Supremes Support Subsidies

I may be in the minority within the group of folks who don’t care for Obamacare, but I think the Supreme Court got it right with their 6-3 ruling this morning (June 25).

This was a crazy gambit from the folks who felt that blowing up what is in place was a solution.  It’s not.  Healthcare is a major mess in this country (in how it’s funded) and if the subsidies had been overturned, I feel it would have created MAJOR turmoil within the healthcare system.

So, now that this has been perceived as a win by the Administration — and many in the U.S. — it’s time to really look at Obamacare and see what is good (yes, there are good aspects of it) and what really needs to be changed to make it better.  I’ve given up on any idea of getting employers out of the system — that’s tantamount to the IRS supporting a flat tax. So, does Congress have the guts to find a way to address this issue?  Sad to say, I don’t think they do, and even if things turned Republican in ’16, Congress may not have the cojones to truly address healthcare.

Big Data

Boy did I get an eye opener this past Wednesday.  I attended the Greater Dallas PCC meeting and heard a presentation from Mike Hail. Hail is the founder of Knowledgebase Marketing, former CEO of market research firm Yankelovich, Skelly and White, and current CEO of Web Decisions Group.

While I’m not a novice on the topic of Big Data, Hail’s presentation helped open my eyes to the sheer mass of data being created.  As Mike pointedly stated, all of man’s written material would consume 50 Petratbyes of data.  Google captures 20 Petrabytes of data on a daily basis.

He went on to share how his company (and probably others) are going about mining that data and the ability to transform how we communicate.  Some of the potential is very interesting while other aspects are a bit scary from a privacy perspective.

Regardless, I challenge anyone who reads this blog to do a bit of research on this topic – and watch it closely.  There’s a lot of potential for those firms who are able to tame this monster – or at least cage it!

The Living Wage

San Francisco has adopted a $15.00 per hour minimum wage.  Los Angeles will meet that threshold by 2020.  There are more and more companies adopting minimum wage structures above the federal minimum wage.  Some feel that it needs to be done to allow individuals to survive while others are reacting to keep from being castigated in the media.

From a social perspective, I accept the notion that $7.25 is not a “living” wage.  Yet, is $15.00 going to guarantee a “living” wage?  How is the person making $16.00 per hour going to react when the person who was making $9.00 is now making $15.00?  It ain’t going to be pretty – or cheap.  Are the folks clamoring for a “living wage” willing to pay more for their product/services as companies have to respond to rising cost of wages?  Or are they going to react as consumers have for decades and buy the cheapest product – which normally comes from overseas – and could very well cost those folks making $15.00 an hour their jobs.

As with all things dealing with economics, the answer will not be clear cut.  Some businesses will survive with a new minimum wage and others will fail.  Some folk will do better with $15.00 an hour and others will not.  Here’s the question I have for those clamoring for a “living wage.” Does raising the minimum wage REALLY going to help solve many of the social ills we’re seeing right now?

I don’t have a straight-forward answer to this problem, because someone who is willing to accept a minimum wage (at any level) has a variety of challenges in front of them ranging from lack of education, to lack of skills, to questionable legal status in this country.  These problems won’t be fixed with a few more dollars per hour.  The true solutions are much, much more than just wages.  Let’s have a good conversation about those issues and see what can be done to provide more opportunities.  Regardless of what folks on both sides are suggesting, cutting corporate taxes, or providing higher education, will not be THE solution — but it may include raising the minimum wage.

Wall Street Journal article to read – “Wage Pressure Hits Small Business”

Bucket List

As we get older we start formulating a list of “to-do’s” that we’d like to accomplish before we go to the Big Print Shop In The Sky.  For many in the industry, it’s attending DRUPA in Germany.  I still want to get to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  This past week, thanks to a few words from my friend Jim Kyger, I got a chance to see a complete copy of the Gutenberg bible and added – and completed – another item to my bucket list.

I had previously viewed the “paper version” of the Bible at the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center, but viewing one of five copies in the world printed on vellum was special.  Especially when one considers the legacy of this document and the impact it had on history (The Reformation being one).  Although my visit was a “drive-by” (I was headed to Senator John Cornyn’s office as I trekked from the Longworth Building), in those few minutes I also got a chance to be amazed by the architecture of the Library of Congress, where the Bible resides.

So, if you’re ever visiting Washington D.C. (or Austin), take a look at this magnificent piece and what it represents.  Not only does it embody the roots of our industry, it reminds us of how mass communication can change the world.  If you don’t have the time to visit D.C. or Austin, consider visiting this site.  In the “Harvest of Wisdom,” you’ll receive a historical perspective of the power of written communication and the role our industry continues to play.  You also might just add a few items to your list once you’ve seen this seminal piece by the late Nolan Moore.

First Post of Summer

I have been remiss in posting regularly. Whatever.

I have broken the #1 rule of a blogger — you need to post regularly.  So have me flogged.  BUT, I’m also a believer that I’m not going to post, just to post.  I thought about posting when the Supreme Court was reviewing the Gay Marriage issue – but most folks really don’t care what I think about that topic.  I considered writing when the Cowboys (Dallas football team for you un-washed) signed Greg Hardy and drafted Randy Gregory, but the ESPN folks have plenty to say in that area.  I had more thoughts about the recent shooting in Garland at the “cartoonist” event, while I applaud the officer (nice shooting), the concept of holding that type of event leaves me wondering about some folks, but again, I’ll leave the pundits on Fox and CNN to kick that one around.  Weather has been an issue in North Texas, but when hasn’t it been one?

So what got me to post?

The Rangers have a winning record!!!! Yipee!!!

Happy Birthday John Wayne

Yup.  Today is the Duke’s birthday.  For many of us, he was the persona of the American individual.  Rough. Rugged. Independent.  The roles he played in movies such as “The Quiet Man,” “The Searchers,” “True Grit,” were reflective of our parent’s generation – and influenced many Baby Boomers.  Do your job.  Support your family.  Live your life for the greater good.  Granted seen through the lens of time, many of his films may not be perceived as politically correct, but it reflects the world as many lived it in that era.

Contrast those aspects with today’s need to broadcast to the world what I had for lunch and the need for everyone to be on the cover of “Rolling Stone,” as well as the mandate for political correctness.  Yes, I’m started to sound like a dinosaur, but there are many aspects of what I remember of The Duke’s films and what he represented which many in our society could reflect upon.  Happy Birthday Marion Morrison!

Balance — It’s Not a Bad Thing

“May you live interesting times,” states the ancient Chinese curse.  Although I think that today we live in times which are more than “interesting.” We face the Russian Bear once again, as well as a China which is not only militarily strong, but also economically dominant.  We are in the midst of economic doldrums which have spanned nearly seven years, and we face a political landscape which gets more and more polarized daily.  We see a Middle East that is becoming more explosive and threatening as the fervor of religious animosity raises its ugly head all over the world.

Many lash out at the perceived and real threats and become more staunch in their beliefs.  Others adapt by ignoring the “real” world and immerse themselves in today’s technologies and live their life as a digital avatar or through the voyerism of social media. It’s much easier to ignore the world, or scream at it than to find ways to address the issues.

My concern is that we as individuals — and as a country — are becoming isolated behind the  walls we are fabricating.  The solutions are much more complex and require individuals who are willing to see the long-term and accept that the world is no longer what they grew up with.

I hope that over the next 12-18 months as we begin the process of voting for our national leaders, that we become engaged in REAL thinking and analysis and not just repeat the phrases we’ve heard from contemporaries who spin the idealogical mantras of “conservatism” or “liberalism.”

More than ever we need balance in our complex world.  Being a moderate shouldn’t be a bad word.

The Thrill Is Gone

Although we lost BB King last week, his iconic song “The Thrill Is Gone” continues to resonate in my head. For any contemporary music lover, the impact B.B. had over the past 40 years is probably as impactful as Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong had on jazz.

I remember first hearing Mr. King live in 1970 in San Luis Obispo. In those days, Cal Poly had about 9,500 students, but it was a good stopping spot for many groups making the trek from L.A. to S.F.  I was able to see legendary musicians such as B.B. King, Jim Morrison (Doors), Four Tops, Temptations, Steve Miller, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane), and many more during my time in that sleepy Central California town.

Yet, it was King who I probably remember the best.  He had been around for a few years and acid rock was in the midst of it’s hey-day.  Many of us were familiar with the name, but really weren’t knowledgeable of his music.  He opened for Steve Miller (a Dallas legend) and between both of them it was a heck of a show.  Miller was an up and coming act, but it was the old man, as I thought of him, who really strutted his stuff.  With the legendary Lucille strapped to his back, he showcased his style of electric blues that made many of us highly appreciative — if not lovers — of that form of music.

B.B. King may be gone — but the thrill of his music will be with me forever.

List Management

More and more print buyers are beginning to realize the potential of direct mail in conjunction with digital media, as well as the power of variable data printing.  Much of that has to do with a variety of awareness campaigns created by the industry manufacturers (Xerox, HP, Canon, etc.) as well as print providers who are realizing the necessity to sell the value of print rather than the technology of print.  Yet, there’s one facet of all of this that is probably not being addressed as it should be — list management, both in terms of postal issues as well as content.

In a member presentation this past Tuesday, Ronnie Ewers with EQ3 touched on a variety of issues on the postal front which can cost firms significant dollars.  How significant?  He used the example of a very large mailing client whose savings in postage was in seven figures.  How were the savings gained?  It took sophisticated list scrubbing and an understanding that the USPS system is not perfect in handling NCOA (National Change of Address).  It’s not uncommon for many lists to have 8-14% incorrect addressees in a database.

The other issue of course is content. Are data fields being used properly and are they usable in variable projects.  Too often variable print projects never come to fruition because the client’s data is not functional – and opportunities are missed for the client and the print provider.

Everyone talks about Big Data and the business opportunities to target message an audience.  Although if the data is not usable, for whatever reasons, the promise of Big Data is a pipe dream, but I see  glimmers of opportunity.

Why aren’t most print/mail providers working with their client to maximize the power of the data?  One of the major problems might be that the client doesn’t understand there are issues.  It could be that marketing won’t talk to I.T. and I.T. “knows” what they’re doing, and resolving the issue will take senior management’s involvement.  Thus this becomes an issue of “consulting” rather than selling a product.  It does require a different mind-set and possibly individuals with different sets of skills – but the upside could be extraordinary.

Think back to the 1960’s and 70’s.  Who ever thought that folks would want to “rent” computer time and outsource those activities?  IBM didn’t see it as part of their business strategy, but a guy by the name of Ross Perot did.

We Hate Business Cards!

Over my career in our great industry, which now spans four decades, one of the products most often treated by disdain by every printer was business cards.  Your prices were always too high and the cards never came out the way the customer envisioned.  Lord forbid if you screwed them up — because if you couldn’t be trusted with a “simple” business card, how could you be trusted with our company’s collateral?

Yet, VistaPrint and other print providers (Printplace.com, Staples, Office Depot, FedEx) have used this and many other “non-sexy” printed products to create a whole new sector of print providers.  Cimpress (VistaPrints parent company) is taking this success to another whole level.  As a recent online article in Printing Impressions stated, they are focused on serving “the marketing needs of the small, micro businesses and consumers who want to boast collateral that reaches the professional level of Corporate America.”

Check out this article to see what Cimpress (VistaPrints parent) is up to. Interesting reading.