Magazine publishing has been described as a three-legged stool supported by the pillars of editorial, advertising, and audience development. The perch becomes precarious if the three legs aren’t balanced. The core of the Thoroughbred industry can be thought of in a similar way. Here, the three legs are comprised of stallion managers, breeders, and racehorse owners. When the pricing, supply, and demand among these three groups are not in balance, the business becomes shaky.
Indeed, in the last three months the business has become incredibly unstable. Witness: The devastating results of the Keeneland November sale; reluctance of mare owners to commit to bookings; steep cuts in stud fees; plummeting handle and purses; cash-flow challenges at farms large and small; and a dearth of new Thoroughbred owners. Compound this situation with a financial crisis that prevents access to fresh capital, and you have the makings of a full-blown calamity.
We have made some changes in our business to navigate this period of weakness and instability. During the past month, we have completely rewritten our business plan with two goals in mind: (1) To reduce the costs of manufacturing, distribution, and operations; and (2) to reduce the cost of advertising for struggling Thoroughbred owners and breeders. Both objectives were achieved.
Our mandate is driven by the requirements of the Thoroughbred owner and breeder, a group that needs immediate financial relief. Therefore, with this issue, we reduced advertising rates by 5%. This step will provide modest relief to industry marketing budgets and challenge us to operate more efficiently than ever. Still, we anticipate that advertising budgets will shrink as farms large and small struggle with this new economy. Fewer advertising pages mean smaller issues, with attendant savings in paper and postage. Other cost savings will come from concessions provided by suppliers. More will result from improving internal efficiencies and eliminating unprofitable products. Sadly, we were compelled to reduce the size of our staff by approximately 10%, to 91 full-time employees.
Some media pundits opine that print is dead. It isn’t. This magazine has a paid circulation of 23,764, and research demonstrates that readers spend an average of 1.6 hours with each issue. In 2008, we published more than 4,000 advertising pages, making The Blood-Horse one of the largest weekly magazines in North America.
No, print is not dead, but the role of print journalism is rapidly changing. The growing sophistication of the digital world has created an exciting new model for magazine publishers. Now, we can tell you what’s happening in real time through our Web sites, e-newsletters, phone services, and news alerts. Then, each week, through the pages of this magazine, we can put events in perspective.
While you will see fewer printed pages, you will have access to more information than ever available online through BloodHorse.com. From original videocasts to informative PDF downloads, from blogs to breaking news, BloodHorse.com has become the industry’s central information source. Development of our Web services will not slow down. Stay tuned.
The bottom line is that we have adjusted the scope of our enterprise to navigate through this financial maelstrom. In a sense, we are lucky: We have a strong balance sheet, thanks to your loyal support over the past decades. And we don’t have the crushing pressure of extraordinary debt or the need to upstream earnings to a for-profit owner.
If you subscribe to this magazine, you are a stake holder in the Thoroughbred industry. The reason for this is that Blood-Horse Publications, unlike other media properties in this industry, is a non-stock, nonprofit enterprise. We pay no dividends. We enrich no corporate owner. Instead, we are owned by your industry association. Our board is comprised of your colleagues. The money you invest with us never leaves the industry. Each year, we provide essential funding to the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association to carry out its important mission of improving the economic welfare of owners and breeders. For example, this year we will fund TOBA programs with more than $200,000, plus a portion of our earnings.
While we have streamlined our operation, we pledge to deliver the same level of quality, service, and performance that have come to characterize The Blood-Horse brand. We remain focused on your needs and dedicated to your success. As always, I welcome your feedback and thoughts.