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BRUCE MILLINGTON (Racing Post) Q&A

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  • #12754
    cormack15
    Keymaster
    • Total Posts 8992

    I’m delighted to present the next in our series of Question and Answer sessions, where you get a chance to put your questions to a series of racing celebrities and industry figures. Here you get your chance to quiz BRUCE MILLINGTON, editor of racing’s daily paper The Racing Post.

    Bruce has been editor since October 2007, having formerly been Sports Editor at the paper.

    I’m sure, given the nature of many of the threads on this and other forums over the years, that there will be plenty difficult questions for Bruce but please, as ever, keep things civil folks.

    Post your questions on this topic, which will be closed on Friday 9th October, at which time the questions will be sent to Bruce for a response.

    #250634
    davidjohnson
    Member
    • Total Posts 4491

    In October 2007, the Racing Post was sold by Trinity Mirror to FL Partners Ltd for £170m. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then, in terms of the Post, the newspaper industry, and also the general financial climate, so if FL Partners put the newspaper up for sale tomorrow, what would the asking price be?

    The introduction of a new website and charging for certain content has upset many users. In terms of traffic, how many fewer users are using the site on a regular basis compared to the old .co.uk site, and the .com site since charging for ‘premium’ content was introduced.

    reduce, which hopefully reflects the fact that even if you do not subscribe, racingpost.com is regarded as the best racing website out there.

    As a specialist paper, you are obviously dealing with a limited audience, many of whom use betfair and the forum there. That given, do you still stand by your comments that Betfair forumites are ”feeble, nasty, predictable, pocket talking, barely regulated, anonymous’.


    I hope Betfair does something about its increasingly pathetic forum, where one by one the shrewd, witty, insightful contributors have drifted away to be replaced by people who are not safe to be let loose with a crayon let alone a keyboard. How a respectable company like Betfair,which prides itself on the transparency of its product, allows itself to play host to such feeble, nasty, predictable, pocket-talking, barely regulated, anonymous viewpoints is utterly beyond me.

    Keeping advertising revenue up without alienating the readership is a fine balancing act. To what extent do you think the Racing Post manages to do this, and what is your response to the view expressed by Paul Haigh where he reportedly suggested that the Racing Post "might restore some credibility" if it refused occasionally to "acquiesce to your advertisers’ wishes".

    Thank for taking the time Bruce.


    Many thanks for the questions, David.

    #250677
    % MAN
    Participant
    • Total Posts 5104

    The Racing Post is the only daily specialist paper for the racing industry, would you agree that effectively being in a monopoly position makes you complacent and actually results in a lowering of standards in the Racing Post, in other words you do not have to try so hard.


    Would you agree that having an effective, daily, competitive racing paper would be better not only for the industry and punters, it would actually be good for the Racing Post in that it would lead to less complacency and would increase the standard of your offering?

    editor@racingpost.com.

    – – – – – –

    A bookmakers representative once told me the Racing Post will more or less print anything we ask them to because they cannot survive without our advertising revenue. Also it is not uncommon for bookmakers representatives to actually write copy for your paper – but not under their own names of course. Does this not compromise the integrity of the paper and the ability of the paper to be objective?

    Let me make it absolutely clear: the only bookmaker representative who writes copy for us is James Knight of Coral, who gives us an odds-compiler’s view of the racing every Saturday. It is clearly stated who he is and what his copy is about. The suggestion that bookies write for us under pseudonyms is ridiculous. As is the claim that "we will print whatever they ask". Yes, advertising revenue is important to us. But not as important as credibility and editorial independence and integrity. You are welcome to check out the dozens of emails we receive every day from bookmakers which end up on the metaphorical spike.

    #250737
    zilzal
    Participant
    • Total Posts 669

    Bruce,

    Given the disillusionment of so many punters with horseracing as a betting medium would the Racing Post countenance dividing its daily paper between racing and soccer?

    Regards

    Z

    #250739
    Prufrock
    Participant
    • Total Posts 2081

    Which innovation or improvement do you feel proudest of in your time as editor?

    Do you think there is an inherent contradiction in trying to produce properly thought-out racing analysis while serving the timescales and deadlines of a national newspaper? This applies both in pre-race analysis, when a late-afternoon deadline may be for a race meeting that is more than 24 hours off, and after it, when greater time for reflection/assimilation of information would clearly benefit the product.


    Why do you think The Sportsman failed?


    2. It failed to prise the best people away from the Post. With a few notable exceptions, yourself included, it did not boast a particularly awesome array of talent.

    3. Apart from being cheaper, it didn’t really do anything better than the Post, certainly in the early days, and it did quite a lot of things worse. That said, I maintain that if its last edition had been its first, it would have done far better and may even still be here today. By the time it closed, it had realised what it needed to be and had got its act together as far as the presentation of the cards and form were concerned. Mind you, it had spent about £14 million in the process. I remember reading the first edition and feeling relieved, from the abysmal splash on a nothing George Graham story (which we ran as a results filler because that was all it was worth) to the poorly presented cards.

    What, if any, quality control is exercised with handicappers, time analysts, tipsters, Spotlighters and post-race analysts? Are their performances monitored/measured and their methods scrutinised by people who know how their jobs should be done?

    Everyone you mention is managed in the way any good company manages its staff. In other words, the quality, accuracy, speed and authority of their work is constantly monitored.

    What would you have liked to have done if you had not ended up as a journalist?

    Who would

    your

    four dinner guests be, a la Racing Post Sunday questionnaire?

    Thanks for taking the trouble.

    Simon

    #250784
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    • Total Posts 17716

    Do you think, in times of economic instability and widespread financial hardship, that it is acceptable for your ‘Sports Betting Writer of the Year’ to suggest gambling as a viable means of securing one’s future?

    I have taken the liberty of including one or two quotes from Steve Palmer’s article entitled ‘Dyson sparks life-rescuing financial revival’:

    "…My recovery from the brink of financial oblivion is complete. And how did I do it? By betting. Betting, my friends, is something that in my humble opinion one should never give up on…"

    "…A wage slave will always be trapped with the same income and the same expenditure, and his quality of life will remain the same, unless he gambles…"

    "…But my advice to people would be that they should gamble a shade more than they can afford to lose, and then cross the bridge of failure if they come to it…"

    "…they are not going to experience a proper high without risking a proper low…"

    "…In a mountain of debt, and struggling to pay the bills…"

    "…money which should really have been going to one of several people to whom I owed money…"

    "…In fact, you know what? I think life might actually be worth living again…"

    Do you stand by each of the unbelievably naive, distasteful and disrespectful comments Palmer makes? Is it believed that it is acceptable for a compulsive gambler to fuel the delusions which trouble so many similarly afflicted individuals and to triviliase the plight countless others face in the wake of an economic downturn?

    Palmer’s article (a term I use very loosely) also contains 14 separate references to various bookmakers. Is it the case that the Racing Post has now become nothing more than a lap-dog for the betting industry, choosing to coax readers/visitors into gambling rather than ensuring the production of quality, meaningful content?

    Tom

    Blimey! Easy Tiger. Okay, let me start by saying Steve is Sports Betting Writer of the Year because he was voted as such by a panel that included the sports editors of all Britain’s main newspapers, so there’s no need for the inverted commas. And let me also say that I have never known a column in either the Racing Post or the Sporting Life that has attracted as much praise and adulation as this one. Wherever I go people ask about Steve. He even gets asked for his autograph at various random locations, including outside a kebab shop the other week.

    That said, I am acutely aware that this is dangerous territory and that the Racing Post must not do anything to promote irresponsible, reckless gambling. If I thought this was ever happening through Steve’s column, I would pull it immediately.

    The fact is, Steve does bet wildly, but that does not make him unique. What does is his ability to articulate his betting experiences with such humour and raw emotion. He is able to convey the acute pain of losing money unlike anyone that has ever written on the subject and in such a way that would, I believe, strike both a note of sympathy with those who know how it feels to lose money and a note of warning to those who may decide the gambling life is for them.

    Ultimately, though, the thing that makes Steve’s pieces so powerful is that they are pure reality, and I use the word in its real sense as opposed to the ludicrous way it is used in relation to modern TV shows. All he does is write about his life and his betting as it happens. How people digest it is up to them.

    #250896
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    • Total Posts 17716

    Hi Bruce,

    I’m going to be obvious here and ask you the question which no doubt you’ve already prepared an answer to.

    Why are you now charging people to simply read form on your website? Don’t,like on other sites, your sponsors cover the cost of that?

    I would love to know which genius came up with that idea and I would put it on a par with the intelligence behind the decision to take racing videos off U-Tube.

    Although U-tube has got nothing or little to do with you the fact racing videos were going up in there thousands was like a free advert for racing. I’m sure more than a few people who came across one or two of these videos took up watching racing as a hobby/sport because of it.

    That’s just one way people end up getting involved so lets look at one of those people.

    He decides he wants to investgate further ask around and is told the best websites for racing are your own Racing Post, ATR and the Sporting Life.

    He visits yours and finds out he’s got to pay to read form, Goes to ATR and sees he can read form and even watch some of the past races free, checks out the Sporting life and although there’s no video form at least reading the form is free.

    Being a novice he doesn’t know that you have a better name for accurate betting forecasts nor does he know you don’t miss out half the races Zarkava ran in during her career. All he knows he has to pay if he wants to use your site.

    Do you think you could stab a guess and let me know which of the 3 sites is that novice punter least likely to end up using?

    I spent many years as an MD of a marketing company during my younger years so I know about costs. I also know false economy when I see it and in my opinion the Racing Post website signed it’s own death warrant the day you lot came up with that brainwave.

    Hi Fist. You don’t have to pay to read form on our website. We have more free content than any other site. We do have some paid-for services on the site but you can access form for free. Indeed, since we introduced subscription services, one of the main things we’ve discovered from customer feedback is how surprised they are that so much remains free on the site.

    #250937
    stilvi
    Participant
    • Total Posts 4515

    If Pricewise really is that special why have you never printed any profit/loss figures?

    I think Pricewise is pretty special and so do plenty of our readers, which is why he is such a significant market inflience. Since you ask, Tom’s PL record from Jan 1 2009 to Oct 20 is 48.55 per cent return on investment in the paper and 160.81 per cent return from investment on Pricewise Extra. I’ll leave others to judge how special those figures are.

    #250972
    gumshield
    Member
    • Total Posts 119

    Post by stilvi » Wed Sep 30, 2009 1:47 pm
    If Pricewise really is that special why have you never printed any profit/loss figures?

    Good question, Stilvi.

    For that matter, let’s have full figures for the sports tipsters. And how about a profit/loss account for the Trading Post team, whose contributors appear to be taking over the paper yet whose efforts seem especially hapless?

    I’m essentially a satisfied customer. I buy the paper every day and have welcomed improvements in a number of areas over the last few years, notably in the Features department (the Sunday edition in particular is usually a good read).

    But a modicum of integrity wouldn’t go amiss. Don’t celebrate your West Country correspondent’s 2/1-winner Seven Is My Number (in a race in which his only other possible selection was a 33/1-shot) when the same horse was Trading Post’s Lay Of The Day.

    Hi Gumshield. Thanks for the kind words on RPSUNDAY. With regard to the whole issue of PL figures, we do not put ourselves up as a paid-for tipping service and are thus not obliged to do so. When I was sports editor, I remember deciding we should keep figures for all tips. So my then deputy Paul Kealy did it. It took up about two days per week of his time and after three months we were handsomely in profit despite a loss of more than 300 points on some quarterback supremacy spread tip disaster, so we aborted the mission safe in the knowledge that we were basically doing a decent job. However, I agree the flagging up of the 2-1 winner was not very clever. I think when we put up decent winners we have every right to let people know, but that one was not great by any means.

    #250981
    Lewey
    Member
    • Total Posts 140

    I have begrudgingly signed up to your basic package and pay £7.50 a month to access the form. What frustrates me is how unstable your website is and how often it crashes my computer. The only way I can view your website is to use Firefox and a program to block all the bookmaker adverts. I understand that this is large source of revenue, but it not should be at the detriment of the performance of the overall website. I assume this issue is being looked at.

    Secondly I understand that you will be giving a welcome back interview to Graham Bradley in tomorrow’s Racing Post. Please can you explain why you are giving space to someone who has been warned off for five years. No doubt adverts will appear in the near future advertising his bloodstock business. Is this really the image you want to give racing with Bradley and his pals with links to organised crime. This guy should have been banned for life not getting space in the trade newspaper!

    We’re working hard to improve site performance, Lewey, and hope you’ll find it easier to use as time goes by. Hopefully, you’ve now seen the Bradley interview and realised it’s not a ‘welcome back’ interview in any way, shape or form. Bradley is an interesting guy who served his ban and we thought his views on his life as it stands would be interesting to readers. They were presented in a non-judgemental form. We like to think our readers have the intelligence to make up their own minds on issues like this. It has nothing to do with adverts.

    #251021
    Cav
    Participant
    • Total Posts 4825

    Why do subscribers who pay a minimum of almost £100 a year to access the pay content, have to endure the "fruit machine" like bookmaker advertising on the site? Its the main reason I’ve stopped using your site.

    Why does the racing section of the RP website promote Scottish and English Football, American Football, Poker, Dog Racing, GAA, etc…? As a subscriber I’d want racing content only, surely you could put the rest into a sports betting section of its own?

    I dont buy the paper version of the RP as I feel your industry and betting coverage in general is very bookmaker biased. I would say that’s a widely held perception amongst punters. Are you aware of that and if so any plans to address that bias going forward?

    Thanks for taking the questions.

    Well CR, if you can find a website that doesn’t accommodate adverts do please let me know. We are a commercial business and need revenue from various sources to survive. As for ‘promoting’ other sports on our site, this is not done at the expense of our racing coverage. If you choose not to read the sport content, that’s fine by us. We are not bookmaker-biased. If we have a bias of any sort it’s for the punter. We try to give punters the best possible chance of making their betting pay by providing as many relevant stats, data and tipping content as we can.

    #251028
    barry dennis
    Member
    • Total Posts 398

    Bruce,

    The dennis males,

    myself, wait at the gate 6.am. get RP read front to back by 8.am

    45 y.o.son works in industry, never buys, occasionally downloads.

    34 y.o. not in the game, buys RP every day

    32 y.o. works in industry never buys, never downloads never reads

    at races see several people with racecard downloads.

    If the internet version isn’t massively financially beneficial, why not drop it, make the skinflints buy the paper.

    Nice to hear from you, Barry. Your family seems fairly normal in terms of Racing Post consumption. We have a senior readership and a far younger website userbase. It’s all about striking a balance between maximising revenue from paper sales and ensuring the new generation of racing fans and punters, many of whom don’t buy newspapers very often, are still providing us with some revenue. Funnily enough, since we started charging for some online services, paper sales have perked up a little so maybe you are on to something. Then again, we have to take a long-term view and recognise that ultimately, our revenue is going to switch, albeit very gradually, from paper to website so we can’t drop it.

    #251044
    davidjohnson
    Member
    • Total Posts 4491

    Publishing advice from Barry Dennis – turn your back to the online, print is the future. He’ll be telling exchange traders to give up betfair and set themselves up as on-course bookmakers next.

    #251075
    Maxilon 5
    Member
    • Total Posts 2432

    Hi Bruce,

    You’ve taken on a tough gig here so no hard questions from me, just a comment and a suggestion.

    I buy the newspaper every day and am a regular racegoer and participant. I just want to say that I’ve enjoyed the paper more this year than at any time since it first appeared. Loads more to read.

    In the interests of balancing an earlier er, rhetorical question can we have more Steve Palmer in the paper please? And more writing from new writers (not just pundits) in general – some of the scribes you rely on are about ready for their memoirs.

    Cheers

    Maxilon 5 (Mark)

    Hi Mark. Thanks for that. We’ve tried to beef up the editorial content in order that people feel they are getting value for money so it’s always extremely pleasing to hear positive feedback. I’m hoping there will be more Palmer as of the start of the new year and we are always on the lookout for new writing talent so hopefully we can give you what you are looking for from us.

    #251208
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    • Total Posts 17716

    BM

    Do you really, really, need to hide your betting forecasts from the general public until 9.00.clock in the morning?
    Do you seriously believe they are so sacrosanct that people will pay money to view what is more accurately forecast by the Irish bookmakers or the exchanges in the real world of physical overnight betting anyway, or are you really so benighted that you think it gains your website some advantage?
    Do you honestly think it’s good for your customers, your advertisers, or racing generally, to pursue this niggardly policy (I’m speaking as someone who has access to them anyway), or are you prepared to reconsider what was a poorly thought-out and regressive move in the first place?

    I’m so benighted I had to look up what benighted meant in the dictionary. Our policy is to give subscribers first access to betting forecasts and to newspaper purchasers when the shops open, but to make them available to all site users well before racing starts. We are constantly monitoring our policies with regard to online and editorial content and if it appears we have got this one wrong I’m sure the page-impression stats will tell us.

    #251616
    wit
    Participant
    • Total Posts 2165

    Hi Bruce

    Thanks for taking questions.

    1986 – 1998 – owned by multi-billionaire racing enthusiast

    1998 – 2007 – owned by less-rich professional newspaper publisher

    October 1, 2007 – acquired by (even less rich ?) private investor group, using a bank loan for 148/170ths (87 per cent) of purchase price, involving mortgaging 100 per cent of the RP to bank.

    January 2009 – bank collapses and is nationalised by Irish government.

    February 2009 – bank is raided by fraud squad, suggesting it has bigger problems than just lack of money.

    1. How long do you think before the bank / investor group now try to get their money out of RP?

    2. Can you keep upbeat news coming to stave-off that day while you try to ramp up the cashflow ?

    3. Assuming that private equity groups are all about selling from the day they buy, who – in terms of what is best for racing – do you think would be the best enduring owner of the racing side of the RP?

    best regards

    wit

    I can’t say I’m close enough to the owners to be able to give you particularly detailed answers, Wit. All I can say is that the paper is owned by people who have a long-term vision for the business, which involves growing the website and exploring new revenue streams. The Racing Post has performed well despite the problems in the British and Irish economies so I don’t perceive there to be any pressure from the banks. And given our independence and commitment to making it a long-term success ratrher than get in and out with a quick profit, I’d say it is hard to think of anyone better to own the business.

    #251902
    First Bout
    Member
    • Total Posts 7

    Bruce,

    I’ve been led to believe that you have no interest in/actively dislike horse racing. If this is correct how appropriate is it for you to be the editor of the only "industry" paper for the sport?

    If this is incorrect, please clarify your level of interest.

    Also, to what extent is the boorish "beer, birds, betting" personas of a large number of your writers influenced by third party advertisers eager to part that sector of society from its (relatively) high disposable income?

    Thanks for your time.

    Stuart


    I’m not quite sure how you want me to clarify my level of interest. Let’s just say I bunked off school at the age of 14 to attend my first meeting at Windsor in 1981, since when I’ve loved the game, cried when Ekbalco died, still get a massive thrill when I see the first set of final declarations for the Tuesday of Cheltenham, have a weird thing about Trevor Hemmings’ horses, think Cartmel is heaven on earth, have taught my kids what 6-4 means, would attend every meeting at Plumpton if I could, counted a morning watching them come up Paul Nicholls’ uphill gallop as one of the best of my life, still haven’t forgiven Red Rum for what he did to Crisp, once walked six miles to get to Wincanton to watch Brown Chamberlain because I got off at the wrong station, yearn to sample Fakenham and nearly wet myself when Sea The Stars won the Arc. Does that get me a GCSE in racing? I don’t understand your final question. Sorry.

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