latest opportunities are, especially with website redesigns, creating the look and feel of content marketing for their clients, and assisting clients as they sort through the analytics that marketing automation offers.

 

Pew Surveys

Published March 23, 2017

It seems pretty clear that the last half of 2016 had a surge in activity for mobile communications.

 

Premium Content Economy Sending Conflicting Messages? Or Is It?

Published March 13, 2017

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” is the way the saying goes, and claiming some credit for a good job report on Friday was probably not wise. That old political rule of claiming credit for what happens on your watch though not caused by you has the underside of getting the blame for what you did not do. An important GDP forecast shows a very weak Q1, and the content creation businesses of advertising and design had declines in employment. Perhaps some weak economic conditions are what’s needed to get the Beltway’s priorities into the right order.

 

Premium Content Is Sales Dying?

Published February 27, 2017

Dr. Joe wonders what’s happening to sales? The number of sales people in the economy is declining, and they’ve been essentially replaced by computers and server farms. All those sales call reports have been replaced by analytics. All that T&A expense became electrons. Entrepreneurship is critical to a growing economy, but having the right context to the statistics helps put it in perspective. And then there’s trade. Can we change the subject? Some economists are finally writing with clarity about the topic.

 

Consumer Inflation for 2016 at +2.5%, Giving Fed Reason to Increase Rates

Published February 23, 2017

Consumer inflation for 2016 was increasing, with December’s reading +2.5% higher than 2015. December’s rate alone was at a +6.6% annualized rate. The chart shows the monthly comparisons as the blue line and the year-to-year comparisons as the heavier red line.

 

The Latest 2017 Index of Economic Freedom

Published February 23, 2017

The Heritage Foundation has released the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom, one of my favorite resources. There are lots of data about international economies from the World Bank, the IMF, and others, but this is different, and is a great addition to that library. It includes insights into the regulatory environments of the economies, as well as the activities of black markets and corruption. The report is free, with a vastly improved interactive website, and downloads of the entire book or individual chapters. The list of country rankings is available on a page of its own. The top five are Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Australia. Canada came in seventh, and the US fell out of the top fifteen for the first time, now ranked seventeenth.

 

Premium Content Even the Digital Media Markets are Changing in The Third Wave

Published February 13, 2017

Sometimes naysayers get it wrong, and Dr. Joe thinks that some of the digital media experts are complaining too much about digital media growth slowing down to “only” 4x GDP. He thinks what they’re seeing are the benefits of marketing automation and a deeper understanding of analytics and ROI that mean dollars are spent more wisely. What does that mean for print? Time to take a new role in a third wave of media change. Are you ready?

 

Employment Stalls; Printing Shipments Fall Sharply in December

Published February 6, 2017

The national employment data may have had a headline of +227,000 payroll jobs, but the household survey did not indicate the same. Every year, the report released in February includes revisions to the prior year. The press release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that employment was “little changed.”

 

4Q-2016 GDP Slows to +1.9%, +0.9% Less Inventory Build-Up

Published January 30, 2017

The fourth quarter of 2016 ended quiently, with a growth rate of +1.9% compared to the third quarter. That brought 2016 to an overall growth rate of +1.6%.

 

Everyone loves Uber. But can the company survive?

Published January 26, 2017

Everyone loves Uber. But can the company survive? It's burning cash and piling up losses at an incredible rate, expected to be -$3 billion this year.

 

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