A story on the Paulick Report about "America's Best Racing" popped up yesterday. The article, generally, focused on the ABR insiders and they tooted their horn a little (a couple of times with incredulous numbers). In the comments section (and in some places on the twitter) the project tended to get skewered.
I understand why people get up in arms about the whole ABR project (some are very good friends whom I respect). I get it. Where I diverge from that thought is based more on organizational behavior, not the nuts and bolts (i.e. the criticism of the job they are doing and tactics used).
Racing is odd, fractured, does not really have any idea who the customer is. It taxes based on slices not profits for revenue. Its best friend is a lobby group who wants slots. Racing is a gambling game so it has stalwarts like DRF.com in print and online. No, hold it, it's not a gambling game, so it has breeding heavy industry news at the Bloodhorse. But it is not only a breeding game, and it's much more than that, so it has the Paulick Report and Horse Racing Nation and a half dozen other outlets.
Racing is "The Best is Yet to Come" sung by a lady most of us don't know. It has Gene Simmons on a red carpet, while Gene from Brooklyn wonders what all the fuss is about. It has a faction of people going crazy on social media because a jockey is pregnant, while others are just wondering who is going to replace her tomorrow on the seven in the fourth. It's Kegasus and the Kentucky Derby infield, intertwined with people who would rather eat bees than be anywhere near Kegasus and the Kentucky Derby infield .
Why is racing all those things? Because racing's revenue stream and mandate is so polluted and fractured, there is no way any one website, or organization can do anything in any macro type way. Its an industry that has no clue what it is, so it throws everything against a wall, hoping it sticks.
One of my favorite organizations is Major League Soccer. They're new and they work very hard in a tough space. They've done some great work on social media and have an excellent flagship website. Through that site you can buy tickets, watch games through their platform, buy gear, play fantasy games and myriad other things. Customer enters funnel, customer can go through many funnels to get what they want. You've seen similar at other industry or sport portals, like MLB.com or NFL.com
For a 'racing.com', such a site cannot exist.
Sell tickets to the Derby? CDI owns that.
Show racing? Stronach says no (you can't even embed their videos on a blog), CDI says no (they won't even let some sites use their live odds feed).
Give free past performances? Ummm, no.
Fantasy games? If they tried to be Derby Wars there would likely be some sort of revolt by every horsemen group known to man.
API's, free stats, database searches? Not on your life.
Bet? Heavens no. There are like 50 ADW's, some don't have all the content, and aren't even available in your state. That's hands off.
So, go build a website about racing that can't do or say much about racing. Oh joy.
Well, pump grade I racing; Pump the experience. Pump the jocks. Pump the Queen's Plate. Pump Wise Dan. Pump hats and food trucks. Pump the on-track, live racing venue. Do so, and hope these people look into racing again, watch it on TV, or maybe make a bet a few times a year.
America's Best Racing is not the problem. Their problem is trying to exist and thrive in a eco-system that is fraught with problems. Looking at the slice they address, in the corner they're put into, they, in my opinion, aren't doing a poor job. They're probably doing about what many of us should expect.
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