IF THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE, HOW MANY MEDIUMS REALLY WORK FOR HORSE RACING?

By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk
Visit Hans-Ebert.com

Twitter has made everyone think they’re a “writer” though many still don’t know the difference between “they’re”, “their” and “there”, which, one supposes, is no different to many calling themselves “musicians” because they can tap a few keys on their laptop to “create” some sounds.

It’s become a push button world where everything has been reduced to being accepted by those with a minimum attention span as there’s just so much of everything and this voracious appetite to inhale it all in and damned the torpedoes of selectivity and exclusivity.

It’s why almost everyone is an expert on everything and part of one global “like” button army. The more “likes” the merrier along with more who blindly follow to the beat of the same drummer adding to this crossfire hurricane of nothingness. So, what hope is there for the writer, let alone the serious journalist?

Let’s not get into music and understanding chords or writing lyrics that captivate and bind. Getting back to writing and the fact that these days “everyone writes”, how many readers know good from bad, and the difference between reporting news to writing stories about this news and taking things to a different level and expanding on a theme? Or is there any reason for trying any of this? Is this why more and more publications are going online, which is a cute way of saying, “We’re going broke and will keep cutting back on pages and editorial content and staff until there’s no more left to cut”?

With everyone on information overload it’s often amusing to come across someone you know who’s hardly an authority on anything but on Twitter pontificating on politics, television, awards shows, fake news or music.

Of course almost everyone is an authority on every sport, especially horse racing, because of exhaling second hand news and views and then engaging in blowbacks to other blowhards.

Is this good for horse racing which is already a “fringe” interest pastime attracting a captive and ageing market resistant to change? Or could this be the best time to become Django unchained and blaze new and independent trails that force and jolt the oldsters into removing the blinkers because the tail starts wagging the dog as the dog has become a toothless and bearded old hag, Jumping Jack Flash?

It’s not unlike music and when the major labels were coasting on smugness thinking no one was going to rock their world until the indies released their music. This struck a chord with those tired of being spoon fed “corporate” mush and knowing about how much control they had over the charts, radio etc and heard something different in, for example, “Tubular Bells” by guitarist Mike Oldfield and released by a new upstart called Virgin Music and started up by a smart young kid named Richard Branson.

We all know everywhere else Branson took the Virgin brand. But everyone has to start somewhere and for The Virgin King, it was the success of “Tubular Bells” bankrolling the rest of his entrepreneurial dreams. No dreams, no new thinking and it’s only about working on Maggie’s Farm with no Escape clause.

Today, horse racing news is reported by a small handful of people. Coverage is rapidly dwindling in some markets where newspapers especially have other priorities.

Horse racing news is usually part of corporate communications and nice, safe information which is then picked up here and there and repeated and repeated on social media to the same old audience because many wish to show that they, too, are in the know. That they too have a voice. And bad news in horse racing travel faster than any other sport where it’s often about who shouts longer and loudest. How many racing clubs have effective crisis management?

In the melee that follows and has been allowed to happen, roles have become confusion bolts of politics and tired thinking. Racing presenters become “writers” and “content providers” with no one who understands marketing or content or the creative product overseeing any of this.

In the end, a monster is created who brings nothing to the party and believes they are irreplaceable. This is seen as fact because no one knows any better. Everyone in executive roles becomes Young Frankenstein and mediocrity or goofiness is created but which few see this, because, well, they don’t know better.

Because it falls on my timeline or else is sent to via DM thinking that I might be interested in seeing it, “After The Last” is a programme on racing.comradeski apparently featuring a rotating roster of hosts, but mainly ShaneO and WayneO that’s quite extraordinary. It’s not exactly Beavis and Butthead or Dumb And Dumber, but probably closer to Donald and Melania.

ShaneO is serious and earnest and looks like he’s going to crack a big one while “Melania” clasps his hands or crosses his arms and adopts a defensive pose not seen since attending a very early Dale Carnegie course in body language. Is this what Tom Wolfe meant when he wrote about The New Journalism?

Though finding the whole production to have a certain Pythonesque vibe to it, it must work in a jurisdiction where there’s gambling on horse racing almost every day of the year. There’s certainly no shortage of things to discuss and someone must have approved its production, right?

Ahhhhh, approval processes. Strange beasts aren’t they, especially if no one is held accountable and they’re just allowed to meander along because it really doesn’t matter as there’s no competition, so who cares? Oui? Maybe? Non?

“Who cares?” is a very dangerous corporate precedence that’s a potential pitfall. Sooner rather than later, an answer is going to come crashing through the door that might just detonate several bridges.

This is where social media comes into play along with that indie spirit mentioned earlier. Horse racing is what it is. No one and nothing is going to change the concept of riders on horses trying to be first across the line. It’s a concept that’s been around since even before the chariot race in “Ben Hur”.

Some riders will become more successful than others. A few horses will emerge who will capture the imagination of those even not in horse racing. But where are the really game changing game changers going to come from? What’s the medium for the messages to broaden the customer base and bring the NEW world of horse racing to a new audience and new sponsors? Where the designer brand horse racing with its aspirational value?

The HKJC has made its Happy Wednesday brand work through a unique location, “decorating” the horse racing with ‘live’ entertainment from an ever expanding cast between the twentysomething minutes between the races and making the entire on course experience with its international racing heroes, international regulars, venues catering to different customers and age group with everything combining to create an “international star attraction”.

The stamp of approval from a huge brand like TripAdvisor certainly helps market Happy Wednesday as one of Hong Kong’s major tourist attractions. Has this been effectively marketed?

How will the emergence of Pakistan Star as a world class racehorse be marketed other than some plush toys and mentions on Twitter?

How does the world see and appreciate and understand the incredible passion of Japanese racing fans and the Deep Impact (pun intended) that one horse has made? Thank goodness for the constant tweets from @longballtonoone about Japanese racing. They’re of enormous help. This is smart use of Twitter to help market another part of the global world of horse racing.

When in advertising, Hyatt had a theme line: “The exciting difference between Hyatt Hotels is the exciting difference in Hyatt Hotels”.

Where many in horse racing go off the beaten track is thinking they’re the only game in town. They’re not. There’s a world of difference out there- cultural differences. Different business models where there might be two races a week instead of a daily buffet of racing. Different ways of experiencing racing and realising just how quickly technology changes everything.

There are racing apps, but where are the racing ENTERTAINMENT apps?

Who’s going to bring the global world of horse racing together- but as a younger and more interactive lifestyle online community?

It will happen because it has to. Never forget the indie world that doesn’t follow leaders and don’t trust those parking meters. We’ve seen what this can do to the world.

#horseracing #HKJC #socialmedia #journalism #twitter #marketing #consumers #creativity #RichardBranson #TubularBells #MichaelOldfield #Virgin

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