Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Ad Pages Latest Data

American Business Media released September ad pages data. Compared to 2004, pages were up 1.96%. For the year, they are up 2.12%. Both rates are less that real GDP growth, so ad pages are lagging the economy growth rate by about a third. In terms of current dollars, because ABM does not adjust for inflation, their growth rate of 4.6% must be compared to a current dollar GDP growth of about 6.5%, also lagging by about one third.

While November data for consumer magazines will be out in the next week, taking a look at October numbers shows a decline compared to 2004 for the month of -2.1%, up for the year at 0.6%. The trend is not getting better, and it may be in decline for the year by the time November and December data are reported.

Note: to see the full data you have to click on their full spreadsheet data; it is not presented in the release.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Dr. Joseph Webb Announces, a New Advisory Service for Printing Industry Executives is a new service announced by recognized printing industry consultant and expert Dr. Joseph Webb. The service offers senior level executives reliable, easy to access printing, publishing, and industry forecasts based on Dr. Webb's proprietary economic models, and enhanced by his unique interpretation of the world's changing print marketplace.

HARRISVILLE, RI – November 28, 2005 – Dr. Joe Webb, printing industry consultant and forecaster, today announced a new service,, for top-level managers in the printing industry. Printing industry executives will finally have a way to access reliable and accurate global print industry forecasts, and a well-reasoned perspective about changing demand and technology. “The industry is changing rapidly, and executives have been asking for an independent, unbiased resource to aid in navigating the markets.” said Dr. Webb.

The new service will include a wide range of strategic and tactical planning information products, covering the global printing markets. It will offer information and perspectives of the large, established economies of North American, Europe, and Asia, and monitor fast-growing markets such as China, India, and others. will provide forecasts and analyses of major print categories, such as magazines, inserts, and general commercial printing and will track events in publishing, content creation, advertising, and other relevant markets, interpreting what they mean for subscribers to this new service.

“The full product rollout will begin in the first quarter of 2006,” said Dr. Webb. “We will provide market forecasting services across the entire content creation spectrum from print to Web to video. I am pleased to say that my partner in the original TrendWatch Graphic Arts business, Jim Whittington, has agreed to join me in this venture.” Mr. Whittington will bring his in-depth knowledge of the “demand side” of the printing business and his understanding of the digital content creation markets from basic graphic design to the cutting edge visual effects seen in Hollywood blockbusters.” “I am happy to be starting a business with 'Dr. Joe' again,” stated Mr. Whittington, “and look forward to developing needed forecasting tools that span the traditional and digital content creation markets.” clients can create their own customized market intelligence subscription program that best meets their specific needs. services will include, among others:

-- “Data-to-go” individual PowerPoint slides for use in company presentations on a wide range of printing industry topics
-- Easy-to-digest weekly print business update, analyzing breaking news, industry statistics, measures and forecasts of print demand, and competitive issues
-- Quarterly survey of print business owners, with profiles by their size and business segment
-- Quarterly U.S. and worldwide print industry forecasts, allowing executives to “see” the industry four quarters ahead
-- Quarterly “on the ground” reports from the major economic print regions of the world
-- Annual five-year forecast of the industry, by region, including demographics, shipment volumes, and capital expenditures
-- Detailed North American printing industry demographics
-- Confidential phone and e-mail access to the PrintForecast partners
-- A wide selection of special topic reports throughout the year

The service is created for top executives who need to quickly assess changing market conditions and gain insight about print market changes and implications for their companies and their customers. For those managers who need more detailed data to support top management decisions, subscribers can also access the database of more than 100 print industry historical and forecast data series.

Just Need a Quick Snapshot? PrintForecast “Data-to-Go” is the Answer

The e-store will offer one-of-a-kind “Data-to-Go” forecasting charts and audio commentary. ( This is a unique, low cost approach to purchasing accurate and reliable printing industry forecast data available in easily downloadable PowerPoint formats, 24/7.

Free PrintForecast Perspective Newsletter; Sign Up Today!

The free executive email newsletter is specifically created for top decision makers who need to know the future direction of the global printing industry – from the output side to the demand/content creation side. The weekly PrintForecast Perspective newsletter is free to those who sign-up at the Website ( This newsletter includes a brief print industry commentary by Dr. Webb, plus links to essential data that all print executives can use with their management teams and boards of directors.

About Dr. Joe Webb

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the printing and graphic communication industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. A 27+ year veteran of the graphic arts industries, he was the developer of the influential TrendWatch information service, which he sold in 2000. His "Fridays with Dr. Joe" column has become a popular feature on, as have his quarterly economic forecast Webinars. He is a Ph.D. graduate of the NYU Center for Graphic Communications Management and Technology (1987) and serves on the Center's Board of Advisors. His blog is at

About Mr. Jim Whittington

James R. Whittington, a founding partner of TrendWatch, has been consulting in the graphics industries since 1989. For the past five years, Mr. Whittington has been immersed in the TrendWatch, Inc. digital content creation markets publishing syndicated research reports and conducting custom research for major industry suppliers. He resides in the San Francisco area and is a graduate of Montana State University.

For more information:

Dr. Joseph Webb 1-401-709-4423
Mr. Jim Whittington 1-415-380-8561
E-mail: partners(at)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Free Economic Webinar Thursday, December 8 and Kodak are sponsoring my next quarterly webinar on Thursday, December 8, 2005, at 2:00pm Eastern Standard Time.

Be sure to sign up; if you can't attend at that time, it will be available as an archived download. Signing up will ensure that you have proper download information.

Here is the signup page:

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Perfect Opportunity for Printers!

Everyone knows how I've been SCREAMING about how important it is for printers to get involved in communications logistics.... and I've been saying how even the management of e-mail campaigns is something that printers should be offering.

PROOF! This press release from EmailLabs explains that e-marketing is difficult, and requires skills. Sure, the deliverability issue is important, but how about content?... and the way that content is formatted?

Aren't these the kinds of issues that printers have always dealt with? "Don't design it that way because it won't get through the bindery" "Choose these colors because they will always print consistently" "If it has X number of pages, you will get a postage discount" We're used to this stuff!

I have never posted a press release, but I think it's really important to post pieces of this one. The full release can be found at

In the survey sent to EmailLabs' Intevation Report newsletter subscribers, 90 percent of email newsletter subscribers have access to a preview pane, and 69 percent say they frequently or always use it. Nearly 53 percent of respondents' email clients or ISPs automatically block images in some or all email messages and 45 percent of email readers rarely or never download images within their preview pane. Furthermore, 50 percent of subscribers rarely or never place an email address on their email client's safe sender list.
Survey data indicates that 49 percent of email readers only look at the first few lines in the preview pane to decide if they want to continue reading the message. Whether targeting respondents who use the horizontal format (75 percent) or the vertical format (25 percent), survey results suggest it is critical that marketers design emails that will maximize the preview pane's limited real estate -- which is typically set by users at 2-5 inches. If insufficient information is displayed in the preview pane -- due to blocked images, advertisements or poor design -- nearly 19 percent of respondents will simply delete the message.

"This survey confirms our suspicions that a large percentage of B2B email subscribers do not download images and prefer to scan or read their emails within the preview pane and never fully open the email," said Loren McDonald, EmailLabs vice president of marketing. "Moving forward, we advise marketers to re-evaluate and, if necessary, redesign their emails to better address how their subscribers are actually interacting with their email newsletters," he added.

To help alleviate the impact preview panes and disabled images have on email performance, EmailLabs is recommending the following best practices:
-- Redesign the top of emails to include a 2-3 inch preview pane header area that is HTML and text only (no images). This "header" area should include only copy such as article teasers, key offers and "In This Issue" information that enables the subscriber to determine whether to read further and/or open the email. Publishers may want to test using HTML/Text-based ads in this area and consider charging a premium to advertisers based on the increase in impressions.
-- Redesign email templates so that both content blocks and advertisements can be viewed entirely within a 2-3 inch window as readers scroll through an email.
-- Minimize the use of images unless necessary as in ecommerce-oriented emails that display multiple product photos. Avoid using images that are more than 2-3 inches tall. Instead use HTML fonts, colors and backgrounds when possible to liven up the email.
-- Publishers should consider eliminating use of skyscraper ads and move to more HTML/text-based ads; ads with images should be limited to the horizontal banner format.
-- Examine preview pane area for extraneous or administrative information that can be relocated elsewhere, such as an administrative footer at the bottom of the email. Do, however, consider including text links for key actions such as "View Web Version" and "Update Profile" at the bottom of the preview pane area.

Additional key findings include:
-- The sender's name and/or email address remains the most important factor readers look for in the preview pane when deciding whether to read further or open the email (60 percent). Subject lines, headlines and teaser copy follow at 54.3 percent, 53 percent and 30.3 percent, respectively.
-- Only 31 percent of email users report they always or frequently add the B2B newsletters they asked to receive to their safe-senders list or address books in order to potentially avoid having them routed to their bulk or junk folders.
-- Sixty percent of survey respondents read messages in either Outlook 2003 or Lotus Notes, the two clients that block images by default. The number rises to 86 percent when considering those who use all versions of Outlook, Outlook Express and Lotus Notes.

"Email marketers and publishers need to be aware of these factors that are greatly affecting their email performance. While this latest study focuses on business-to-business marketers, we expect this issue to increasingly affect business-to-consumer marketers, driven by developments such as the Yahoo! Mail preview pane currently in Beta," concluded McDonald.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Today's Critical Reading

Business Week has a story about Random House's digital initiatives called "Random House: Digital Is Our Destiny"

CNET had a multicolumn series on the effect of the Internet and all of the new communications and collaborative approaches it has brought (like "wikipedia" and the like). The most interesting article is about the kids who have grown up in this environment, "the millenials." That article starts on page 17 of this PDF
The article can be seen online at
Great line: "For their grandparents, the bicycle was a symbol of childhood independence. Today, for many kids and youngadults, it is the Internet." I can see someone picking up some kind of task they haven't done in years and instead of saying "it's as easy as riding a bicycle", or "once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget" they'll say "once you learn to Google, you never forget."

It's no accident that Internet ad revenues for the third quarter were more than $3 billion. Ah, but it's just a fad :)

Publishing guru Bob Sacks recently highlighted a Business Week story about Carl Icahn's attempt to take over Time Warner.
I wrote the following note to Bob when I saw the story:
Advertising Age reports on a DMA study called "Financial Direct Mail Marketing Takes a Dive" -- but it was the subhead that caught my attention: "Lead Generation Response Rates Drop to 1.43% From 2.48% in 2003." Seems that these mailings went beyond the point of diminishing returns, and that's the point where you start looking for other media or better targeting. USPS direct mail data are still look pretty good, but they don't break details down by segment. Perhaps other segments are putting more into direct mail at a greater rate than financial is decreasing... that is, if they're decreasing at all... with interest rates heading up, it makes each credit card customer all the more valuable it would seem, and that value might cause them to tolerate lower response rates.

Road Warrior (incredible computer deals!):
Strongly recommended-- Norton Ghost 10 for FREE!
250GB external drive for $99!

Friday, November 18, 2005


Weekend Reading

This is one of those "I told you so" articles by someone in the publishing business chiding his collegues about how the Internet has changed the publishing business. My favorite section is:
The article is aptly titled "No Pallets Required" as the genesis of the commentary was how much time was spent at a recent Folio: show discussing postal rates.

1,900 newspaper jobs lost in 2005. Gosh, could people be reading the Internet sites, blogs, getting podcasts, satellite radio, huh? What I always think is funny about these stories is that many of the same companies that own newspapers have massive investments in broadcast, telecommunications, and new media. But someone just never told the people in the newsroom...... And of course, God forbid any other company lay someone off... it's splattered all over the front page of the business section...

Another newspaper article that has a good overview of the business in Q&A format

Prices going up for flexible packaging

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


See Dr Joe in Toronto on Dec. 7!

I'll be doing two sessions for the Digital Imaging Association on Wednesday, December 7, 2005. I'll be discussing the future of the graphic arts industry... or is it the "offline media industry"?... whatever it is, I'll be there... twice in the same day. The morning session will obviously be more detailed, and the afternoon will summarize that session quickly, but then pose some challenging industry and business questions.

Morning session begins at 10:00 am
Luncheon begins at 11:45 am (cash bar)
Meeting ends promptly at 2:00 pm
Sheraton Parkway Hotel, Grand York Ballroom; Hwy 7 & Hwy 404

Fees ($C)
DIA Members & their guests:
morning Session only $29
lunch only $79
morning & lunch $99

Non-members morning session only $ 49
Non-members lunch only $ 99
Non-members morning & lunch $129

Call Marg Macleod at (416) 696-0151, or email at; credit card payment will be accepted by phone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Still More Assigned Reading!

Kevin Maney of USA Today contends that publishers are just being dense when it comes to Google. In my mind, it's not so unlike when AOL joined with Time Warner, or when home video hit Hollywood 25 years ago. Entrenched interests work to preserve the past, and their salaries, not to take risks.

PIA has finally analyzed their erstwhile PIA Financial Ratios as "profit leaders" and "profit challengers" in their latest press release (11/14/2005). "Profit challenged" is more like it. The differences are subtle, but they certainly add up for the profiled sheetfed operations. The Financial Ratios are filled with hidden gems, and this analysis makes it much more evident. I first saw it done by Bob Rosen, and I did it last year in one of my columns as "How the Other Three-quarters Live."
PIA release:
My column:
Bob Rosen's site:

REALLY FUNNY: The New York Times headline "Knight Ridder to Explore Selling Newspapers ". If they had been able to sell real hold-in-your-two-sweaty-little-hands newspapers to real life people, they wouldn't have to consider selling the company!

...But maybe this is why they're in such bad shape...Newspaper web sites added 4 million visitors last year, up 11%... it's hard to monitize web sites the same way you can do hard copy (after all you can always make a printed newspaper have more pages, or add more inserts; think of a newspaper web site as a funnel... it's actually not as scalable from the first viewing as a hard copy newspaper is).

Zinio has published a report on its growth and the growth of digital magazines. Of great interest are the data about international sales. For all of the various cultural content laws that there might be in the world, and tariffs on printed goods, and in some cases outright bans, digital magazines span those barriers, just like the Internet does for all information. It's yet another reminder that being obsessed over trade data is absolutely silly. They can't adequately measure these things, and even when things were measureable, that was done badly. How long and how well Zinio survives will be interesting. They will need to stay one step ahead of other delivery formats, of course, and that requires deft, insightful management, just like any other company. Making the transition from startup to being an established company is traumatic enough. But being in the thick of it, with RSS, e-books, XML, open-source, $100 PCs, all breathing down your neck, is quite exciting, and makes for some hard choices. That's a neat place to be as an executive.
Press release:

The congressional Democrats announced an "innovation agenda." Somewhere along the way I remember writing that some politicians are going to make the pronouncement that broadband is a "right" (and I bet if you look hard someone could find it in the Constitution). Where's the printing industry on this? Why wasn't there a right to newspapers? Or a right to brochures? There was almost a right to phone service, and in practical terms, it worked out that way for access to 911 and emergency services. So now there will be a right to broadband? And there are still people who deny that digital media is not as important as I or others make it out to be?

Monday, November 14, 2005


Today's Assigned Reading

Industrial market is still relatively untapped for the Internet, at least according to this article
Press release:

Summary of last week's ad:tech show

A UK columnists muses about e-books and publishers,6903,1641234,00.html

Google proposes a book rental plan

Publishers are still spooked about Google according to The Economist

... and Der Spiegel has a story about the issues as well,1518,383978,00.html

100 zillion years ago, AOL and Time Warner merged to create a cross-media giant. Internal legal wrangling and bad management led to a big zero.... until today. Yes, this is the announcement we've all been waiting for! Classic TV shows will now be online! This is incredibly underwhelming.

Hilarious story of unintended consequences! Someone figured out that computers actually use lots of electricity! Maybe paper is cheaper? This is a case of really bad planning, but it is funny.

Seniors who blog: yes, old people use computers. Shocking!

Podcasting story: radio stations will actually be encouraging it!

Skype will be computer-free?,aid,123507,tk,dn111105X,00.asp

Last week, people were up in arms over some Microsoft memos where Bill Gates warned that the world was going to change. Imagine that.

Nicholas Negroponte's $100 laptop is closer to reality. The Microsoft comments are pretty funny. They won't be able to do the 3E plan that they normally do with industry standards ("embrace, enhance, eradicate") to this idea.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Peter Drucker, Dead at 95

Through my undergraduate studies I never read anything by Peter Drucker. Yet, when I was working part time at a NY cultural institution, I remember, vividly, the executives talking about how important Peter Drucker was. Through my masters program, I never read anything by Peter Drucker. It was like the academics had conspired against him. Luckily, during my doctoral studies, I finally did. But first I was told to read an article from Harvard Business Review A.M. Kantross, titled "Why Read Peter Drucker?" Yes, it seemed that the academics had conspired against him. In the outside world, everyone was reading Drucker, but inside the hallowed halls they probably hid copies in their desks. I can't find that Kantross article anywhere. It said that you read Drucker to learn his thinking and his reasoning. In his Innovation and Entrepreneurship, that was clearly at work, as it started my thinking about how the industry was going to change in light of technologies like desktop publishing and digital color systems. (Ah, I'm dating myself). The most important book to me was The Effective Executive. Its recommendations are still as applicable as they were when they were published in 1964.

The bulk of management books today are just that: bulk (there are a few exceptions, of course). They are filled with prescriptions for following a few steps here, make some tweaks there, and that's all you have to do. Drucker's books are not like that. He's not there to solve any problems for you or to put band-aids on thorny situations. Things are never that easy, especially as you move up in managerial positions where you need to constantly think about the future and take into account contingencies that may never happen, and learn that nothing is ever certain.

While the bulk of the stories about Drucker are bound to be glowing, there were always issues I never felt all that comfortable with. Drucker was the last remaining person living who studied economics from Keynes and Schumpeter. You can see Keynes in his work, as Drucker had some affection for big government, and very often big corporations. You can see Schumpeter (if you've heard the phrase "creative destruction," that's from him) in his discussions about entrepreneurship and innovation. Drucker liked "big" more than he liked small and medium. "Big" was his audience, though he would never shy away from telling "big" when it was fat, lethargic, and protective of its turf, when it really needed to be nimble, astute, and innovative. Reading Drucker could help small business people, but he wasn't really for them. He was more in the camp of getting "big" to work.

Some people have told me that Drucker's conclusions were obvious to anyone who was reasonably informed, and therefore not really worth reading. I remember making a comment about that to a management professor about Douglas MacGregor's Theory X and Theory Y. I was quickly reminded that you had to understand things in context, in the way people knew them at that time. Drucker always had a way of laying out the case, in good detail, and building to an insightful conclusion. I always found his conclusions, however, to have a richness to them, and an appreciation of subtlety that was not found in most management books. The academics never seemed to like his lack of footnotes, or his lack of "latest research." They clearly missed the point. The man wasn't doing studies to help him get tenure; he was way beyond that. Drucker's synthesis was usually far beyond what you could find in a classroom. He was teaching people how to think, something sorely needed in business schools, and missing from most case classes.

Another aspect of Drucker was discussed in a book from the late 1980s, A Great Place to Work, by Robert Levering (which has long-spawned a conference and an annual compilation of companies that fit their criteria). In it, he compared Tom Peters and Peter Drucker, and other management gurus. Essentially, Drucker's work characterized management as professional, and often elitist. Peters characterized managers as coaches. Drucker tended to make sure that people knew who was in charge. Peters would use phrases like managers need to "run blocking" so that people could get their work done. Peters generally hated organizations; Drucker didn't love them, but hated the inefficient ones that lacked leadership. After a while of reading both of them you get the sense that Drucker would have fired Peters the first chance he got.

As marketers, we owe Drucker a great debt of gratitude. Marketing was not taken seriously until Drucker explained it. Before then, it was distribution and sales. Marketing was something that soap companies like P&G and cigarette companies did. He gave the discipline of marketing visibility in the boardroom, though you will rarely, if ever, see Drucker's name in any marketing textbook.

Back when I was teaching (it's hard to believe I last walked into a classroom 12 years ago), I required Effective Executive in my organizational behavior classes. I didn't want young skulls full of mush to escape an undergraduate business program without knowing something about Drucker's work. Keynes is famous for saying "in the long run, we are all dead." Keynes' work has not stood the test of time, but Drucker's will. Keynes is dead. Drucker won't suffer that same fate because thinking is important no matter what business era you're in.


HBR article: Kantross, A. M. "Why Read Peter Drucker?" Harvard Business Review 80. 1 (1980): 74-82. I wish I could find a link to it. If someone has a link, please let me know; if someone has a copy, can you send it to me?


Official comment from Claremont Graduate University, whose business school was named after Drucker:

A 2004 USA Today story on his 95th birthday:

Two good stories about Drucker's relevance today:,17863,513950,00.html,17863,514770,00.html

Brief article on Schumpeter
One of my favorite articles on Keynes

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Bryon Ramseyer, 1946-2000

Today is the fifth anniversary of the death of Bryon Ramseyer, taken from us at age 54. The industry knew Bryon as an active and vital member and leader of various associations, but mostly as an innovative manager and implementer of technology, especially in the use of desktop solutions in high-end color work. Bryon was a voracious reader and thinker about management, and tenacious in his beliefs. He wasn’t one of those managers whose style changed like the wind, but one who evaluated and decisively moved, embracing and encouraging change, especially those changes from the workers themselves. I’ll never forget the tours he gave of the Gamma One plant in North Haven, CT, as he talked about how things had been altered since my previous visit, what they tried, where they failed, and where they succeeded, and where they were headed next.

One of his company’s many innovations was a proofing department with no staff—people were responsible for making their own proofs, a radical approach at the time, eliminating finger pointing or complaints about backlogs, creating greater efficiency and a greater sense of pride in the accomplishments of the company's teams. He used total quality management (TQM) in a segment of the industry that was supposedly all craft-based, where TQM was not supposed to be effective. He greatly influenced me and the way I look at the business.

Most of all, I remember Bryon as a generous man, anxious to share his experiences, and always willing to consider new ideas. I especially remember the time he spent with me as a young (admittedly naïve) new consultant back in 1987, and the encouragement that he gave me through those following years. He was always there for a phone call or a visit, and would roll out the red carpet even when it was undeserved. Bryon kept his illness private, and I regret not being able to say goodbye. It’s important that we remember his steadfast loyalty and dedication to our industry, and the time he devoted to helping so many individuals yet was too humble to take any credit. We should remember Byron and try to be as special as he was.

I have posted the obituary from 2000 on a private page of my website.

One of the things that saddens me greatly is that when you "google" Bryon, only some old industry agendas and my mention of him in my columns comes up. This is quite sad. This is almost as sad as when Mike Bruno died, whose contributions to the industry were legendary, and who made the mistake of outliving everyone he had helped. His passing was noted only through the efforts of Frank Romano.

I encourage others, especially the associations for whom Bryon toiled as a hard-working board member and contributor, to post items about Bryon, and other members who have worked on their behalf over the years, and on behalf of the entire industry, that others may know of their efforts in shaping the business we love so much.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Welcome to the "Offline Media" Industry

If you don't know what that is, it's us. For the past few weeks, I've been noticing that print is being referred to in this way. It's not like it's a name we picked for ourselves; it has been assigned to us. "Off" is probably the operative word. Most of the discussion has come out of the ad:tech show in New York (I mentioned this the other day in this blog).

For a while we've been told about how the industry should promote itself, and this was the reason supposedly for the creation of the Print Council The Print Council was not at ad:tech. No printer had a booth. No printer was on a panel. I don't know if any printers attended, but if they did, I imagine it was a tiny portion of their attendance.

These are the kinds of people who are helping organizations like the Phoenix Visitors Bureau switch away from print. These are the people who are telling decision-makers that print is expensive and ineffective. No one was there to make the case about how our industry has among it some of the most innovative applications that can increase response and lower long-run costs.

Instead of aggressively pursuing this audience, our industry does nothing to change our situation except send out press releases as Microsoft Word file attachments, and does nothing to attack the documented deliverability problems of e-mail promotions.

Our industry needs to be among the best of the new media practitioners. If we believe that we are in the "communications business" (I say we're in the "communications logistics" business, actually), then we have to act that way.

I advise everyone to look at the site It's a template-based e-mail marketing program for small businesses. The closest thing to this approach our industry has is Vistaprint.
Constant Contact It has been mentioned in these recent stories and at Who told me about this company? Two consultants who serve the printing industry! It's simple to use (but you have to follow the steps). Like any template-drive service, you are limited, but their implementation and back-end services of list management save you incredible amounts of money.

Our industry is a small business industry, and we serve small businesses regularly. Yet, we have let Staples/OfficeMax/OfficeDepot/FedEx take our customers away from us; most of customers of those services
have no idea what a printing business is or can do for them.

At Print05, I outlined the steps our industry must take. We have to look at ourselves in the eye and say:
The first step toward solving a problem is to admit that you have one. In managing investments, preserving capital (avoiding losses) is an important step toward building wealth. In business, there is a saying to "not throw good money after bad."

So let's take our first steps. Let's say it together: "Electronic media have undeniable and pre-emptive advantages in the marketplace." There, that was good. Now add this: "The recognition of those advantages is growing." Okay, now add this: "I will do something that adds new media to the marketing arsenal of my printing business, and I will use new media myself as a means of showing that print executives understand the new world of communications."

It's exciting to get into a new business, and saying these things is the first step. If we don't do this, we will become marginalized as the "offline media" business, and that's not a good thing. After all, "The Offline Media Council" does not have a compelling ring to it.

Note: Richard Romano has written about his own ad:tech experience in his Blogito Ergo Sum blog which is at His November 8 posting promises to add more comments through the week, so check back often.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Circulation and Advertising Data are for People Who Can't Adjust to Reality

Want some good yucks? The Publishers Information Bureau can provide them. Their October magazine advertising report sets up the joke: "Total magazine rate-card-reported advertising revenue for the month of October increased 3.5% compared to October of last year..." Get it? "Rate-card-reported." If Wal-Mart reported its sales at list price, the SEC would call them on the carpet in seconds. So here's the punch line: "Ad pages totaled 24,416.75, down 2.1% from October 2004." That's the third straight month of decline. Their effusive headline is so bullish it implies a healthy business, but then all you have to do is look at the data and the rug is pulled. People forget that GDP data are reported as inflation-adjusted. Even their rate-card comparisons are half that of current-dollar GDP. Putting a happy face on retrograde data just undermines credibility with incongruity. Last I heard, the recognition of an incongruity was called humor.

Newspaper circulation down -2.6% for the first six months of the year. For years newspapers were in denial about the effects of electronic media, often citing that they had withstood television and radio' growth. Those were quite different. The Internet is portable, and everywhere, on a wide range of devices, and accessible at any time. The lack of diversity in the editorial thought of newspapers have made them sitting ducks for other media, such as blogs, to rise up. Yes, editorial does really matter. But most of all, publishers were counting on older readers. Uh-oh. Those older readers, the wealthiest, healthiest, most educated senior cohort ever, are the fastest growing Internet users. Denial, like procrastination, has immediate rewards. It's like that old Steve Forbert song: "I'd rather see it when it's all around me. Hey, what's the hurry?";_ylt=AhZuB5x

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act has some unintended consequences that divert dollars away from small business core competency and send the dollars to accounting firms instead. A particular section, 404, (how funny... thats the number of the error you get when a web page no longer exists) is causing great concern, as discussed in a recent American Electronics Association white paper.

Monday, November 07, 2005


"Cut It Out and Get Back to Work"

Advertising Age had two good articles today:
Inkmaker Xsys is reported by Printweek as having a significant price increase. In the story, the company claims "This year we have been faced with an historically unprecedented rise in all our costs which was totally unexpected." I doubt that they are "historically unprecedented," as most commodities are nowhere near their inflation-adjusted prices from the late 1970s and very early 1980s. As a reminder, take a look at my posting of October 17 about newsprint prices as reported by Slate. I know there's a lot of handwringing about the price of gold. I calculated it a while ago, but today's price would have to be 5x higher to be at the inflation-adjusted levels of January 1980, for example. The key line in the Printweek piece is "rise in all our costs which was totally unexpected." Every company should have a plan for this kind of contingency. The unexpected should always be expected. Economic conditions are rarely without precedent; the economy is something that you navigate, not feared. The article's quote about "double digit price increases for the vast majority of our raw materials, with some up 50% over the past year" is an indication that raw materials prices, while important, are usually tiny in relation to payroll and operation of facilities, and that there is some slack in the system, and yet another reason why the obsession with oil prices by the Fed and the press, can be quite damaging in terms of inappropriate policy. The urge to "do something, anything" is hard to resist when you're sitting at the controls, and letting things work out by themselves is viewed as irresponsible.

Ad:Tech is in New York this week, and there should be loads of stories about the latest and greatest ways to communicate with target audiences. As far as I can tell so far, the only exhibitor with "print" anywhere in their description is Intermark Media and even on their site it's hard to mention print. (By the way: this group calls print "offline media." Hmmmm... I guess it is, come to think of it!) You're supposed to go where your customers and competitors are for the fight in the trenches. Does anyone in the printing industry know that Ad:Tech is in many ways the "new Seybold" for communicators?
Cool: a company is sponsoring wireless access for everyone at the show... better than buying everyone on the show floor breakfast!

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Articles, Charts,and Graphs, Oh My!

Based on the relationship of the Personal Consumption Expenditures inflation gauge and the 10-year Treasury bond, you'd think the Fed would be done! But no, they're going to keep going, raising rates until they get the long-end of the yield curve to move significantly up. Why not just issue more long-term debt and increase the supply? That would mean less short term debt, and keep the yield curve in growth mode... oh that's right, they don't want growth. (Found the image on economist Larry Kudlow's blog takes publishers by the hand to lead them to the Internet age.

Here's an interview about postal rates and the catalog business. There will be a lot of people claiming that the sky is falling when postal rates go up. First, they're barely keeping up with inflation, anyway. And second, postage is not the only cost, it's the cost of transaction processing that's gone down dramatically because of e-commerce. And that's the real issue. The wired audience for catalog shopping still loves print catalogs, but just in the same way, and they don't need them as often.

Automatic payments have now surpassed checks, according to a new MasterCard survey. This is more an issue of consolidation, since we still write checks to the credit card companies. We won't be a checkless society for quite some time, but we wll are becoming "less-check" society for years now, and that will intensify.

Highly recommended... Jeremy Siegel of Wharton has a marvelous book "The Future for Investors" that's loaded with discussions about worldwide economies and where they're headed (and you thought he'd just be talking about stocks). The stock investing chapters are good, too. He's on the road for Morgan Stanley, and does 90 minute presentations about all of these key trends. If you happen to be a Morgan Stanley customer, or know someone who is, get in touch with your account rep and demand to be put on the list of invitees if he comes to your area. First, you get a free book (see, I told you I've become a "frugal" New Englander); second, you get to ask questions. His newsletter is $15 a month or $150 a year.
His web site:
His book on (hard copy):
His book on (digital):

I've been working with postal shipments data recently. Here's a look at periodicals mailings compared to Q1-2000. Weight per piece is declining slightly (green line with light green trendline), the number of pieces is under Q1-2000 levels, but finally closing in (reddish lines), and the overall weight has suffered since Q4-2003 (the blue lines), which means that page counts are down. PIB and ABM have sounded upbeat in their press releases, but then you look at their data, and also these postal data, and you see the real story (make you feel you were a bait-and-switch victim). Beware data compared to just the prior period or just last year. When you sell consumables, that might be interesting, but when you sell technology or capital goods, or are considering significant investments that might not have payoffs for three to five years, slight pertubations are rather meaningless, and this chart does not evoke enthusiasm for market-changing investment. If anything, it creates more interest in consolidation.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


September 2005 Printing Shipments

The Commerce Department released printing shipments data, and things were not pretty. September's shipments were $7.7 billion, down -$387 million from September 2004, a decline of -4.8%. For the year we are down -$1.8 billion, or -2.7%. Most disturbing is that the average decline from January to May was -0.7%, but from June to September has been -5.0% in the monthly comparisons to 2004. On an inflation-adjusted basis, September was down -8.4%, and we are down -6.4% for the year.


Still More Articles

It's been really funny watching the circulation scandals unfold in the magazine and newspaper businesses. Now, the Audit Bureau of Circulation is attempting to refocus the discussion from circulation to readership (pass-along copies, such as how many people in a family read the one newspaper or magazine, or how many people see the magazine in a doctor's office [yeah, that June 1980 Reader's Digest is still in my dentist's office, I bet]). Even readership depends on being able to make a single statement with great clarity: "this is the number of magazines that ended up in the hands of paid subscribers." Now is the time for clarity, not a shift in the discussion.

The Pew Internet Survey has new data about teens and their use of the Internet. This time, they cover content creation as part of their survey. "Fully half of all teens and 57% of teens who use the internet could be considered Content Creators. They have created a blog or webpage, posted original artwork, photography, stories or videos online or remixed online content into their own new creations. "

Katrina's effect is still being measured and understood. Credit agency Experian issued a press release indicating what business sectors were hit the hardest.

Voice mail hell is familiar to all of us. Someone got so sick of it they started a web page called "Find a Human" where they collect the best way to get to a person. Whether or not that person can help you or not is a different matter. But it's better than "Your call is important to us... a representative will be with you in.... four... days... and thirty.... seven... minutes... Thank you for your patience..."

NXPowerLite, an inexpensive software that compresses Powerpoint files to reasonable size now has a new version available. They offer a free trial. Saving as a PDF seems to employ many of the same compression schemes, but if you still need a .ppt to be editable by others, earlier versions of this software have been very helpful to me in getting file sizes that get out of hand because of graphics or image editing done withing Powerpoint down to something that won't clog someone's inbox.

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