By Jenny Bridle
In our continuing “Does horse racing really need?” series, another take on the tipsters question is to look at it from a longer, more historical perspective. Indeed, it seems as though the racing powers that be missed the memo because, really, the problem with tipsters is that they are so 30 years ago.
The world has changed and in huge ways. And, no, I’m not going to rabbit on about technology and technological change. We all know about that — the rate of technological change, the Internet of things, the exponential growth in the number and variety of technology/digital-dependent gadgets. What’s missing from this picture is a deeper understanding of how these changes have affected and continue to affect human consumer behaviour.
This is not the time either to be going on about metrics and the analytics of behaviour, not that they don’t have any importance in some discussions. It’s the time to say, hey, wait a minute, what’s the biggest impact revolutions have on people? — And we’ve surely had a technology revolution over the past 30 years – revolutions don’t just change institutions, bring down walls; revolutions change the social fabric and, most importantly, they change the way people think.
What’s the greatest revolution in the history of Western Civilization? People will say the invention of the wheel, finding and knowing how to use “zero,” the invention of the stirrup and gunpowder.
But I’ve always thought the answer to this should be the printing press. As the use of printing presses grew from 1440 onwards, so too did the availability of information and very gradually, the rate of literacy increased as well until finally there were demands for change which resulted in the redefinition of the Western World.
Today, we are in a similar information revolution. For the first time in human history we have the most information available – be it good bad or ugly – about every topic conceivable and about some topics only now in embryonic form. There’s so much information out there, from so many sources, with varying overt and veiled agendas, that it’s easy to have trust issues. This is because information takes you to what Hemingway once described as the other side of Cezanne’s apple. That “other” may be something as a person, you did not really want to see.
For racing the information revolution is a double edged sword. The sport is being shown in some cases from what are some very dark sides of the moon. So much for “engagement.”
More importantly, as technological change outstrips the presentation, fans and punters are learning and demonstrating that they can and will vote with their feet. They are using the information made possible by the technology, both of which allow them to do their own thing. Both hard core and newbie punters can, via technology, have horseracing how, when and where they want. What do they need tipsters for? Hard-core punters only need unvarnished information such as track work and PPs. Newbies and others don’t need tipsters, they need the information presented with objectivity as an educational piece, no lecturing or arrogance allowed, by teachers who genuinely want their students to succeed, and win at their favourite game.
They may have the information at hand but they don’t have the experience, knowledge and understanding that goes with it. You may give someone the leather and tools to make a pair of designer shoes – but somehow I doubt many would want to wear them! In the experienced hands you’ll be walking into Gucci and paying top dollar. Like it or not, many tipsters know a good deal more than the average Joe.