The Racing Paper – will it be history?
The Racing Paper, a weekly newspaper covering Saturday and Sunday racing, launched on Grand National day. First thoughts are that maybe it should be called The History Paper, more of which later.
When the now defunct Racing Plus relaunched six years ago it ran a TV advertising campaign to say what it wouldn’t contain, such as bloodstock coverage and pages of classified advertising, rather than what it would cover, albeit it did flag up its USP of racecards in time order.
The newly launched Racing Paper has been somewhat shy in saying anything.
A week before the new Saturday paper made its debut, sister weekly The Rugby Paper carried an advertisement for the long-established stablemate, Racing Ahead magazine, but not the soon to launch Racing Paper.
A couple of promotional emails came The Racing Hub’s way. The first, a little light on detail, had the strapline “A new UK weekly publication to rival the Racing Post”. A second email dropped the Racing Post rival pitch, replaced by “A new UK weekly title hot on horse racing and sports betting”.
But, apart from seeing that Michael Owen would have a column in the sports betting section, courtesy of BetVictor, still not a lot to go on in terms of content and columnists.
The proof would be in the reading. And the reading was a disappointment.
Stuck In the past
Launching on Grand National day offered so many things to say about the day’s big race. But The Racing Paper seemed stuck in the past. Veteran racing journalist Jonathan Powell wrote about Gay Trip and about Aldaniti and Bob Champion, a moving story of triumph over adversity and a legacy of £15m raised for charity, but a well-trodden path
Graham Buddry chronicled the career of L’Escargot, a rehash of an article which first appeared in Racing Ahead magazine.
For the 2018 Grand National, the front page led with Paul Ferguson’s tip for Pleasant Company (nearly giving him a well-deserved victory), there was the ubiquitous pinsticker’s guide, Stephen Mullen pulled together the big-race stats and the involvement of three female jockeys was a news story across two pages. Ben Morgan ran his eye over the TV races, and Tony Keenan covered Irish racing,
The admirable Robert Cooper, who wrote for Racing Plus, is a welcome contributor and there are columns from jockey Aiden Coleman and trainer George Baker.
And that was about it – somewhat underwhelming.
Then came the racecards, and they are truly horrible.
The front page told us there were free Timeform ratings for the Grand National (which did pinpoint the winner), but a free magnifying glass would have been more useful. Tiny print, crammed columns and squashed-up jockeys’ colours.
Great slugs of type
The cards contain performance summaries and ratings, but owners are not credited. Horse-by-horse analysis follows, with a verdict for each race. Little is done to distinguish the different elements and it all merges into great slugs of type.
It looks like those public announcement advertisements you see in newspapers for planning permission or bankruptcies.
And it’s not consistent. The Newcastle and Wolverhampton cards for Saturday did not have the horse-by-horse analysis but did contain a form summary. That’s because full form was only provided for Aintree and Chester. And that’s another exercise in cramped, virtually unreadable type, and someone tell the designer that white text on a yellow background ain’t too easy to read.
Most surprising of all is that The Racing Paper has shunned the presentation of racecards in time order, the USP of Racing Plus. The publishers say they may add cards in time order for TV only races. One presumes that this would lead to duplication of certain of races and maybe a specialist paper should be aware that a fair number of its potential readers will watch ATR and RUK.
In contract, the 12-page sports betting pull-out is an oasis of clarity and readability. It’s where The Racing Paper seems most comfortable, possibly because the publishers have a stable of sporting weeklies. But greyhound racing was overlooked.
Worryingly, the publishers suggest that if you are only interested in racing, you can discard the sports section – nothing like devaluing your own value proposition.
The Racing Paper has fared better with advertising support than Racing Plus ever did, but it’s not exactly got a vote of confidence. BetVictor, Goodwin and Star Sports are the only bookmakers. Timeform, who are plugged on the front page, have advertised, as have RUK. The front-page ad goes to columnist George Baker’s stables.
First issues of newspapers are notoriously difficult to get right and The Racing Paper bears this out. Will it be history? Unless there’s a great deal of remedial work, the answer looks like yes.