Dr. Joe gives us the good news... first... and there really is some! Then he explains how some of the good news is like a Hollywood movie set: great facades, and then only braces and forms behind them, but some of it is really good. He then reminds us that turmoil creates opportunities, and turmoil also creates content. The challenge to printing entrepreneurs is to translate that to value for their businesses.
The Census Bureau publishes printing industry births and deaths data, but the data take years to be published. The latest data are from 2006, but Dr. Joe estimates what's happened since,especially 2008 and 2009.
The employment report was better than the cable channel talking heads thought it would be. Printing shipments continued their unfortunate relationship with economic growth. The Postal Service continues a summer sale initiative that only fat cats can like.
Is the U.S. Economy playing out like 1990s Japan or 1970s U.S. stagflation? Dr. Joe changes his mind... again. All it took was the Producer Price Index and Consumer Price Index releases of last week. Well, so much for his lecturing about the tendency of managers to react to the last thing they hear rather than pondering things. He also suggests buying oil with gold might be a good idea after looking at the last 20 years of data. That should be interesting to try during the New England heating season when the oil truck stops by. And if you thought Keynes was dead, you should see his new rap video with Frederich A. Hayek. If dead economists can make a rap video, can Elvis be far behind?
Broadband use by adults has been increasing and the number of households with broadband service has almost doubled since 2005. What's the relationship with commercial printing volume? Last year, there were about 48 billion hours of broadband use by households, and every additional hour of use decreases commercial print volume by about $2.
Things are not always what they seem, especially when statistics are involved. How else can one explain a GDP report of +5.7% and a decrease in the unemployment rate being matched with long faces and pessimism? The economic side-step is continuing, and a mild upturn is being viewed with suspicion. Every time there's good economic data, it seems to barely survive the headline and first paragraph of its press release without devolving into adjustments, revisions, and clarifications. Our job as managers is not just requiring navigation skills, but seems to need a refresher course in defensive driving.
Newspapers were supposed to survive the new media age because of their highly educated, high income audience, and then when that didn't work, their superior content would make news websites into Internet advertising magnets. Now, even online advertising is shrinking for newspapers. What's next?
Dr. Joe starts his eighth year with WhatTheyThink, and he's less Dr. Doom-ish. There are some signs, though not confirmed, that the industry may have finally finished riding a steep and traumatic downdraft and found a steadier level with a more gradual and predictable outcome. November shipments were down at the lowest rate of any month in 2009, and there were only 100 fewer print workers in December than there were in November. The national economy still has its problems, employment is actually worse than most realize, and incomes are still under pressure. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecast print employment for 2018, and their forecast is, unfortunately, already fulfilled.
You'd think that all of the economic wounds of the U.S. economy were healed all at once when last Friday's unemployment report was announced. For some reason, the good news in it was glossed over, and the bad news was ignored.
Where did Dr. Joe go when he was stumped about social media? Amazingly, he used social media. Social media is not one big online cocktail party or teenagers arranging to meet up at the mall. It's real business that requires a strategy, and it's more like broadcasting than it is a one-time project. The rules for social media are still being written through trial and error every day, and it's brought new focus to public relations professionals. Dr. Joe recommends some resources to take a decisive step into this critical new area of business and social communications.
The talking heads were shocked that unemployment hit 10.2%, but had they read the news all week, it would have been no surprise. There was news that almost seemed good in the report, but despite—or perhaps because of—their shock, the talking heads missed it. The Federal Reserve is doing its best Nero imitation as the dollar weakens, and they keep mistaking credit for capital. Don't tell the paper companies, but instead of wasting time complaining about China, they should be focusing on helping their customers deal with competition from digital media. Are they taking Nero lessons from Ben Bernanke?
Economy geeks just love weeks like this. The beginning of the month has some of the most incredible data from the Institute for Supply Management, the Commerce Department, and especially, the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All of the data are highly charged politically, and it's hard to see through the fog to assess what's right. But these macroeconomic data don't really matter when you're running a business. It's important to keep them in the right perspective.
E-books are not books, they're e-commerce sites that let you read books. Small businesses are cutting their ad budgets but increasing their digital spending. What the government statisticians giveth one week, they taketh away the next week. The Road Warrior thinks you shouldn't buy Windows 7, but buy a new computer instead, unless you're a Linux geek like he is. You know you're getting old when Patty Duke is making Social Security commercials and you can remember a time when the price of a color scanner had a comma, and there were five zeroes in the price.
The bumpy bottom is just that. When things improve, how do we know it's for real? If we just consult our lucky numbers, we may feel good. But we have to look past the attractiveness and take an objective look at what these lucky numbers really mean. If lucky numbers aren't lucky, then the real numbers should be better. Real numbers can be just as murky, especially when they deal with employment. Could Dr. Joe be wrong about stagflation? He takes a new look and explains it all.
I finally got to one of those books in my “to read when I find some time” pile, Strategy Bites Back, published in early 2005. The principal author is Henry Mintzberg, whose Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning, published in 1994, skewered, barbecued, and devoured the strategic planning process quite mightily. This newer book does so in a far more entertaining manner. It is a collection of short articles and excerpts craftily assembled for one purpose only: to make one think. I recommend reading it, and here’s why.
Friday's unemployment report was very discouraging, but news reports weren't discouraging enough. That doesn't mean there isn't good news: recent manufacturing data have some signs of encouragement. The most encouraging thing would be the acknowledgment that businesspeople taking risks is what will ultimately grow the economy, and nothing else. Chaos is good... especially if there are 30 days of it.
Expectations often shape the perception of what are supposedly good data, and sometimes good data just are not what they are cracked up to be. Bad selling from memorized scripts could be handled by automatons. In some cases, that might be an improvement. Up-selling, when poorly done, is probably one of the aspects of sales that undermines confidence of buyers, especially first-time customers, making them unlikely to become second-time clients.
The matrix, not of the movie kind, puts it all together. The New Printer has New Opportunities, but requires the insights of the entrepreneur to dive into this confusing, changing, and ultimately rewarding marketplace.
Last week, I discussed how the common wisdom benefits of print as enumerated as recently as 2006 and 2007, were crumbling because of several trends:
l consumer Internet volume had passed business volume in 2008
Back in 2006 I discussed the benefits of print as they stood at that time. Just think: last year, consumer Internet traffic surpassed business traffic; the iPhone was introduced in mid-2007 and the Kindle in 2008; social media did not exist for all practical purposes, and it now is 10 minutes of every hour consumers spend online. Add the downdraft of a worldwide recession, and you have listed every reason for every B2C, B2B, and all other organizations to re-cast their media plans and expectations.
Here is where those some of those benefits now stand and the impact these forces have had on them; this is followed by some discussion about what this all means to our industry:
The news reports were so predictable. “The government's index of prices paid by consumers was unchanged in July from the previous month, but the closely watched inflation gauge recorded its largest over-the-year decline in 59 years.” That's the way CNN said it on Friday.
There is such a desire for good economic news that the press and others plant the good news at the top of the story and then hide the details in plain sight in paragraph 3, where they know no one will find it.
On August 3, Advertising Age columnist Bob Garfield's book, Chaos Scenario, will be released. The content has been previewed for a quite a while, and I cited it a few years back. Since the time of his first column about it, titled “A Look at the Marketing Industry's Coming Disaster,” much of what he projected has come to pass.
That's the basic law of economics when the supply of a good or service is constant. There's been some discussion of late about the scarcity of print workers and the need for many thousands of them. One of the clues as to whether or not there is true demand for or a shortage of workers is the change in wage levels that the marketplace offers. If wages are up, there is greater demand for workers; and if wages are down, there is obviously not. Wages are the prices set by the interaction of workers and employers in a marketplace for long-term work. Higher wages attract workers who had previously been outside the industry; lower wages inside one industry send discouraged workers elsewhere.
WhatTheyThink is the global printing industry's leading independent media organization with both print and digital offerings, including WhatTheyThink.com, PrintingNews.com and WhatTheyThink magazine versioned with a Printing News and Wide-Format & Signage edition. Our mission is to provide cogent news and analysis about trends, technologies, operations, and events in all the markets that comprise today’s printing and sign industries including commercial, in-plant, mailing, finishing, sign, display, textile, industrial, finishing, labels, packaging, marketing technology, software and workflow.