I picked up the Sep 2012 MR at the local pusher this week. It came
in a bag with a 'Bonus Booklet' that looks really familiar. '8 Great
Track Plans for Small Spaces' is the title, there is a small 2010 on
the cover. Inside in the 'Contents' box it states:
For more great track planning ideas, see Model Railroader
Magazine and Model Railroad Planning 2004 on sale March 2.
Same ole deja vu all over again? I think I've got another copy of
this around here somewhere....
MR touts itself as the largest circulation model railroad magazine in the
world, which it may well be, but when it comes to content it's nowhere near
as large as the UK magazine, "Railway Modeller" which has at least twice as
many article pages.
MR has shrunk to half the number of pages it had ten years ago.
And a higher proportion than ever is staff written. That means Ordinary
Modellers aren't writing articles the way they used to. The mag can't
publish what nobody writes.
Compare Railroad Model Craftsman: longer articles, but fewer of them.
Not sure the latter half of that statement is entirely applicable.
MR has gone from being a hands on "how to" magazine to one were articles are
mainly photos, the "People Magazine" style of photo journalism and buy this
buy that "construction" articles. This may discourage many people from
Agreed. "Craftsman" still has craftsman articles whereas MR as moved away
If you pick up a copy of the UK's "Railway Modeller" you still see craftsman
In the past year, I've been starting to feel like many of the articles
are just re-hashing what has already been done over and over again. The
odd article has something new, but it seems like one is reading the
same stuff all over again.
As for nobody writing anything, I have my doubts about that. I wrote an
article on an occupancy detector that was rejected because they "don't
require a story on this particular subject at the moment."
I can recall when there was a good article about a circuit at least once
every two or three months. The last circuit article they published was
in the November 2011 issue, and it had an error that required a correction
a couple of months later.
Their rejection letter stated that "more material is submitted to Model
Railroader than we can possibly use in the magazine" but given that so
much is staff written (or written by the same contributors over and over
again), one really wonders.
I no longer subscribe to MR for the same reason, but in their defense it
may just be that we've progressed beyond the novice stage. They do seem
to be focused on the newbie and the "buy not build" modeler. I suspect
they're still helpful to the beginner.
I do subscribe to RMC and read the online MRH.
I was just pondering earlier that I have subscribed to and
downloaded and saved every issue of MRH, but I have only read about
halfway through the very first issue. Never got around to finishing it
or reading any of the others over the years. My MO for all of the paper
mags has been to read them while lying on the sofa watching TV
(multitasking). Can't hold the computer monitor on my lap or belly the
way I can with paperbacks. Even the laptop would not work as well, and
getting a tablet is not in the budget for the foreseeable future.
Not to mention being able to read it in "the reading room" - you know,
the one with the chair with a round seat with an opening in it. ;-)
Though, E-readers can be purchased for as little as $70 (here in Canada).
I was thinking it might be nice to try the e-format of MR, but they
charge $12 on top of your subsription. For some reason, I feel it should
be included if one already has the paper subscription.
If you want the e-format only, the price is the same as the paper version,
which also seems odd given that there are no printing and distribution
charges. The one benefit is for non-US subscribers, as the e-format
version costs the US price for everyone.
Many magazine publishers have still not grasped that consumers know how
cheap digital distribution is. OTOH, consumers don't realise that the
sub price for the paper mag pays for the paperwork of tracking the
subscription, and only a part of the mailing cost. The sub price is a
loss leader. The actual cost of producing each issue is paid by the
advertisers, who are of course paying for your eyeballs.
Data point 1: New Scientist offers a "Print & Web" sub for $1.94CAD per
issue (51 issues). That's really a paper sub with the web added for
free. Smartphone/tablet adds another 61 cents, which I suspect is
largely the carrier's fee. So it should be possible for Kalmbach to
offer the e-sub as a free add-on to the paper sub, and for a good deal
les for an e-only sub.
Data point 2: Some years ago, I was edited a very small circulation, 8
page fan mag, per copy cost was $1.53 (63 cents for postage, 10 cents
for the envelope, and 80 cents copying). If I'd charged minimum wage for
my work, it would have added about $100 per issue, or about $5 per copy.
If we'd paid going rates for articles, that would have been about
another $100. Total cost per copy: $11.53. Double to triple that at
today's prices. No advertising. So you can see that print media are
I used to get several magazines free merely by signing up for them
at conventions. These magazines apparently were sufficiently supported
by advertising as to not need subscriptions. They were mainly trade
magazines and included Information Week, A/V Video, and Game Developer
as well as a few others that I have forgotten since I failed to renew
them years ago. I have often wondered if they can publish with merely
advertiser support, why can't more magazines?
True, and the key is that last line.
The customer of magazines, radio stations, and television stations is
not the reader/listener/viewer. The reader/listener/viewer are the
PRODUCT that they are selling to their advertisers.
Those eyeballs tend to disappear if the subscription price and the quality
of content does not fall into an "acceptable" area. Either you find a way
to improve your content or you find a way to be able to offer it for a
lower cost, or even do both.
Getting back to MR specifically, I don't have a great issue with the
digital version being priced at a similar level as the print edition.
My issue is with not providing digital access FREE with the print
edition. I'm not about to suddenly switch versions, but am interested
in 'test driving' the digital version while I am a print subscriber.
Unlike other types of magazines, I like to keep back issues for
reference purposes. Unfortunately, having been a subscriber for over
30 years, space to keep them is getting scarce. Buying the first 75
years on DVD ROM is a good step for the old issues, but going forward
I'm beginning to think the content may not be worth the shelf space.
Being able to try out the digital format is becoming a serious
consideration for my next renewal.