The ongoing struggle of traditional media outlets to compete or even survive in the digital age is well documented.  A few for examples:

  • Total weekday and Sunday circulation for U. S. daily newspapers fell in 2016 for the 28th consecutive year.  Weekday and Sunday circulation (print and digital combined) both declined by 8%.
  • Advertising spending for print ads in the New York Times fell by 16% in 2016, whereas spending for digital ads grew by only 6%.
  • The number of subscribers to cable television in the United States decreased by 16% from 2011 through 2016.  ESPN has lost over 12 million subscribers since 2011.
  • A recent article in the Wall Street Journal–titled “Magazine Ads Go Out of Fashion”–said:  “The luxury industry’s global spending on digital advertising was $1.09 billion in 2016, up 63% since 2013.  Spending on magazine ads fell 8% over the same period to $2.6 billion.

Trends in the United States for horse racing are similar.  With the demise of Thoroughbred Times, the industry was down to one weekly print magazine–The Blood-Horse–with international reach and the Daily Racing Form is the only daily print newspaper.  Online publications such as Blood-Horse Daily and Thoroughbred Daily News are more contemporaneous.  The Paulick Report and the Blood-Horse websites are even more timely in that they are updated throughout the day.  In addition, numerous blogs, some quite expert, weigh in on various topics, such as handicapping and bloodstock breeding.

The Paulick Report is a textbook case-in-point of how an insightful start-up entrepreneur can quickly disrupt an entire industry by skillfully leveraging the power of the Internet.

Any print publication or conventional electronic channel has an uphill battle today amidst the media tide propelled by reader/viewer demands for timeliness, brevity, and free access.  People will undoubtedly persist in cutting the cord with cable and satellite television and abandoning print media.  The behavior of millennials in particular is anti-print, anti-conventional TV, and anti-pay for content.

This does not necessarily mean the death knell for existing old-line media companies.  To illustrate, the Wall Street Journal increased digital subscribers by 23% in 2016 and the Chicago Tribune saw a 76% rise in digital subscribers.  Glamour magazines are replacing lost advertising revenue by acting as advertising agencies for their clients.  The chief marketing officer of Vogue told the Wall Street Journal “We’re starting to become a creative agency.”  Some magazines are “joining with fashion brands to create digital movies and other content.”

Coming back to horse-racing media, the implications of the disruptive sea change are clear:  The human skill sets needed to compete for readers or viewers (and therefore attract advertisers) will increasingly require creativity in timely delivery of useful (to the reader or viewer) digital content rather than on old-fashioned journalism.  While content that attracts readers or viewers is, of course, imperative, more so is the ability to disseminate the material effectively because so much high-quality content is available for nothing.  What matters most is the proven capacity to entice the right demographic to read or listen to what you have to say.  If a media company can do this for themselves, it may be able to attract former advertisers as digital clients.

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