The Racing Paper cut
It hasn’t quite lasted 18 months, but The Racing Paper has ceased operations if not permanently, then certainly “for the foreseeable future”, with its publisher citing “distribution issues”.
The Racing Paper was launched to replace the Saturday publication from the Press Association, Racing Plus, which, despite a valiant tilt at trying to gain a share of the racing newspaper market dominated by the Racing Post, had stopped publication. It introduced Saturday and Sunday racecards in time-order as its USP.
Grand National Day last year saw the first issue of the weekly Racing Paper and it left the impression that it wasn’t fully ready to hit the streets. Racecards in time-order were shunned and their appearance on the page, along with the form, can best be described as difficult to read.
There were 15 pages of racing news and features, before the racecards began, with horse-by-horse analysis for some meetings, full form for some meetings, form summaries for others, and just race verdicts for remaining meetings. Greyhound racing was not present.
A stand-out aspect of the first Racing Paper was its 12-page pull-out sports section, SportBet, the only element which looked like it could compete with the Post.
But if The Racing Paper has entered a hiatus due to “distribution issues”, it looked like other issues were having to be addressed.
After some weeks, time-order racecards were introduced and their appearance underwent some improvement. And greyhound racing was covered on a couple of pages.
However, with the football season over, the sports pull-out section moved to the back of the paper, scaled down to a couple of pages. The dogs were now down to one page, and the overall extent of The Racing Paper had declined from an initial 64-pages to 32.
An issue for The Racing Paper, and Racing Plus before it, and Raceform on Saturday before that, is falling between the premium product of the Racing Post and the racing pull-out sections in Saturday’s tabloids. This is especially the case if your content is not up to scratch.
A sister-publication to The Racing Paper is the long-established Rugby Paper, out every Sunday and pretty much a must-read for rugby enthusiasts. It knows its sport and knows its readers, with a good mix of match reports and previews, feature articles, interviews and columnists.
It has one writer, Neil Fissler, who has an enviable record of exclusively flagging-up player transfers, giving the impression that it’s before the clubs or even the players know about it.
Its latest issue appeared this weekend seemingly without distribution issues.
So now we are without The Racing Paper, albeit that its website still offers subscriptions to its online edition, where perhaps distribution is not an issue, but that too is ceasing operations.
The “foreseeable future” could feel like an eternity and it would be a very brave move to attempt to plug the gap once again. It goes back to that age-old saying “there might be a gap in the market, but is there a market it the gap?” So far, that market is proving elusive.
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