You no doubt heard that a great way to market a sport is by its publications. Whether a magazine is available through subscription, a freebie, or a magazine available in a doctor's office waiting room where someone has idle time, a magazine can be a great way to introduce a sport to a newcomer to induce them to sample the standardbred racing product.
Harness racing has such a magazine, unfortunately it is not Hoof Beats, the official publication of the USTA, but TROT, a publication of Standardbred Canada. This is not to say Hoof Beats is a bad magazine; quite the contrary, it's target audience is geared towards the membership of the USTA which is 95% breeders, trainers, and owners. It's attraction to the general public unfortunately is next to zero; to them, it reads like a college text book. Yes, reading about the major races may be interesting, but really how many people outside the industry care about the breeding of a particular horse, a recap of horse's campaign over the past three years, reading tips about shoeing or training tips? Again, it is not meant as a criticism of the publication, Editor T.J. Burkett puts out a great magazine, for the intended audience.
As for TROT, the audience is still intended for Standardbred Canada's membership and make no mistake, is an industry publication, but it is a magazine which can be picked up by someone from the general population and read with interest. The reading is not text bookish and the photography is appropriate for the magazine. If you are looking for statistics, you are not going to find it in TROT, nor are you going to find stories you can find on the Internet. You can read about the Hambletonian on the web, why repeat the story in a publication a couple of months later? Their goal is fresh and interesting, they seek out compelling stories that their members would appreciate as well as newcomers. I believe Editor Daryl Kaplan and Associate Editor Kimberly Fisher has produced the perfect magazine for the seasoned veteran, the newcomer, and the potential customer.
As an example, there is a section called Across The Board (ATB), which is pure human interest. In every edition, there is a story on Generation Next, which talks about the next generation of horsemen (woman), whether they are still a student with an involvement in the sport or someone who just finished school and is starting out. Their Coast to Coast section, describes a horsemen outside of Ontario who while trying to make a living racing horses, does it for the love of the game. In the November edition of TROT, there is a story about Nicholas Boyd, talking about his philosophy regarding racing (some may not like it), his involvement with a millionaire on a reality show to invest in a horse and while not successful, gets others to invest in the business.
For sure, there is hard news, an interview with the head of Standadrdbred Canada regarding his first year with the organization, and there are also some unusual stories. Last year there was a feature on Finnish Driver, Riina Rekila, a person who could model in any magazine. This year, there is a feature playing on the the theme of The Real Women of, by having the Real Women of Harness Racing, featuring the women behind the leading driver in the sport and give their thoughts on the business.
The point is the articles tend to be short and draw people in, even if not involved in the sport. For example, my wife, who is not a big supporter of harness racing enjoys reading TROT, as most of the stories also have that bit of human interest to them. If the referenes weren't primarily Canadian, TROT is a magazine you could see in a doctor's office and attract readers and maybe get people to try the product which normally would not.
I guess we shouldn't be surprised at the the difference between the two publications. I have always found Standardbred Canada to be more progressive than the USTA, so it should't surprise me their magazines reflect that progression as well.
If you haven't read TROT, you should read it along with your Hoof Beats. Unfortunately, the magazine is a bit pricey for those in the United States, but it is well worth it. When you are done with your TROT magazine, make sure you leave it in a doctor's office; you may attract someone new to the sport.