Internet Conversation with Raymond Paulick, Editor in Chief, Bloodhorse

The BloodHorse is a magazine that targets the North American Thoroughbred Horse Racing Industry. It is essentially the trade publication for that industry. The BloodHorse recently developed a web-site to complement its regular weekly edition, the following is a conversation that discusses the development of that site.

Using WWW to expand the audience for a niche publisher, BloodHorse.

What prompted the decision to develop an online presence for the Bloodhorse?
In mid-1995 I was very familiar with America Online, Prodigy, and CompuServe, and saw how useful they were as resources for our staff and correspondents. But it wasn't until attending a Magazine Publishers of America workshop on the Internet that I saw how powerful a tool the World Wide Web could be, particularly in reaching out to international readers who need information on a timely basis but who have had to wait weeks to get our magazine delivered. I also sensed a growing population of young racing enthusiasts who craved information on the sport.

Large mainstream magazines were devoting enormous resources to online development without any idea how to produce revenue. We didn't have the resources to take that approach, but I could sense the importance of building an online presence. In August we began a search for a one-person operation, and in November of 1995 we filled the position of "director of new media." Our site was up shortly thereafter.

The most important ingredient to the site, in my opinion, was daily content, and the Daily Edition became the mainstay of Blood-Horse Interactive from Day One.

What are the goals for the site, both short- and long-term?
Our initial goal was simply to provide reliable and responsible content that people would read, and we put absolutely no economic pressure on the program at the beginning. We wanted to enhance the company image as being in the flow of electronic publication. Of course, at that time, we knew that we would build budget goals in the second year of the division's operation.

Those goals are now in place, though they are fluid. Our revenue goals involve site development and maintenance for other businesses, advertising revenue,and minor circulation development and product sales. Long-term, we would like to work toward paid online subscriptions, although we understand the current resistance in the market.

Could you be a little more specific on your goals: Revenue goals for site development and maintenance for other businesses (are you creating sites for other horse related businesses?) What are product sales specifically?
Right now, I don't want to get specific about financial goals, in part because they are more fluid than other parts of our budget projections. New Media remains a one person department, so we are trying to be cash neutral or build a small profit center while the potential comes more clearly into focus. We are developing an advertising and site development package for both our sites--The Horse and The Blood-Horse Interactive. The package offers options, from advertising "buttons" only to storage, maintenance, and development. The horse industry has been a bit behind the curve in embracing online technology: a look at most horse magazine advertising shows fewer URL addresses than in consumer publications. However, I sense that many horse farms, suppliers, and pharmaceuticals are anxious to have an online presence.

Product sales represent our line of books, videos, logo clothing, and statistical supplements. We recently published a catalogue of products that was mailed with recent issues of The Blood-Horse, The Horse, and the Official Kentucky Derby Souvenir Magazine. The products in that catalogue will be available for purchase online.

What criteria are you using to judge the success of the site?
We look at the numbers and user profiles, along with comments. We particularly look at where users are from (internationally).

Is your current business model of advertising supported likely to remain the business model?
Currently, our best guess on demographics is that they do not match the demographics of our magazine readers. The typical magazine reader is a 50-year-old male who owns horses but doesn't go online daily. We think the online user is younger, less likely to own horses. The demographics aren't right for many of our magazine advertisers, though some have embraced the online potential for finding new customers.

How has the site expanded the coverage of the Bloodhorse?
Working on the site has taught us a lot about how to use the Internet for our own good. I'm not sure that it's expanded our coverage in any way, other than our "Racing Ahead" feature, which covers new media and racing.

Is it reaching people who wouldn't ordinarily have access to the Bloodhorse? How has the site effected the circulation of the traditional publication?
We are reaching people around the world who had not heard of The Blood-Horse. It has brought new subscribers from that group, and we believe it has only cost us a few subscribers who now rely on the online product.

Could you give me examples of international countries that access your site regularly? and what is your ditribution methodology for your regular publication overseas?
Roughly 10 percent of our magazine subscribers reside outside of the U.S., with Canada the largest base. Surprisingly, Japan is second, and we have strong representation in South America and Australia, along with Europe. Our largest Web traffic outside the U.S. is Japan. We find that particularly encouraging for potential advertisers--i.e., those who want to showcase a consignment of yearlings to the select sales. Consignors can display photos and eventually video of these yearlings so that potential buyers around the world can view them instantly.

In the future, do you see the site as complementing your traditional publication, or competiting with it?
Unless our magazine demographics change dramatically, the site can only complement the magazine. If we get to the point of having independent news operations, I can see in-house competition that will be good for both products. We're not there yet.

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