For Racing, Newspapers Are More Than Firestarters

My cottage neighbor behind me has a neat little house he built that has a nice sitting area, screen room and old cast iron stove. On cooler nights he lights a fire and invites everyone over for a couple of beverages if they so choose. He's always after newspapers - flyers, the dailies whatever - not to read, but to use to spark a fire. There are a lot of people today who think that's about what they're good for. Who needs a cumbersome paper anymore; after all, I have an iPad!

Bill Finley thinks that the lack of newspaper coverage of the sport can hurt attendance figures and did hurt them at the last Saratoga meet.
  • The subjects of the News and Post came up at a NYRA Board of Directors meeting in the late spring, but the problem was dismissed in the time it would take for one Board member to say "It's no big deal. No one reads newspapers anymore." OK, so newspapers aren't what they once were. But the combined circulation of those two papers is still at 1.5 million. That's 1.5 million people who no longer read about horse racing, no longer are reminded every day that Saratoga is going on and that it is special. 
Being a digital marketer myself, one might think I disagree. But I could not agree more. I've felt this way too, for a lot of years.

Newspapers are still read by a lot of people, especially in urban centers like New York and Toronto. Take one trip on the subway for evidence of that.

If you are a visitor to a town, what do many do? They read the paper that the hotel graciously sends up. If on page A3 there is a story of a race going on nearby, they learn about it. Google makes billions by 'targeted marketing', i.e. people are searching for products and services that they are looking for and aware of. People are much less likely to search google for a local racetrack if they don't know one exists.

Google and other digital marketing mediums are adding mucho-revenue from something called "retargeting". These are the ads that follow you around on the Internet nowadays. What better retargeting than a newspaper that people are reading to remind you that yes, there is a race this weekend and here are the entries and analysis. There's a $12.99 buffet special too.

Horse racing runs away from the fact that a lot of customers and racing fans are over the age of 60. Sometimes I wonder why. They're the ones going to the casino, bingo, or taking bus trips to Atlantic City. They've got money and time, exactly what a racecard and racetrack wants and need. And a lot of them still read the newspaper. In baseball it might be good to hit them where they ain't, but in marketing it's the opposite. I am pretty sure there's a retiree that might be enticed to go to Gulfstream if they read about it in the paper each day of the meet over their morning coffee. Without it in the newspaper, they might not even know there is a meet.

Newspapers have taken it on the chin the last ten years or so and those issues are much more important than little old horse racing. However, leveraging what they are is still important for the sport. What they once were has no real relevance.


Anonymous said...

What newspapers once were may have no relevance to the sport's present day dilemma, however back when Louis Effrat, Red Smith, John Bradley, Henry Hecht, Jack Kiser and the like roamed the earth, racing was a whole lot more interesting.

Anonymous said...

I think you, and Finley, are absolutely correct. It always startled me how many folks at the NY tracks would use clipped pages from the News or Post as their program and for "handicapping".


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