Published: October 13, 2016
Since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2009, first class mail is down by -12%, standard mail (discounted bulk mail) down by -18%, and periodicals down a whopping -32%. Is there anyone surprised at this? Since 2000, per capita first class mail is down about 5 pounds, periodicals down 10 pounds, and standard mail down about 14.5 pounds. That totals nearly 30 pounds less mail. Note in the chart that there was a big decline of about 9.5 pounds from 2008 to 2009 as the use of the mail was affected by the deepening recession, but most of all by the rising use of smartphones and the effects of the new social media category. These were aided and abetted by the underlying growth of websites, increasing adoption and faster speeds of broadband. The tablet computing category started in Spring 2010 with the introduction of the iPad. What was the USPS reaction to their decline in sales from economic conditions and new competitors? Raise prices, of course. Those higher costs had to be balanced by less frequent and lighter mailings to tightly focused audiences, and greater emphasis on data base hygiene. Mailing is a more demanding niche than ever for the printers that specialize in it. Automation is critical, and new high quality ink jet printing technologies, some of which are already in the market with new ones yet to come, may change the costs of print and increase its flexibility in a manner that can make hard copy mail more attractive than it has been in recent years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.