Keep things simple if you covet mass appeal
Robin Gibson hacks though racing's digital jungle
The final slabs are set in the crazy-paving path to the Derby. It's all down to Epsom now, and Poundland. But you've got to say their app is disappointing (Epsom's – Poundland haven't got one). It's just a drink-orderer. A vodka's four quid and a pint's a fiver; not that bad, but you have to go to Epsom to pick them up.
The Derby website is not disappointing but, like the macaroni cheese in the canteen, it's not going to surprise you. They haven't changed the imaginative but straining slogans for ages (and 'Lords Of The Ring, Kings Of The Hill' is now missing something). At least it's not terrible.
Look at Get Surrey. This turned up when I Googled "Who knows about the Derby?" An existential query, but worth asking. You suspect not so many do nowadays.
Predictably the Kentucky Derby swarmed all over it, but the Get Surrey site was top for the actual Derby. There was a reason: their headline said 'all you need to know'. People love 'all you need to know', although by now they must have twigged it won't be.
Get Surrey then promises: "from tickets and where to park, to DJs and what to wear, take a look at our guide". Fair enough. When you look up a sporting event, before you commit, the DJs and what to wear are the main things.
So that's okay. But is it? Every week you come across some website that mangles the mind with banality. Step up Get Surrey. They've got good Derby SEO, but here are some items from 'What's On': 'Muse release single ahead of Reading [not Surrey] festival'; 'The Only Way Is Essex's Dan Edgar to hold birthday bash in Guildford'; 'When is The Handmaid's Tale coming to Channel 4? What time is it on and what is it about?'
That last one's good, you've got to admit. A wide-ranging story of interest to more or less everyone in Surrey: those who really want to see The Handmaid's Tale, those who can't quite manage to look up TV listings and those who don't know anything about it at all.
Even if you wanted to read it, it's so full of ads, pop-up videos and non-essential visual rubble it's near-impossible. It's the price users pay for free info and it's not only the relative media tiddlers of Surrey who demand it. But when it hurts to consume the product without paracetamol it's not worth it.
It's difficult to say who's going to win the Derby but it probably won't be a female jockey. Last week's report on gender in racing went mildly viral, like a light summer cold. An interesting survey, this, on women's experience in racing, not least because almost 20 per cent of participants were male.
The internet is a boon for reports. They used to be read by only a few interested parties. Now everyone can read them any time they like. And they're more widely covered, partly out of interest and partly to help fill the infinite electronic void.
Women in Racing, who are behind the report, have a good website. A solid approach has helped the organisation thrive. For a start, they've got a proper name with initials (WiR), not an incomprehensible 'app' name like Clicklr or Pandoza.
By the way entrepreneurs, did you know you don't need to make up those crazed names? No! You can go to an app name generator. Key in key words and it will belch them out. 'Women' and 'horse racing' gets you Joxly, DaisyAnn, Womica (!), Buxmo (!!) and dozens more, all of questionable effect. My favourite is Dynabump.
Cut out 'women' and you get even more. Bronxo and Equario are okay. FarmDeck and Qobbu are rubbish. Horrse and Racingg are beyond satire.
Back to WiR. It's got membership fees, a mark of a proper set-up. It's got a mentor programme. It's got a lot of good stuff and nothing flashing, popping up or distracting you. And it has spent a long time making sure the report is a good, reliable report. Several years apparently. Several years! There's been progress for women since then, and not only in racing. I mean, one appears to be in sole charge of the country.
Another area for progress is US turf racing. There's a decent website devoted to it, TurfTalk360. There's some interesting writing by Gary West, advocate-closing-on-evangelist for the alien landscape.
But however well-put his points, his closing assertion that "America’s best racing has moved to the turf, and the best horses are following, along with fans and bettors" has the ring of Woody Allen's dictator in Bananas. "Hear me. l am your new president. From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish." You just can't be sure the masses will play along. Yet.
The secret of mass appeal might lie in an old Portakabin in Stoke. News, or information, has arrived that bet365 is the most searched-for bookie. Yes! Total exposure to Ray Winstone's dislocated napper and vexatious barking has conditioned the public to view betting and bet365 as near-synonymous – the firm's reward for shutting the Portakabin and devoting their effort to the internet.
The news, or information, came from Bookmaker Ratings, which has a glamorous team for an anoraky site. If you enjoy reviews of bookmakers, you might enjoy this. BR takes an international outlook and rates bookies from five stars ("elite") to one ("fraudulent bookmakers, whose only goal is to steal from their players" – hmm).
Most familiar names rank three-plus; Coral might be surprised to find they're a two-star jalopy. Something to do with Russia. Everything is nowadays.
There's a thing about dealing with losing, which everyone must do, except the prime minister. First, you need to ask yourself: "Is losing or being wrong something I can handle in general life?" It's a tough one, but no.