JC / Railbird

TK (The Future of Print/DRF)

In the wake of developments at 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 product?

Let’s leave aside for now the implicit assumption in the question of print’s primacy, and reframe it: What digital strategy can carry a print product?

For clues, look to the venerable Atlantic:

This year, with print revenues holding steady in the down market, digital and event revenues are expected to make up nearly half of the [Atlantic’s] total haul. For the month of April, according to Mr. Smith, The Atlantic brought in more revenue from digital advertising than it did from print.

Or to Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, reportedly working on a bid to buy the magazine, who told Jon Stewart on the Daily Show that “it’s probably time to flip” the focus of production from print to digital.

Derek Powazek offers five easy steps on how a magazine might make that flip. Of course, there’s nothing easy about altering the brutal economics of weekly publishing, but Powazek’s advice includes a couple recommendations that seem particularly pertinent to racing magazines, such as connecting to your community, looking to tiered subscribers for revenue (which means developing digital products they’ll pay for), and using print to package the best from the previous week (or month). The last point is crucial: A weekly print magazine isn’t delivering the news, it’s archiving it — make each issue worth keeping.

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Is a DRF.com redesign in the works? Earlier this afternoon, a correspondent emailed a URL — accidentally discovered through a Google search and completely unprotected — that appears to be a Daily Racing Form development site. The new look, obviously in progress and still a little rough, has a smart and modern feel and makes racing information more visible on the main page (very Racing Post of them). It’s also built on Drupal, an open source CMS that attracted good buzz this week when the Nation announced it was the system underlying their freshened site.

Screenshots (homepage, interior page, navigation detail):

DRF Beta

DRF Beta

DRF Beta

The DRF site was last updated in January 2007 (a project I was very much involved with as site manager); the redesign then was geared towards its existing audience. What’s interesting about the direction DRF seems to be going in with this look is that, in addition to making the site more functional for users who are already horseplayers and DRF customers, there appears to be an emphasis on making the site (and game, presumably, based on the recent introduction of a product like EasyForm) more accessible to new players and casual fans. Note the tabs “Learn” and “How To” in the navigation bar — fan education is more prominent than it is on the current site.