Change Agent - By Dan Liebman

(Originally published in the March 6, 2010 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)  

Speaking recently to a group of students in the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry Program, I wanted to make a point about the dwindling size of newspapers and magazines around the globe. There was only one problem. Asked if they had read a daily newspaper that morning, not a single hand went up among the 20 students.

People, and not just college students, mind you, are getting their news differently.

The Blood-Horse is closing in on a century of publishing, a historic number of years to be in any business. But The Blood-Horse was founded as a news magazine, and that term applies to very few weekly publications today.
(Begun in 1916, the name was changed from The Thoroughbred Horse to The Blood-Horse in 1928.)

Today, news is delivered by Web sites, social media, cell phones, and e-mail and text alerts. News, like never before, is instantaneous. It is why The Blood-Horse was the first equine publication to offer breaking news alerts.

Despite that, the rumors of print being dead are exaggerted. Wounded maybe, but not dead.

The fact is the number of advertisements has always determined the total number of pages in any publication. Simple economics. Fewer ads mean fewer pages. So, at a time when society is getting its news on the fly, the recession began, and it took advertising budgets down with it. Newspapers and magazines were hit hard.

According to MediaFinder, more than 600 magazines ceased operations in both 2007 and 2008. The good news is the number slowed in 2009 to about 500. Of course, hundreds of magazines were also launched, but it is still hard to accept that such titles as Gourmet (begun in 1941), Home (1951), and Teen (1954) folded last year.

Media companies must adapt in these turbulent times. The Blood-Horse recently redesigned its Web site, BloodHorse.com, which gets more than 1.1 million page views weekly. Now, the latest headlines always appear on top, the latest race replays, videos, features, and blog entries are prominently displayed, and a cleaner, leaner navigation makes it easier to find what you want.

The print magazine must change as well, allowing us to provide as much content as possible in fewer pages. In fact, it has been changing for years. For example, for decades The Blood-Horse printed the hip-by-hip results of every horse sold at public auction in North America. Today, those results are on BloodHorse.com. And they are even better because they are searchable.

With news so readily available, we understand that readers demand to know not only what the news is, but what the news means. While we have published two commentaries each week, this column and The Final Turn, this week we introduce a business analysis written by Bill Shanklin and a pedigree analysis penned by Les Brinsfield, both experts in their fields. Blood-Horse senior correspondent Steve Haskin will regularly write analysis of recent racing. Other writers will begin appearing soon.

In the issue of June 7, 1980, The Blood-Horse began a news section titled “Dispatches.” Beginning in this issue that section of the magazine has been renamed “The Wire” and will contain shorter news items, but more analysis and commentary. Along with that, many sections of the magazine have been redesigned by art director Beth McCoy—the look and feel of her work provides a clean, fresh, imaginative way to help us enter this new era.

These changes are being made to strengthen The Blood-Horse, which for 94 years has been covering the Thoroughbred industry. But there are things that are not changing, most importantly the mission of The Blood-Horse, which is to serve Thoroughbred owners and breeders.

How we serve you has changed significantly since 1916, just like much has changed in the industry since the top 50 stallions that stood in North America prior to World War II averaged 15 foals a crop.

We do not take lightly the trust you put in us to deliver the content you desire, deserve, and demand.

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