A good bet from NZ Racing Board
The New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB) owns a weekly publication called Best Bets which provides form information to support TAB betting and racing. For many years the publication (average 176 pages) was produced using web offset printing technology, and distributed via the magazine distribution model run by Gordon & Gotch.
Compilation and formatting of the data required for the publication was dependent on a legacy computer system and the institutional knowledge of one employee. To generate a print ready file took half a day, and limited the options available around location and print technology because there was a very small production window in which to meet the courier pick-up deadline. The publication was produced as if it were a newspaper – rapid printing on low quality newsprint, and looked the same as it did 25 years earlier.
Best Bets was distributed to over 3,500 outlets on
a Sale or Return basis, including numerous dairies, service stations, book stores. The algorithm used by Gordon & Gotch to determine how many copies were distributed to each outlet was based on their whole suite of magazines, and largely driven by historical sales with no input from the outlets themselves. It didn’t take account, for instance, of where race meetings were being held and how that might influence the current week’s demand.
On average, only half of the produced books were actually sold, so all the printing and distribution costs of the other half were effectively wasted. The end result for NZRB was that Best Bets ran at a significant loss and was in danger of being closed.
NZRB approached Blue Star and were looking for a holistic view of future options. The proposed solution had a number of components:
- A new compilation and data formatting system had to be developed. (In total there are over 600,000 data points provided per week in the XML format plus a database of 60,000 Silks images (Jockey Strip Images) that is maintained separately as a look up table database)
- An improved finished product was needed, providing better quality for the colour images and adding value to the punters in terms of clarity, layout, appearance
- A streamlined distribution system had to be implemented that incorporated fewer outlets, allowed input for weekly orders from the outlets themselves, and provided a subscription service for punters who wanted books delivered direct to their home
- Future developments needed to include how Best Bets could be used as an on-course book and how it could be customised for individuals or groups e.g. include/exclude trotting races, include/exclude Australian races
The Blue Star Advantage
Working with customers at concept stage, or early in the development process, invariably results in better outcomes. Our understanding of the creative process, our knowledge of the publishing market, our core IT skills, meant we could contribute significantly to the final decisions that NZRB needed to make.
Blue Star’s investment over the last 2 years in our digital capability enabled us to deploy Quadient software to handle the multiple data points and to generate outputs for printing and online publishing, and to use high speed digital inkjet equipment for producing the book to high standards, efficiently and quickly.
We recommended reducing the number of outlets, eliminating those with low sales, and promoting the TAB’s own outlets. Our IT expertise saw an ordering system installed where each outlet places their orders by Wednesday midday each week and that data is used to determine the weekly production quantity. Outlets are also more accountable for their weekly sales. We also set up a subscription service where we collect the fees, arrange delivery, and report to NZRB.
Best Bets is now breaking even.
Overwhelming feedback is that the product has been significantly enhanced.
The book is ready to print within half an hour of the data being received. This has meant production can be completed for courier pick up on Wednesday afternoon and over 90% of the books are delivered on Thursday morning. That same data will be used for electronic distribution, and soon for upload to the TAB website.
We have produced prototypes for on-course books using the base data from Best Bets and allowing customisation for each racing club. This is expected to double the volume of books produced.