Sunday, August 30, 2009

Printed Form still holds value

The Daily Racing Form has some questions for its audience, in the form of a survey I completed last week at some prompting from

It was the most interesting survey I've ever answered on the Internet. And, considering I've completed somewhere between a hundred and a hundred million surveys since getting our first dial-up connection at home in 1994, that's saying something.

From the tenor of the questions, two things seemed apparent:

1. The Daily Racing Form is serious about understanding its audience; how they function as readers and online users today and how they might best be served in the future.

2. Somebody's wanting to take an ax to the print edition of the Daily Racing Form, "America's Turf Authority Since 1894."

I could be sounding the alarm a bit too soon -- or too loudly -- about the latter point. But it's clearly on their minds at DRF; whether the printed form is serving enough devoted readers to maintain in its present form or to worry about continued improvements.

That doesn't mean the printed Daily Racing Form is being canceled tomorrow or anytime really soon. But the way the print media has reacted to both changing tastes in information-gathering among the public and to the sour economy -- that is, reacted by slashing newsroom staff and both the format and number of printed pages -- such a reaction is certainly a consideration at the Racing Form's business offices, as well.

The survey also included a lot of questions about whether online users take advantage of DRF's Formulator PPs, and if not, what it might take for them to switch over from PDF downloads of traditional PPs.

But, since I'm on the road and I usually write too lengthy anyway, I'll not get that involved in the survey evaluation in this post.

I'll just go on record as saying that, for me, the printed version of the Form is at least as valuable as any information I purchased, downloaded and printed from online, whether that was at Brisnet, Equibase or It's in a format I like, in no small part because I can roll it up and tuck it under my arm while in line at the wagering kiosk, or the concession stand, or the john; something not as easily done with a thick stack of loose, letter-sized pages printed off my PC.

And, I never throw that Racing Form away. Since my visits to the track are infrequent, it's still a bit of an adventure each time for me and the Form I bought is a souvenir -- just like the bookshelf in my mom's basement full of programs from dozens of Kansas City Royals games attended through the years, with my childish but slowly maturing efforts to keep score of the game scrawled in pencil on the lineup cards.

So, what about this blog's readers? Do you still buy a printed copy of the Daily Racing Form? Or has it outlived its usefulness in an Internet age?

Please respond in the poll at left.


  1. It was clear to me, too, that the poll was trying to inquire the consequences of them discontinuing the newsprint edition. I also completely agree with your sentiment that it was the most interesting Internet poll I've taken since I got online on AOL in 1988 on my Mac Plus. I think it was so interesting to me because horse racing is an integral part of my day-to-day life and the is a huge part of that.

    I won't pretend to know enough about their situation to say "do it" or "don't do it", but it seems to me that they don't sell too many papers at my local track (Charles Town, where they prefer the $2 version) or at Del Mar when I visited in July (almost everyone I saw was using the little blue program book).

    I'm also a HUGE HUGE HUGE fan of Formulator web. I print out all my forms using a custom style (biggest feature: workouts mixed into the past performance, chronologically ordered) and the sibling reports are one of the best angles I have at finding successful longshots. I also find the font to be neater/cleaner when it's printed out than the newsprint edition.

    I want DRF to be around forever. Part of that is them finding whatever financial model works best for them. If that means they cease publishing of the newsprint edition, then so be it.

  2. I know there's something of a clamor for the Daily Racing Form during the Colonial season. The Form is *supposed* to be there, but delivery has been spotty -- the bus company gets the blame per the VTA blog. But said VTA blog was apologizing to all those who want the Form and can't get it when delivery fails, so there must be *some* market for it at the track still.

    I'd never buy the cheap program when there's the Daily Racing Form available instead.

    Just today I was thinking about how we used to attend lots of baseball games, back when I was a kid. If we went twice in the same trip, we'd usually still buy a program both nights (not just acquire a scorecard) even though the program included all the same information that it had for Game 1 of the series.

    But the Racing Form is *way better* than that. Imagine if you bought tickets to a three-game series -- say, Cards at Cubs in venerable Wrigley Field -- and every day you could get a *completely different program,* with all the stuff you need to know the players and keep score of today's game, plus fresh stories updated daily about all of major and even minor-league baseball, with a little dose of localization for each market. All for the typical souvenir program price of $4 or $5.

    At the racetrack, you can do just that, in the Daily Racing Form. And I think that's still an amazing and beautiful thing.


I welcome comments, including criticism and debate. But jerks and the vulgar will not be tolerated.