Thursday, September 17, 2009

Printed Daily Racing Form wins by a length

It's findings are the result of a poll in which the response is the very definition of a "small sample." And it's impossible to say that the survey was exhaustive or that the statement respondents made with their answers was beyond any doubt.

But I think the results of my recent poll probably are a fair picture of the horse racing fan and handicapping market: Roughly half of those who watch and bet the sport still place value on the print edition of The Daily Racing Form. And probably on the print editions of other industry publications, as well, such as Thoroughbred Times or The Blood-Horse.

My poll was posted in response to a lengthy and detailed survey I completed upon being queried for my opinions during a visit to Obviously their survey's findings are going to carry significant weight in the direction of DRF products from 2009 forward, and from the structure of the questions, I got the impression that proprietors of the Form were trying to weigh whether they should -- or, perhaps, how abruptly they could -- begin abandoning the print product.

I'd say "now" is far too soon, that "soon" is far-fetched, and that I think my little poll supports the notion.

I understand my survey's limitations. It was only answered by voluntary response of this blog's readers. Not a lot of them, in fact -- 29. And just one question was asked: "Do you still appreciate and buy the print edition of The Daily Racing Form."

But I think that's the question that needed to be asked. As it does for me, does the print edition of The Daily Racing Form still hold value to you as a fan and handicapper, and do you purchase still it?

Essentially 50 percent of people -- that is, Internet-using horse-racing-fan people -- said that they do value and buy the print edition of The Daily Racing Form. A total of 14 respondents (48 percent) buy the printed form; 10 respondents (34 percent) answered "No, print is dead;" and five respondents (17 percent) said they didn't use any DRF products at all.

Despite the tiny size of the sample, the fact that 82.7 percent of its respondents do buy DRF products hints at that company's strength in the past-performances and handicapping market. And the fact that 14 of the 24 -- 58.3 percent -- still want the option of buying the DRF every day on paper should at least prompt some pondering about whether print really is all that "dead."

After all, it isn't. And despite all the naysayers and the relentless carving away at its market by alternative media (beginning with that fantastical device known as "radio" in the 1920s), printed newspapers remain among the most widely accepted and purchased sources of news and information in the world.

Scarborough Research reports that this nation's roughly 1,400 daily newspapers and 8,000 non-dailies boast some 100 million adult readers. According to comScore, only this January, for the first time, did Google-owned sites (which include YouTube and comprise nearly two-thirds of the entire online video market) reach 100 million total viewers for an entire month. (And, seriously, how many of those were children?)

Newspaper readers spend time with the product; an average of 20 minutes per weekday and more on Sundays. ComScore reports that in January the average Internet user watched six hours of video online (11.6 minutes a day). Sure, the Internet users aren't only watching videos online. They're accessing other content, too. (And discount time spent on porn.)

O.K., so oldsters are keeping newspapers afloat, you say. Of course it's younger folks who are abandoning print. That's why it's doomed, eventually.

But wait. No, they're not.

Again according to Scarborough Research, more than two-thirds of people ages 18 to 34 read a newspaper during the average week. That's the print edition; not any of the newspaper's digitized versions. And a 2006 study by Y2M: Youth Media and Marketing Networks revealed the conventional-wisdom-flipping news that while 77 percent of college undergrads were reading their printed campus paper during a given month, just 57 percent of those students were reading the campus paper's Web site. Even more surprising, 57 percent of those allegedly wired-in, print-disconnected college kids were reading the local town's daily paper at least once a month, too, while only 45 percent chose to view news on that paper's Web site.

But that can't be, you say.

Regardless whether it can't be, it just so happens to be.

And a crucial statistic, particularly for publishers who rely on advertising revenue and not just on selling past-performances: Printed newspaper readership increases with education and income. Again, Scarborough: More than two out of three college grads and over half of those who hold only a high school diploma are regular newspaper readers.

In other words, the market segments advertisers ardently hope to reach -- those with the most money to spend -- are more likely than anyone else to be print-edition readers of a given news source.

This also seemingly flies in the face of everything that's up to date in Kansas City. After all, wouldn't the well-educated and wealthy also be tech-savvy and able to afford the best computers and portable electronic gizmos to access content on the Web? (Sure they would.) So why would they buy the stupid dead-tree edition of any newspaper, including The Daily Racing Form? ... Because it's familiar, chock full of information, well-formatted, trusted, (insert your reason here).

It's easy to see why DRF or any other company that disseminates news for profit would love to find cause to just ax the whole print operation. Why some of them, maybe even the DRF, are looking for ways to drive more readers to the Web site first or instead (even willfully driving them away from print). ... Imagine all the pressmen who could be handed pink slips, and a few of the journalists, too. Not to mention unloading the burdensome ballast of enormous bills for paper, ink and various modes of delivery.

There's just one problem for the print media as some of us actually try to hasten our own demise: People still want to buy our inky little papers and magazines.

Darn the luck.


  1. It's pretty simple for me. The advantage of Formulator is that it's web based and dynamic, that is it updates automatically, When I go to the track it's hard to get internet access so Formulator is not as great. For me that's the advantage of the printed form but if all tracks gave wireless Formulator would be a much better choice.

  2. I'm certainly not trying to make the argument that Web-based products and information lack value. After all, I use the Internet just about as much as anybody, and I *do* have a blog.

    In my (rare occasions) of handicapping, I download PPs in advance of a trip to the track (usually from Brisnet) and then buy a DRF at the track to compare the compile the data there with the rough decisions I'd already made.

    I think your point is well-taken, though, that if wireless broadband were more widely available, handicappers with laptops or other wireless devices could utilize the latest data online from trackside, making those products much more advantageous than at present.

  3. The choice for me is simple. Pay too much for a printed copy of the DRF at the news stand or pay way too much to down load a few tracks on line and then burn up a $59 print cartridge printing it out to take to the OTB.

  4. Long live the print edition of the DRF !

    There is something invaluable to me about being
    able to see, touch, feel (and smell) back issues of The Form that I use for research and keep for posterity.

    A few years ago a poll was done which put The Daily Racing Form as the most expensive daily newspaper in the American market. I do not take issue with it as those buying it apt to be the more serious fans at the track and OTW's.

    Is there room for improvement in the print edition? Most certainly. But I will not cover that here. I will say that my development as a horseplayer would not be as comprehensive if I had to do click a few buttons to gain percentages of various racing situations.

    And lots of luck to those who are trying to understand the parameters and the accuracy of the statistical data compiled. I have chosen to not to readily trust the data but to further scrutinize the numbers before heading to the windows. That's the most comfortable and most comprehensive approach to understanding the action.

  5. I'm an old timer but I download my PPs from the internet and don't use the DRF. However, a lot of my old timer friends don't use computers but do go to the trackor OTB's. Their problem is that the DRF charges $6.50 at the news stand for an edition with only 4 tracks but there is an on track edition with 6 or more tracks in it. These guys like to buy it whether they go to the track or not. The question is; why can't they sell the same edition off track as they do at the track, after all, that's what they did for a hundred years. I think it's another case of greed and personally I hope they get driven out of business. These guys refuse to pay $6.50 a day for 4 tracks and I don't blame them.

  6. I just have a regular membership at Brisnet. Not a higher level that saves me money on each download.

    While I can get unlimited tracks of certain PPs, I like the "Condensed Ultimate PPs with comments." Those are $3 per track or $10 for a full day, unlimited tracks. So if I'm only going to one track and only betting a couple, do I pay the $10? (Which is much higher than $6.50.) Or do I pay $6 for two tracks or $9 for three?

    I do understand there are alternatives to the DRF and that -- depending on the style of PPs you like, and how many tracks you feel you *must* get for your money -- some of those might be more attractive to a given buyer.

    But seriously, $6.50 a day for four tracks (plus the advantage that the DRF is also *the* daily newspaper of horse racing) is hardly highway robbery. ... That's less than $1.63 per track.

    And $6.50 for six tracks runs out to $1.08 per track, a difference per track of roughly 55 cents.

    Heaven help me, I would hope I could win that 55 cents back somewhere along the line. And I think my chances are better *with* the DRF than without it.

  7. OK, maybe $6.50 isn't a lot of money but the point is; they want to handicap at home beforehand and with 10-15 tracks running what good is a form with 4 tracks in it?
    As for myself, I have been making a living betting horses for many, many years. I even have a selection service and lots of my clients have been with me for over a year.
    I have found the Bris condensed PPs to be a blessing for me. I find the DRF and Bris ultimates to be a complete distraction. I have tried to convince some friends to switch but it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks.
    One of the biggest reasons, in my opinion, that handicappers are unsuccessful is information overload. There is so much info in the DRF that is totally irrevelant to picking winners that most people don't even know what is important and what isn't. Total waste of time and money!

  8. Worthy observations from someone who's clearly been around the block.

    I don't make my living handicapping, obviously. And when I go to wager, it's only on a couple of tracks; those with post-times coinciding with the track I'm attending and thus most likely to be in the same copy of the DRF.

    And it's an interesting point you make about information overload. I met a man at Ellis when I visited in August who looks at nothing -- I mean nothing -- except the jockeys.

    That might be information "underload," but we all have our ways, I suppose.


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