In a recent issue of Scale Models International something jumped out at me. On the top of page 63 in the Dec 04 issue it says "reach nearly three million active hobbyists a year for less than...." I was stunned. Three million? How can that be, are there that many of us out there.
According to their website, Scale Models Intl distributes 30,000 monthly copies. Of those, best case scenario is 70%, or 21,000 are actually sold. On that same page in the magazine, they indicate 70% of their readers are connected to the internet - so that takes the number down to about 14,700. I know their readers don't represent the entire market but how do you jump from 14,700 readers to three million hobbyists? It simply doesn't add up.
Well...all the time on this group, we see people writing in, asking where to buy this-and-that, as they do not have a local hobby shop near them. We can also assume that there are at least this many that are not anywhere near a hobby club. And seeing as this is just the ones we hear from... it makes sense that there are millions of modelers out there, that we never meet, or even hear about.
Certainly, the magazine was engaging in a "best case scenario" spiel; but I imagine that for every one modeler we know, or know of.... there are at least twenty whom we never know of.
Hard to say. Has any manufacturer ever released kit sales figures? That would be a good place to check for an idea of volume of a best-seller. What's an average production run in the various general areas of modeling?
3,000,000 out of 6,000,000,000+ That's about 0.05% of the total population (including USA, Japan, UK, France and Germany). Allowing for fewer modelers in, say the Congo, Somalia and Afghanistan would make for somewhat more here, so... I'd say its probably not too far off.
until the advent of the net, i modeled alone. the club meetings i went always seemed to reveal control freaks and other folks with personality disorders. or the know-it-alls who had to make themselves feel good at my expense. this group is positively same compared to many.
I for one am a cheapskate who goes to a big box bookstore and read all the latest issues of my favorite modelling and military type magazines and rarely buy any. Which each cover price running between $8 to $16 there is no way I can keep buying or subscribe to them. I see a lot of other browsers doing the same. So we can probably say there are something like 30 readers for every one buyer. That's only one a day for a monthly issue. Even a big box store only puts about 10 copies of any particular magazine on the shelf. You are right, even then I don't think there are a million hobbyists.
Then there is this other estimate. How many actually buy kits and supplies? Probably only a fraction of this less than a million hobbyists.
In the US the 39 USC 3685 requires magazines to publish a disclosure of how many copies were printed, sold, destroyed, etc. specifically to avoid shenanigans around this. (Advertising rates are based on distribution levels.) That being said, there is something called a "pass around rate" or the like that supposedly accounts for sharing and stuff. So, it's possible that the "reach" could be more than the total number of copies printed.
I don't know where you got your 70% "best case" number. FineScale Modeler listed:
98 given out free
I imagine SMI considers the sold/subscribed number to be their "distribution" number of 30,000 rather than the total print run. FSM is a wide distribution magazine, so their "scrap rate" is probably kinda high. A smaller mag can't be so profligate.
This all begs the question of what a 'hobbyist' is. Does it include people here who do not read FSM but glean the information second-hand? Does it include the seven-year-old-girl with the Snap Tite PT Cruiser, whose interest is held for a day or so because she gets to spend the time with Daddy, then goes back to Barbies or reading or whatever? Does it include secondary hobbyists whose primary interest is tabletop wargames, and who feel a need to assemble, paint, etc. for the sake of the game rather than as an end in itself? Does it include tissue and wood modelers, or RC flyers, or model railroad buffs who glean techniques from glancing at FSM from time to time? Apart from the occasional article on scratch-building or doing up a sailing ship or sculpting a figure, almost everything in FSM centers around styrene (or maybe resin these days), and the styrene kit market is bifurcated. There are very simple, fairly cheap models that are ideal for kids to slap together in an afternoon, and there are models that are intended for the adult market,with varying quality, cost and difficulty. The first group is probably a lot bigger, but how many of them are really 'served' by FSM? Darn few, I'd say. So, a typical issue of FSM might put 50K issues into circulation, and there are eleven or twelve issues a year, which indicates a top end in circulation of around 600K issues. The utilization of each copy has to be ten hobbyists for the math to work out, unless your notion of 'served' extends for a longer period of years, and even that presumes that no hobbyist looks at more than one issue per year. (That's about where I am.)
Another way of looking at it is that at least one person is probably reading each of the 50K that goes out in a month, that most of the mags on the rack are at least browsed through by 5 or 6 others (30 to 1 strikes me as absurd; the magazine should become unpresentable by the time the tenth 10-year-old sticky-thumbs through it), and that there is a pass-around of maybe 50% on those sold or subscribed. Library copies might well get a lot more circulation, though I don't know how many libraries actually have FSM. I'm coming out with something like 700K 'served' per year if my estimates are anywhere near correct, and even with 100% turnaround in hobbyists, it would take about eight years to get to six million. More likely that 6 meg total is computed from the date of inception of the magazine, including not only the living, but many of the dear departed.
The actual market is a lot larger than 700K if you assume that all readers are part of the market (and certainly they at least potentially are). First of all, there are probably as many people in the US and Canada that qualify for the definition of hobbyist to fulfill this claim, but who don't ever read FSM, as there are those that do. Second, the market penetration for FSM is probably proportionately much smaller for Asia, Australia and Europe than it is for North America. How many modelers of whatefver stripe are out there? If you include anyone with even a hankering to get into the hobby, you might come out around 1.2 to
1.3 million in this country (which includes a fair sample of boys who fuss with models in only the most desultory terms), and half again as many throught the rest of the world, but that's a wild-assed guess. However, I'd find it hard to believe that the scale modeling hobby doesn't interest at least 2 million people worldwide at some level (which does not rise to actual hands-on modeling for many).
They actually do mean distribution and not actual sales. In other COMSAM media kits they list sales and monthly distribution, so they clearly know the difference. For example, with SAMI they show total monthly sales of 34,900 and distribution of 48,500. Roughly a 70-71% conversion.
I doubt their numbers too. If we consider ALL genre of modelers, then I think we do get millions of folks. But SMI only deals with a few genre. RC aircraft modeling is really big. Don't forget the model railroaders.
One thing that has tremendously affected RC modeling (aircraft, boats and cars) is the advent of ready-to-fly (float, run), for those who want to operate but not build. Same thing is true for model railroading. Most folks buy their rolling stock ready made, not kits.
This has brought a lot of busy people into hobby who didn't have time to build, but do have time to operate now and then.