Stake Holders - by Stacy Bearse

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. 

9 Comments

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STEVE STONE

Hello Stacy..Being in the magazine publishing field myself..as I now enter my 48th year in this industry on January 3..2009...as an publishers rep for trade titles..own my company..I can certainly attest to your distilled business model for the new year and beyond..Selling ad space for the trades..even the consumer books is not an easy task in this milieu.. One of the pillars that you ommitted in your three pillar stool aside from those you noted  are the racing fans... You can have all of the breeding farms..stallion managers and owners in the world..however if you don't have those precious fans..particularly new and younger one... your equation reverts to zero..just look around you..attendance has been plummeting for years with no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel..I assume you do indeed read these blogs on an daily basis..and whom are they from? FANS and more FANS..such as myself.. if you read them closely..they..we are attempting to tell you something about the game and what has to be done in order to remediate it..you articulate the adverising formula of success...edit..advertising(space) and  readership development..what you failed to discuss is that vital ingredient..advertising response..no response to an ad(s)  preferably an schedule..then no advertising whatsoever...schedule pulled...unsure of what type of response the ads that are placed in THE BLOOD-HORSE generate..however in the industrial books that I rep..results and bingo cards and bounce back cards are closely monitored..particularly in this marketplace..its precarious as you are cognizant of...racing is in the throes of an catharis and even more sadly..its bereft of any leadership..those self-proclaimed leaders are attempting to re-brand the sport/business the way it should have been done 60 or so years ago..doable..but difficult..i myself do indeed respond to your myriad of blogs that you publish..the Dan Leibman pieces are extremely thought-provoking..substantive...however he does not respond to anyones comments ..he obviously reads them..but no follow up or thoughts.. would be nice to elicit what he is thinking about with an response.....vis-a-vis an Steve Haskins..Hanging With Haskins..undoubtedly your most popular blog with his memorable tales of yesterday..however..he does indeed respond and interact to his legions of followers with his own personal comments..am sure Dan could do the same..after all he doesn't receive anywhere near the responses that Haskins does..I have suggested to Dan in my reader response that THE BLOOD-HORSE adopt an bellwhether role in the industry..digressing from the TOBA mantra that you are woven into. there is nothing incorrect with an industry trade magazine taking the lead where everyone else has failed to do so and take charge..you have obviously the finances to do this..the personnel and the TOBA group....all part of an non-pareil infrastructure to hopefully lead this industry out of the darkenss..just takes the initiative..and the desire...I rep books that are in this very mode.....heavy industrial equipment.. public works...and attendant trade shows..and it works.. perhaps Stacy you may get out in the field more and visit race track across the country and talk with the fans...on an one on one basis vis-a-vis relying on these blogs..you would be surprised what you can glean..have to remember..sans fans...racing will go the way of the internet.invisible..thank you always for your kind window and continued 2009 success..hope to see you at the Monmouth Park opening in early May..would certainly welcome an spirited chat... Happy and healthy New Year..Regards always..Steve Stone..East Hanover..New Jersey..

30 Dec 2008 6:17 PM
Erin

To quote John Nerud, (and to echo the sentiment above), "The jockeys and the trainers and everybody are takers. The only two people that put up the money are the owners and the customers who come to the races. The rest of them are takers..."

31 Dec 2008 11:01 AM
Garrett Redmond

When all words of criticism are censored and only pablum is permitted, the death of any media - print or cyber - is imminent.

Print will die first because the  public must buy it. They will quit buying.

Stuff on the Internet will lose the readers' interest if it only publishes the same old stuff that killed the print version.  The many thoughtful and thought provoking Blogs, if free of advertising bias, will draw the readers.

31 Dec 2008 1:45 PM
FSF

I like Steve's point about responsiveness to readers. The other day, I actually wanted to email one of the Blood Horse staff about a topic outside of the published blogs (it would have taken the whole blog off-topic, and I hate when people do that!!) but to my surprise, I could find no vehicle on this website to contact individual contributors via email. Seemed strange. Perhaps I just missed the link, and if so, would appreciate being directed to it.

31 Dec 2008 2:32 PM
Blood-Horse Staff

FSF - some of the blog owner's post their email addresses and some do not. If you let me know who you are trying to contact, I may be able to help you out.

31 Dec 2008 3:06 PM
Steve Zorn

Here's what I read, in order of frequency and priority: the Paulick Report (online); Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance (online -- and I'm one of them); Raceday 360 (online); Equidaliy (online); Daily Racing Form (online); Thoroughbred Times (print, though I get the daily online version as well); Blood-Horse (ditto).  I like a variety of viewpoints, and Blood-Horse is the most homogeneous out there, reflecting the view of the aristocrats who still think that it's their industry.  There are lots of thriving racing media sites, though I don't know if they're making money.  But a key to being popular and relevant is to say something other than what Dinny and Will ordain as the party line.

31 Dec 2008 11:31 PM
Many Hats

I wear many hats in the Thoroughbred industry--fan, racehorse owner, breeder, consultant, and advertiser.  A 5% drop in advertising fees seems to me to be a very token gesture considering how much stud fees have dropped recently (as well as the stock market) in comparison.  I know that I would advertise a lot more if advertising rates were more realistic in the current economy...

01 Jan 2009 8:24 PM
rwwupl

Steve Stone has it right. The direction is off course.The print media needs to help to re -focus the game.The customers are the foundation that the house is built on.

No other game in the world allows the customers to participate in predicting the results,through competition with each other.This competition is essential to make the game whole. It should be a marketing focus.

The original charm and draw of game for customers has been lost by insider issues.It is a gambling game.

Stop trying to fight over a shrinking pie,make a plan to grow the fan base and all other segments of racing will benefit,including the print media.

02 Jan 2009 9:50 AM
BlueHen

I'm a new subscriber to The Blood-Horse magazine.  I started reading the website late last summer, after remembering the name Blood-Horse from the cover of old magazines a friend of my father's used to send home with him for me, a racing-mad teen. I decided to subscribe to the magazine in November, and eagerly await each issue.

I hope the print edition doesn't go out of business, because while the website is interesting, exciting, and more interactive, there is something special about holding the magazine in your hands and looking at the beautiful photos and being able to curl up with it in a comfortable chair and read it after a long and tiring day.  You may be able to sit in the same comfortable chair with a laptop, but it's sure not the same experience.

Thanks for letting me put in my 2 cents' worth.  Keep up the good work!

04 Jan 2009 8:59 PM

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