Saturday, December 31, 2005


Goodbye, 2005: Last Articles Roundup

Newspapers & Technology: Fluff interviews about the condition of press and equipment market.

Red Herring: Old media is clueless about the web

USPS 2005 Annual Report
Press release:

Pew Internet Survey:
Nice summary demographics chart of who’s on line
More detail about how men and women use the Internet differently

Folio: Predictions about the 2006 magazine industry (some are pretty wacky, others make you think)

Monday, December 26, 2005


Does the State of the Publishing Business Affect the Way the Economy is Reported?

This story in Slate may show why the economy gets such poor coverage in the media. The article talks about how expensive it is in New York, and how many in the publishing industry can no longer afford to live there.

Back in the mid-late 1990s, publishing was booming as Internet bubble money was being spent wildly to get mindshare. Getting mindshare is really dumb. One of my favorite examples was with Noosh. When I included them in a TrendWatch survey back in the days when I co-owned TrendWatch, more than 60% knew the name "Noosh." Yet only 1% or 2% had any interest in considering use of their services. That means that they spent money getting 58% mindshare of people who weren't even marginal prospects for the most part... but I digress.... But the point is that they never realized that the Internet spending was a windfall, and not sustainable revenue....

... so the publishing business was booming, hence, most every story you read about the economy was just positive.

But today, inflation is low, interest rates despite the increases are low, household wealth is at an all-time high (that's net household wealth which means that credit cards and other debt are already excluded), the percentage of families with household incomes above an in-flation-adjusted $50,000 is at an all-time high, home ownership is at an all-time high, stock ownership now numbers 70% of all households, the civilian employed labor force is at an all-time high, the unemployment rate is smack in the middle of the full employment range of 4%-6%, an average of more than 70,000 net new businesses are being formed every month, and economic growth is running above post-WW2 historical averages.

How come we never read about that? Well, the New York Times, the supposed newspaper of record, is having an awful time of things from a fiscal perspective, Time Warner is still reeling from a disastrous merger with AOL, and most other publishing companies are having serious problems as they adjust to the electronic marketplace. Sure, there are individual titles that are doing well, but the mainstream titles are more often than not seeing page declines and circulation erosion.

They don't see a booming manufacturing business, and an exceptionally strong warehousing and transportation industry (the latter's profits have grown almost 3x faster than the supposedly ultra-profitable oil companies, who have historically been mediocre profit perfomers at best).

Has anyone noticed that the value of the currently traded Internet stocks is now higher than the value of the Internet stocks at the time of the Internet bubble?

Is the negative writing about such a strong economy media bias or is it something much plainer than that. The bias thing has been well-demonstrated in several studies, but I won't go into that here. I think it's more the fact that the editors and writers are involved in an industry that is undergoing gut-wrenching change... and many are unable to view the rest of the economy through anything other than that lens. Another problem is the lack of historical perspective, which I have written about many times in relation to the oil prices (gas has to get to $3.50/gal approximately to be a real high, and to $5.80/gal to have the same economic effect as the prices of 1979-ish; I only saw a couple of articles discuss this); now, everyone is screaming about how gold is at new highs now that it has broken $500. But I remember gold at above $800 in January 1980, and it would have to reach almost $2000 on an inflation-adjusted basis today to reach that same level.

As a researcher, I learned quickly to let the data speak for itself... but most business writers seem to be looking at their paychecks and the potential of pink slips and letting that get in their way. It always pays big dividends to read many things, often, from different perspectives (such as reading after you read, or read and, etc. ), but still let the data do its own talking.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Lavigne Printing in WSJ, SF Chronicle May Outsource Printing

WSJ article on Lavigne Printing of Worcester, MA, and its use of digital printing. From reading it, I get the impression that somehow the HP P.R. machine may have inspired some of the story. Rats... they talk to analysts but not Dr. Joe!

San Fran Chronicle may outsource its printing... this may be a shock to some people, but this trend was started by nondailies years and years ago, and for decades they have been shedding their presses in favor of using other newspapers (dailies tend to have lots of downtime as only 3 to 4 hours a day are used for daily production, and the other times are used for Sunday and weekday special sections for TV, real estate, etc.). Newspapers have often sought this work because it contributes to their fixed cost and have a rather hign margin. Because newspapers were often the only businesses in town, decades and decades ago, with a Linotype and a press, they would also have commercial work for local businesses. Over time, however, the special needs of the newspaper business and commercial printing diverged. Because newspapers were local monopolies and incredibly profitable for a very long time, however, they were unable to keep up with the technological advances in the commercial printing business that were needed to survive in that intensely competitive marketplace. Because of that, many newspapers entered "joint operating agreements" with other newspapers where more than one daily paper would be produced in one plant This worked very well when one was a morning paper and the other was an evening paper. But for the past thirty years or so, virtually all evening papers switched to mornings, or discontinued. Printing of daily newspapers by commercial printers may be one way that the newspaper industry reduces its costs, increases its access to better printing technologies, and more importantly, slowly unwinds its capital investment infrastructure that is becoming less sustainable as information distribution moves strongly from cellulose to electrons. It also may be a way for commercial printers, hungry for volume as they adjust to the new media age, begin to innovatively look elsewhere. This switch is not easy... newspapers require special presses and geographic location is critical from a physical logistics standpoint. But don't be surprised if some newspaper production facilities are spun off and sold to commercial printers. Unions will probably attempt to stall that, much as they did the move from hot type to cold type, but this might be a trend that even they decide cannot be stopped.

Some prognostication about the media markets of 2010

Internet service over electric lines... long rumored and long disparaged and disbelieved... it's almost here

Economist Larry Kudlow comments on how the Fed will change under Bernanke

Monday, December 12, 2005


A Smattering of Articles

China's printing industry is discussed in this article. Don't take everything at face value: they include all aspects of printing in their data, from packaging, textile, and probably even signs. The data that I use in my columns and other scenarios is commercial printing only. Nonetheless, these data are quite interesting. Remember... in 20 years China's economy will be larger than that of the U.S., and in 30 years, India's will be as well. There will be a major shift in economic power to Asia, and it's essential to be part of it now.

Advertising Age articles
Newspapers must face reality
Jeep starts a mobile phone TV channel

Editor & Publisher article shows how inefficient the postal service structure is: buyer and sellers can't negotiate their own prices... so instead everyone goes to court or its equivalent.

Wall Street Journal discusses HarperCollins' strategy about digital books and search engines

E-paper is heating up...

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Articles of Note

The Publishers Information Bureau released November data that showed magazine ad pages down -1.1%, and for 11 months of 2005 it was +0.4%. Their dollars figures, wholly unreliable, are based on rate card prices, and showed +4.2% for November and +7.4% for the year-to-date. The rate card is Tiffany's prices, but the street price is strictly Wal-Mart. Don't believe them. Of course, the missing part of the equation is circulation, and those data are mushy as well, but we know it's not going up, because postal data would indicate otherwise.

Business Week cancels some of its editions, as audience has shifted to the Internet

Google warns that electricity will cost more than computers!,+Google+warns/2100-1010_3-5988090.html

But we'll wear our batteries... NEC has announced a foldable battery that can become part of clothes

"John Battelle, the former publisher of The Industry Standard and the author of the Google-chronicling book The Search, implored magazines to eschew a print-focused strategy, while also embracing search engine marketing and user-generated content."

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Going Postal

Dr. Joe's taking some heat... in the webinar I said that the postal increase is the least of our worries, and in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter all that much.

I've written about this in the webinar Q&A and the discussion will be continued in the Friday 12/16 WTT column (my last column of the year).

Basically it's this... sure, a postal rate increase may be the last thing that pushes someone off the edge... but we have to remember the loud, crazy mob that chased them to the precipice in the first place, not just the person who had the privilege of providing that last nudge.

Just like you find lost things in the last place you look, it's easy to give false attribution to the last thing someone saw. We all know that always acting on the last thing you hear is usually wrong, because it has no context, and may not come from a credible source.

Postal rates have been frozen for the last three years... from a value of money perspective, the uncharged inflation from that is actually a 10% discount. That's right, postage is effectively 10% less than it was when these rates were put into effect. If a 10% discount hasn't stimulated demand, why is it that we should think that a 5-8% increase will hurt demand except for various deadline effects of people rushing to beat the date that the new rates go into force?

New media have no postage costs and no paper costs. That's the problem. If postage was $0, the cost of the printed mailing would still have trouble competing in this new communications marketplace. Magazines are a good example... if page counts were up, would the industry be in such trauma? Page counts are already down, and they've been down for five years.

Is there still hope? Of course... but only if we fight the right battles.

Friday, December 09, 2005


12/8/2005 Economic Webinar Archive Now Available

The free download of the MP3, slides, and also the Q&A that we answered after the program was over are available at

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Links from Today's Webinar

Some folks had trouble with a few links today. Try these:

Mary Meeker's presentation can be found at

If there's a problem, you can also download it from here for the next 4 days

The Email Labs link does work, but you may want to try this link on their site and it's the November 15 release.

The Zinio link seemed to be a problem for attendees. I reverified the link and it works
but it is also at

Don't forget to sign up for my new free newsletter at

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Newspapers, Confused but Learning?

Editor & Publisher article about the issue of readership. In a cross-media world, does the medium matter as long as the content is read? Do we no longer believe in the McLuhan "medium is the message" mantra? Is content king, withstanding the peculiarities of each medium?

When your industry is in trouble, there's nothing like forming a task force to tell you what everyone already knows. Welcome to "Newspaper Next: The Transformation Project" from the American Press Institute. Entrepreneurship changes things, not committees. This reminds me of my poster in the office. It's called "Consulting" and the tag line is "If you're not a part of the solution,there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem."
Ad Age story
American Press Institute web site
Their web page describing it
Article from Presstime "Consulting" poster

"Generation Y lives online" according to Business Week
A Business Week reporter gets instruction from a Gen Y about how to do it

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Happy "Holiday"... but which one?

I'm getting a little tired of people who are becoming afraid of saying "Merry Christmas." The funniest thing I have seen was a sign in a mall in Rhode Island was a sign that said "Happy Holidays" but underneath was a listing of all kinds of greetings in other languages, such as "Feliz Navidad" and "Buon Natale," all of which goes to say it's okay to say "Merry Christmas" in any language except English.

Growing up in New York, we knew everyone's holidays, and we would take joy in their celebrations of them. In the City, you had to know what holidays and holydays were occurring just to know where you could park your car. Alternate side of the street parking, which meant there was no parking on a side of the street so that street cleaning equipment could get through, would be suspended for so many holidays. Knowing the holidays would even mean that you would know what traffic patterns to expect. As I told my son, everyone got into the act. Jewish composers have written some of the most famous Christmas tunes. Irving Berlin, who wrote "White Christmas," was the son of a cantor. He didn't write "White Holiday Season." And it's a Christmas tree that they would be in the background while they were singing it.

My side of the family was mixed Italian and Jewish by marriage. My wife's mother arrived in the U.S. from Austria as a teenager and was taken in by a Jewish family who taught her English and also had her prepare ethnic and holy day meals for them. To this day in our house, we make some Jewish cookie recipies as part of our Christmas cookies assortment. There's nothing like a good Pastrami sandwich from a good kosher deli. On Long Island, there was a kosher deli run by two Italian guys. The rabbi who would inspect them said that they were so aware of dietary laws some of the other delis he inspected should have been ashamed. We're still looking for a good mandel bread recipe we could make for Christmas. We had a challah bread on our Thanksgiving table. New York's mix of cultures and ethnicities is part of being a New Yorker, no matter where you end up living. Somehow, taking joy in each others holidays has turned into suppression of them.

Then it struck me... "Happy Holidays" is yet another sign that all this personalization technology and capability has failed to make a real dent in the communications marketplace.

Merlin W. Gorsline in the Customer Relations Department of Land's End, in a letter to the Catholic League, said “If we knew which customers feel as you do, we would be delighted to send them catalogs with ‘Merry Christmas’ splashed throughout the pages. However, we don’t.”

If 1:1 worked, customers and prospects would be able to get catalogs and other mailings based on the holidays they celebrated. Why would a company send a "Happy Holidays" e-mail promotion when they could get closer to their customers by sending them a more direct and applicable. Even people who want a Festivus catalog or a Winter Solstice catalog could be able to get one.

Isn't this what 1:1 marketing and "opt-in" e-marketing is supposed to be about? This should be part of the solution of the "happy holiday crisis." Can't retailers ask customers what kinds of "holiday" promotions they want? Strangely, they never ask. Why? Because the per unit price of sending out a catalog with "holiday" is a lot cheaper than sending on that says "Christmas." In e-marketing the differential cost should be nil, theoretically.

But wouldn't the whole "holiday vs. Christmas" issue be a simple and newsworthy way to get the 1:1 personalization capabilities of digital printing into the news? There's only 22 more public relations days until Christmas... someone should pick up the ball and run with it.

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