Jessica Chapel / Railbird

Media Notes

No big horse, no big storylines, and still NBC pulled in 16.5 million viewers for the Kentucky Derby. That’s the most since 1989, and seven million more than watched in 2000, the last year the Derby was broadcast on ABC. Year-round fans might find the show unwatchable (and the repellent Bravo Oaks coverage even more so), but the network must be doing something right — mixing horses with human interest stories, Al Roker, fashion, and giddy Glen Fullerton added up to excitement for a sizable audience. “You know, every single minute of it was entertaining,” wrote one TV critic, praising the network for making the Derby “accessible.” The network’s contract for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness is up this year, as is the ESPN/ABC contract for the Belmont Stakes. After five years on separate networks, will the Triple Crown return to one?

Dan Liebman has filed his last Blood-Horse column. According to the Paulick Report, the editor, a 15-year veteran of the magazine, was dismissed this week, his exit announced to staff with a cold email. Evan Hammonds, who was named digital editor last November, is now the executive editor for both print and web Blood-Horse products. Speculating from afar, merely as a reader and interested observer, the move seems a strong hint that Blood-Horse — which already leads the Thoroughbred Times and Daily Racing Form in such areas as web design and the use of RSS and the Twitter API — will be putting more emphasis on developing their online presence and digital products.

I only ever exchanged a few emails with Liebman, whom I wish well, and almost all were related to the National Turf Writers Association, which I expressed an interest in joining (and did apply for membership to) several years ago. The group wasn’t quite ready for bloggers back then, but it’s gratifying to see things change, and so swiftly. Over the past six years, the racing blogosphere has exploded, growing from a handful in 2004 (this little site was one of the first) to at least 130 active independent and media-affiliated blogs*, covering every angle of the game, in 2010. With that growth has come an acceptance of blogging as a legitimate medium and bloggers as legitimate turf writers, an acceptance that reached a new high last week, when — for the first time — an officer of the NTWA announced on Twitter that the group had accepted a new member, and that new member was an independent blogger. Congratulations to the NTWA on opening up to turf journalists working in new media, and to Brooklyn Backstretch on joining their ranks.

*And it’s not only blogs. As a friend emailed earlier today, referring to the recently launched Stride and ZATT, “I can’t believe there are TWO horse racing magazines. Magazines!” There may be fewer full-time turf writers and industry publications might be struggling, but we really are living in an era of plentiful racing content from an incredible range of sources.


5 Comments

Thanks, Jessica — though I do wonder whether I’d have been admitted without the freelance work that I did for traditional publications over the last year.

Posted by Teresa on May 5, 2010 @ 5:01 pm

Frankly, as a year-round fan I still found the NBC show (Al Roker and all) far less annoying than what the livestream asked me to put up with for the five hours before it, which was to watch the tote board and some boring, superficial comments for about an hour between races (I didn’t). I don’t get an HRTV stream anymore, but they weren’t much better on info, and far worse in presentation. NBC did, IMO, strike a good balance between show and ‘advanced’ information. My only real peeve is that they didn’t display fractions during the race, otherwise I’m willing to put up with the tiny things if they attract new fans – and personal impression and numbers say that NBC does indeed do a good job of marketing the event.

If the Bloodhorse wants to go into a more online-oriented direction, a good start may be to realize that – on the net – comment sections should be a little more open to constructive criticism than, say, the Pravda.

Posted by malcer on May 5, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

[…] Chapel, writing in her Railbird blog, speculated the elimination of Liebman’s position “seems a strong hint that […]

Posted by Paulick Report » Blog Archive » BLOODHORSE CUTS EDITOR; NEWSWEEK FOR SALE: THE FUTURE OF PRINT? on May 6, 2010 @ 9:13 am

With no real star in this year’s Derby it was surprising that NBC’s telecast drew big numbers. To me, that says interest in racing is still very much alive. On the other hand, it is disheartening to see our major trade journals struggle in this new world of social networking, but one must adapt to survive in such times.

Posted by Strapper on May 6, 2010 @ 10:30 am

[…] Blood-Horse and Newsweek, Ray Paulick is pondering the future of print. Replying to an observation I made here, he asks: But can a robust digital strategy financially carry a flagging print […]

Posted by Jessica Chapel / Railbird v2 - TK (The Future of Print) on May 6, 2010 @ 5:12 pm