Thursday, August 31, 2006

An answer to an answer

Being tied up in some other blog business, I managed to overlook a live chat on Bloodhorse today with that publication’s editor in chief, Ray Paulick. I want to preface this column by saying that I've never met the man and I'm sure he's a nice fellow, but I ned to take umbrage with some things he said in the chat room this afternoon.

Big thanks to Brad for bringing it to my attention. Brad shot me an email earlier in the day asking if I had posted (which I didn’t). Our blogging amigo in SF has his own take on the answer he received from Paulick regarding the internet(s) and “alternate forums”.

In case you missed it, here is what transpired:

Q: San Francisco, California
In a Blood-Horse column from February 28, 2006, T.D. Thorton says that "Today's most engaging conversations about racing's most searing issues are all happening online...in loosely structured groups and forums." What sites do you read for alternative content and what forums do you visit for such engaging conversations?

A: Paulick
I'm a big fan of Equidaily.com for links to non-traditional racing press. I scan blogs and some forums, which often can be useful for news leads. Frankly, the state of horse racing blogs is pretty sad compared to politics or other sports. Some bloggers go weeks without posting a comment (they'd never work at BloodHorse.com!). Bloodhorse.com has dropped forums because of the actions of a few individuals who post irresponsible and damaging comments. We can't justify hiring a 24-hour babysitter to monitor it.

I will break down his response for you, my readers:

I'm a big fan of Equidaily.com for links to non-traditional racing press.
So am I. Great site that I check out twice a day.

I scan blogs and some forums, which often can be useful for news leads.
Well, thanks for keeping up to date on what’s current in our sport. We bloggers try and uncover as many new leads and story angles as possible.

Frankly, the state of horse racing blogs is pretty sad compared to politics or other sports.
“Pretty sad,” you say sir? You are damn right it’s pretty sad. With 20 members of the TBA and a few others scattered about the vast wasteland of the internet(s), we thoroughbred bloggers are only about 1,000 blogs away from poker and about 5,000 blogs away from catching up to the entertainment world. This sport has been severely lagging in keeping up with technology and has been Disproportionately slow in finding creative ways to incorporate each new possibilty. Sir, I realize us 40-hour-a-week working stiffs, who also like to spend some time reading about, watching, and touting horses - who also enjoy spending time at the track - can’t update our individual blogs everyday. This is a shortcoming I will concede. But forgive us for not having full-time blogging gigs that allow us to do the necessary research to conduct thorough, informative interviews. It is my view that the leaders in this industry (i.e. you) have not had the foresight or wherewithall to invest both time and effort in making these new technologies a boon for the industry.

Some bloggers go weeks without posting a comment (they'd never work at BloodHorse.com!).
I would say that your publication would be extremely lucky to have any one of us bloggers on your staff, sir. The passion, energy, creativity and teamwork displayed on a volunteer basis is something any leader would want for his/her business.

Bloodhorse.com has dropped forums because of the actions of a few individuals who post irresponsible and damaging comments. We can't justify hiring a 24-hour babysitter to monitor it.

A babysitter? Come on. That’s a bit condescending don’t you think? The greatest marketing buzz of all time (see Snakes on a Plane) was created and generated by on-line message boards and forums. Moderated or un-moderated; it really doesn’t take too much to host a productive, healthy forum. In fact, here’s one right here that seems to work just fine:
Oregon Racing Forums

In creating this blog and hooking up with like minded souls from around the world, I know my vision of horse racing includes forums, chat rooms, blogs, podcasts, video-casts, You Tube, iTunes, and whatever else the Wild Wild Web throws out there.

There are folks out there who do get it and are willing to take a chance. I’ve met and spoke to many. Some are afraid that members of the old guard in power might not like these “new fangled technologies.” Were these the same guys that feared FM radio? How about the VCR? Cable TV? Satellite TV?

Let’s get away from fearing technology and change. Let’s embrace and begin to envision the possibilities of 20+ million internet users logging on to participate in the world of thoroughbred horse racing. Think of the boost in sales when someone can log on and purchase a yearling while sitting on their couch at home. Folks can already bet on any race they want from the luxury of their living room. What other possibilities lay ahead? Many. I envision an industry that thrives for the next 50-100 years. The only way that can happen is by keeping that open mind. Let’s keep our minds open to what happened to the poker world. Imagine horse racing being featured in ESPN four nights a week!!

This is my vision of horse racing’s future. What’s yours?

Editor's Note: Paulick addreses this issue as well as his thoughts on the internet(s) over the course of the chat:

Las Vegas, NV
In your opinion, what can racing's marketers do attract new fans and generate even a fraction of the participation and interest that poker now has?

Paulick
The interactive aspects of racing (online watching and wagering), and new ways to graphically present an actual race as a video game can bring in younger players. My son and a group of his friends had weekly poker games (inspired by the World Series of Poker on TV). They went to Keeneland one Friday and my son (an avid handicapper) said most of the guys didn't understand how to handicap and felt it was too hard to learn. So even though poker and horse racing handicapping can be mental challenges, one is apparently much easier to learn. As for me, I don't know a "river" from a "flop." But seriously, efforts by the NTRA to make handicapping less intimidating and easier to learn have been dropped for whatever reason.

Aiken, South Carolina
What's the best way of promoting Thoroughbred racing and the Thoroughbred industry? Are there any new mechanisms on the horizon to create additional exposure for the sport other than the existing ones that are already in place?

Paulick
There are some good opportunities, most notably the Internet. If we can keep Internet wagering on pari-mutuel races legal, lower takeout, and improve the quality of the product (larger, more competitive fields), racing can be very attractive to online gamers. A tracking system that automatically charts horses and creates a video-game type of visual can make watching a race a lot more fun than seeing two-inch brown horses going in circles on a TV or computer screen. Technology is our best opportunity, but we can’t afford to overlook the lessons of Barbaro: the horse is a beloved animal. Some part of marketing and promotion has to capitalize on the love people have for horses.

Link to chat transcript.

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Tote Board Brad said...

Yeah, in total, perhaps the state of horse racing blogs is sad, not because the individual examples are adequete, but because there's just so darn few of us. Yeah, if there were 1000 or 5000, like the poker & entertainment example you give, there'd be some really professional ones.

I know I'm on the left end of the possion distribution. With the law of large numbers, though, we'd be bound to get some really outstanding ones. Imagine 50 blogs as thorough as Left at the Gate.

I don't blame Blood-Horse for dumping their forums. I generally thing forums should be left to forum sites and not incorporated into news sites. The Del Mar one gets some action, and so does DRF.com & espn.com, but really, that's all a drop in the bucket compared with trackmaster.

John said...

Martin Luther King had his " I Have A Dream" speech and now you have " An answer to an answer"

OK maybe I am exagerating, maybe not!

Great Post

Jolene said...

Here's a thought:

Maybe the reason there aren't more horse racing bloggers is due to the fact that there is nowhere to "blog up". In political blogging, MSNBC picked up Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) and others, and little blogs could hope for what was affectionately termed an "Instalanche", which meant uber-blogger Reynolds linked you and directed all this MSNBC traffic you way, and you could bask in the sudden increased readership (which, by the way, can take a blogger website offline intermittently for the whole day). I just don't see a day when a BloodHorse or Thoroughbred Times piece links a blog (as pointing out an interesting thought or juicy news bit) occuring on the immediate horizon. Frankly, I think that's unfortunate.

Ray Paulick said...

Good suggestion, Jolene. We are in the early stages of a web redesign. Your idea is something that certaintly can be considered