On Monday (July 17th), Horse Racing Business published “Technological Disruption in Horse-Racing Media,” and in it opined:

“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.”

Also on Monday, an article–“Publishers are Doubling Down on Video”–appeared in the Wall Street Journal that provides actual examples of how some well-known old-line print-oriented companies are responding to destruction of their longtime business models.  A few key excerpts are as follows:

  • Condé Nast and other legacy magazine publishers are redoubling their efforts in online video after learning from their stumbles over the past few years.  Those who tried unsuccessfully to build centralized, destination websites for their brands are now more concerned with distributing their work on platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and MSN.”
  • “At Condé Nast, traffic at the Scene [the name for its video hub] and its related branded video channels fell from a peak of 13.5 million unique visitors in October 2014 to 4.9 million unique visitors in June 2016…But the switch to publish and distribute stories on Facebook, mainly for young women, has worked.  In May [2017], the Scene attracted 98.3 million video views across Facebook…nearly triple the 36.4 million online video views the Scene generated in October 2016.”
  • “Time Inc., like Condé Nast, created a centralized video destination called Daily Cut several years  ago, but it never caught fire and is now in the process of being closed.  The company is experimenting with different models to distribute its biggest brands on streaming-media platforms.”

In the age of social media, horse-racing publications (print and online) and horse-racing telecasts will increasingly have to distribute content in non-traditional ways.  As Baby-Boomers gradually give way to younger generations in which information-seeking on social media is second nature, simply putting up a website and filling it out with news stories or scheduling a telecast on channel XYZ at a certain time will be insufficient to remain a going concern.

The requisite cultural change for media companies is to think of themselves as comprehensive creators and disseminators of useful content for a specific demographic rather than, say, as a magazine, a website, or a television network.  Call it technologically-driven new-age journalism.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business


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.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business


Some of the world’s most successful Thoroughbred horse owners come from the Middle East.  Now, turf rivalries among these owners have, unfortunately, spilled over into the high-stakes domains of international relations and defense policy and strategy, in particular to the fight against global terrorism.

Down through the years, horse owners from Saudi Arabia have won major races worldwide.  King Abdullah Al Saud breeds and races Thoroughbreds, owning about 1,000 horses of different breeds.  Saudi Prince Khalid bin Abdullah is a member of the House of Saud and prominent owner of Juddmonte Farms and the crème de la crème of racehorses Arrogate and Frankel.  The late Prince Ahmed bin Salman campaigned 2002 American Horse of the Year Point Given.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, owns Darley and its racing arm Godolphin–one of the two most powerful names in horse racing, along with Coolmore Stud in Ireland.

Bahrain, another Middle Eastern country is also involved in horse racing.  The King and the Royal family are breeders of Thoroughbreds and import them to improve their domestic stock.

Qatar has quickly become a major global player in Thoroughbred racing and breeding.  Sheikh Fahad bin Al Thani, first cousin of the Emir, is a director of QIPCO Holdings (Qatar Investment Projects Developmental Holding Company) and chairman of Qatar Racing.  QIPCO is an official sponsor of Royal Ascot and sponsors British Champions Day and the British Champions Series, as well as the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain royalty are not just opponents of Qatar royals on the turf.  The first three entities, along with Egypt, have major political differences with Qatar, as reported in The Washington Post on June 6, 2017:  “Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt released coordinated statements, announcing a diplomatic break with the tiny-yet-wealthy peninsular nation of Qatar.  They cut air, sea, and land links and ordered Qatari officials and nationals stationed in their countries to return home….

The move is a reflection of long-running frustrations with the Qataris, who the Saudis and Emiratis claim are supporting terrorist groups as well as being far too cordial with Iran, their regional archrival.”

One wonders how many mares the Qatar sheikhs have sent recently to Darley to be bred.  What’s more intriguing, it must be a delicate situation, to put it mildly, when the sheikhs from embargoed Qatar cross paths at Royal Ascot and other European racing venues with their counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and perhaps Bahrain, maybe even in the winner’s circle to accept a trophy in a race that one or the other sponsored.

The decorous and elegant world of European horse racing at the highest echelon of the sport can’t be what it seems on the surface in summer 2017, not with some of the major players in the Sport of Kings, Queens, and Sheikhs punishing—politically, economically, and militarily–another powerful racing interest over alleged propagation of global terrorism.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business