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What Would Google Do, and the British Horseracing industry

One of the books I was given for Christmas was Jeff Jarvis’s What Would Google Do? 

It seems to me that it would make very useful reading for anyone who has an interest in the future of the horseracing industry.  

Consider this paragraph, from pp. 193-4:
“How many companies and industries fail to heed the warnings they know are there but refuse to see? The music industry is, of course, the best example of digital dead meat. Detroit waited far too long to make smaller cars and pursue electricity as a fuel. Many retail chains opened stores online but stopped there, not seeing opportunities to forge new relationships with customers as Amazon had. Telecom companies were blind-sided by the emergence of open networks that undercut their businesses – even though those networks operated on the telecoms companies’ own wires. Ad agencies kept trying to forestall the reinvention of their industry, still buying mass media even as more targeted and efficient opportunities grew on the internet. News executives thought they could avoid change and even believed they should be immune from it because they were holders of a holy flame: Journalism with a capital J. They finally woke up when they watched the giant Knight Ridder chain get gobbled up by the McClatchy chain, which, like every public company in the sector, lost billions in market value. Now newsmen are willing to change, but it may be too late for them: they’ve lost the next generation of customers. They are losing their destinies because they want to save their pasts. Protection is not a strategy for the future.”
Or this, p. 192:
“Beware any strategy built on protection from cannabalization, for it probably means the cannibals are at the door and ready to eat you for lunch.”
or, the section pp. 134-141, entitled ‘Free is a business model’.
Jeff Jarvis’s book offers some real solutions to those who want to embrace them. Plenty of people in horseracing tell me that they do. One person who runs a British racecourse said to me recently that “we just want to know how to attract the Facebook generation.”
Embracing that generation means doing so on that generation’s terms, of course. In terms of betting, that means, for example, allowing customers to bet at low margin; from their mobile phones; and in their own way – rather than at a margin of the horseracing industry’s choosing; from fixed outlets; and in a way which suits the people who want to be in control.
But when you consider that 80% of Betfair’s revenue came from UK horseracing eight years ago, and less than 25% does today, it would be great to see British horseracing’s rulers spending 2010 trying to attract the new generation on its own terms, rather than starting the new decade by continuing to fight battles against the companies that are.

Posted in My articles, Sport.

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