Economic Trends in Perspective. . .
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland has been publishing Economic Trends since 1981, and for the past 25 years it has looked more or less the same: Trends has consisted of 20 to 24 pages of material that briefly analyzed a variety of regional, national, and international economic topics and presented a few graphic images on each page. With this issue, we are breaking new ground—Economic Trends is going fully electronic and will be updated regularly on our Web site. Instead of waiting until the second Thursday of each month for the entire issue to be posted, you can now read our analysis as soon as it is written. We are confident that Trends readers will benefit by receiving this information with the swiftness that Internet posting allows. At the same time, we still intend to cover some longer-term issues that merit attention.
But Trends had another incarnation even before the initial print publication. For as long as anyone can recall, the Bank’s Research Department has presented a monthly analysis of economic conditions and monetary policy—complete with visual aids—to the Board of Directors. (Does anyone remember overhead projectors and film transparencies?) In the late 1970s, we began producing hard copy of the transparencies, putting a sentence or two of text on each page, spiral binding the whole set together, and handing them out at Board meetings.
The Bank had always been strongly committed to giving the public reliable, free access to our research and analysis. We soon realized that because our monthly analysis did not contain any confidential information, economists could distribute it to their audiences when they gave speeches to outside organizations. We discovered that people really liked having these booklets and wanted to obtain them regularly. From, there, it was a short hop to recognizing an opportunity for sharing information with the general public through subscription to what you now know as Economic Trends.
Even though we have not altered the design of Trends much over the years, the technology for producing it has changed a great deal, with ever-more-sophisticated software packages enabling us to move information from databases to charts and tables more quickly and accurately. And now, Web-posting our Trends pages on a flow basis, rather than once a month, will enable us to provide the data you want in an even more timely way. The Web format provides other advantages as well. Previously, each Trends page had a fixed number of text lines and square inches of graphics. In the Web format, we can tailor the length of text and number of graphics to the topic at hand. Moreover, readers who are interested in particular topics can simply select the pages they want to view and disregard the rest.
With the introduction of the Web-based Trends, we are discontinuing our hard-copy production and mailing. Readers can always print out the pages they want to have in paper form, and visitors to the site will be able to print an entire “issue” (30 days of Trends postings, in which all the regular Trends topics are covered) with a single click at any time. This will give you our most recent set of analysis and graphics whenever you want it, not just on the monthly cycle we followed in past issues.
I will continue writing the “Economy in Perspective” feature and posting it in the first half of each month, around the time of our monthly Board meetings. The exact posting dates will be listed on our Web site. If you subscribe to our electronic mailing list, you are already being periodically informed about our new postings. If you are not currently a subscriber, you can become one by going to our Econpubs page. Should you have comments or questions about our new online-only Trends, we’d love to hear from you. Check your mail for a survey you can send back to us or send us an email.