I Can't Decide Whether to Renew MR and Trains

Pete Steinmetz Oct 13, 2009

  1. Papa

    Papa TrainBoard Member

    I have both O scale layout and N scale, so I have in the past subscribed to O guage Railroading , Classic Toy Trains and N scale. I am dropping O gauage Railroading this year and keeping only one mag for each scale. I wish I had a local store that carried them within driving distance and if I did I would selectivley buy them locally and drop all subscriptions as only a handful each year really have enough interest for me to purchase one. Ralph.

    WDBNGAUGE TrainBoard Member

    I wish NS and NSR would merge into one really good n scale magazine......

    That way you would get quality and quantity all in one magazine instead of having to buy them seperately for half as much in each.

    As far as MR goes, I dropped my subscription years ago when I switched from HO to N scale. It seems with MR it is pretty much the same advertisements in every issue with a few articles slipped in between them with very little n scale along the way. I think MR was so much better in the past as opposed to what they are dishing up now a days. My library carries MR so I save the cost of a subscription and just get it from the library if and when there is an article of interest to me.

    I find that the boards like trainboard here offer up so much more than a magazine ever can. I have really enjoyed this trainboard for as informative and helpful as everyone has been along the way!

  3. ns1001

    ns1001 TrainBoard Member

    No doubt Classic Trains is far and away the best Kalmbach product - wish they would go bi-monthly as some of the people recalling their experiences are now very elderly and hopeful they can write it down while there is still time. Never miss CTT - into third rail also - but as for the new editor of MR well never thought I would miss Terry Thompson as editor but I do. After 30 years of reading MR every months have become bored with it and now only purchase some issues.
  4. Rossford Yard

    Rossford Yard TrainBoard Member

    Haven't read the entire thread but this comes up every few months.

    My advice is to sign up again, perhaps holding out a month. I think if you let it actually expire, sometimes they send you better deal offers than if you renew automatically. I could be wrong since that is just memory from my last expiration.

    But, unless you are down to your last $43 MR budgeted dollars I think you get that much per month in reading enjoyment. Compare it to a movie, or a shelf queen loco you have to have, etc. It's cheap and MR probably still helps the hobby more than almost anyone else by being there for newbies, etc. Magazines might be the new LHS in that we should support them even if not perfect (pretty high standards we set!) for the good of the hobby.

    I would add that you would be a better customer (and perhaps hobbyist) if you both supported them and politely gave them feedback on what you like and don't like so they can improve, rather than just walk away. That said, until they come out with a monthly magazine catering perfectly to what I like, I won't hold my breath and say the mag stinks. They all vary in content from month to month.

    But, subsribing is cheaper per good article overall, even agreeing in advance to take all of them rather than pick and choose at full price every month at the LHS. At an average price of $3.50 per issue, vs $6, they only have to bat 50% for you to come out ahead on the deal.

    If, in your opinion they don't come close to that, then end your subscription, but also send them a note explaining why. If you are a long time modeler, you might find (as I sometimes do) that the articles aimed at beginners aren't suitable for you anymore, etc. But, then my suggestion was to really make the special issues more aimed at veteran modelers, for instance.
  5. Pete Nolan

    Pete Nolan TrainBoard Supporter

    I think Jeff has skirted an issue that bothers me as a writer. I got paid for an article for the first time 43 years ago. While I made my living as a corporate writer, the magazines were good for some extra dollars while raising four kids.

    Today magazines in all fields are struggling. If they fail, who's going to pay the writers and photographers? If writers and photographers are not paid, who is going to generate the content? I do it for free here, but I turn some of what I post into articles for N-Scale Magazine for pay.

    I've lately renewed subscriptions to a number of magazines, almost as a social duty to keep them alive. And I'll never throw out my old Model Railroaders or Railroad Model Craftsmans--they are a treasure-trove of great stuff at my level.

    I bought a recent issue of a model railroad magazine to read on an airplane. I left it on the airplane--there was nothing that interested me enough to keep it.

    I will say this after 40-something years of writing--once content dies, it's gone forever. Articles and drawings about a coal tower--good luck in a few years unless you like micro-fiche at the library.
  6. Rossford Yard

    Rossford Yard TrainBoard Member


    I actually didn't think of that angle, and I should have. As it happens, I write two different columns - one free on the internet and one for an industry mag, which I am working on as we speak.

    I actually feel pretty lucky - I get $425 a month for this which is my spending money. I played golf with two veteran journalists on Monday and was embarrassed to find that one gent, well known in his field, is now getting only $150 per article and he is a real pro, while I am not.

    Its even worse on the net. As I said, I write for free there, but there are some quid pro pro extras. But in general, since the advent of the web, the job description has been changed to "content providers" and providing the content has been severely devalued.

    This, when I recall a Time Magazine article from a decade ago in another bad recession that touted two of my favorite mags - MR and Golf Digest as among the best and most stable. Why? Mostly because their content was "right on" rather than an afterthought to ads.

    Their editors and writers were said to also be enthusiasts and able to generate very on topic material, often because they generated it for their own use, and were so involved in the hobby that it often came out as useful to others. I know GD is now a big corporate owned mag, but MR stil has a fighting chance.

    However, if they rely on free stuff (and they do it less than others) or reduce payments, it might affect their content. I guess I am left wondering just why the content seems so poor to most?

    Is it the repetive nature of beginners projects?

    Is the hobby now more spread out that covering it all naturally means less coverage of particular interest to any one modeler subset?

    Have they lost an edge by not promoting some new fangled trend like DCC, etc.?

    Do they kow tow too much to advertisers and slightly less to modelers?

    Or is the content just somehow inherently more flawed compared to the old days? I for one don't mind the briefer articles and more pictures - I think its a plus in how to articles, not to mention its the style now. Thanks USA Today! Some love the old articles, but I find them poorly written, windy, etc. and think much of the new stuff is better.
  7. N7CZ

    N7CZ TrainBoard Member

    I spend my subscription dollars on web sites such as Trainboard.com. It is a much better deal than MR or RMC, IMHO! Not only do you get similar quality content as you do in the printed mags, but you interactive feedback! Something the print mags just can't give you. So, I say pony up and become a trainboard supporter :thumbs_up::thumbs_up:, and let those ADD-FILLED printed magazines sit on the shelf at the store until there is something in them that you want in particular. (that reads a bit harsh. Sorry. Not intended to be harsh.)


  8. Chaya

    Chaya TrainBoard Supporter

    A possibility that you didn't mention is that the model railroad magazines aren't getting the quality stuff they used to from modelers in the hobby. I know trying to get good articles is hard for the N scale magazines, and I wonder if that is so for MR as well, since most of their content is written by their own staff. I like their staff, but 1) They have lost some really talented modelers, and 2) A small group of people can only write so many articles before it begins to sound redundant.

    What is needed is many, many people generating quality content. Different points of view, different ideas and techniques. Could it be that this happens less than it used to--and could that be because so many would-be authors are putting their work on the internet instead? It's an easier and faster way to share--and it reaches more people.

    Or does MR get less content than it used to because it has practically declared war on text? It's hard for the average modeler to generate dozens of perfect photos--and a little boring as well.

    I liked READING the old MR's. Pages and pages of text and some imperfect photos--by people other than the staff.
  9. Pete Nolan

    Pete Nolan TrainBoard Supporter


    I think this is the developing conundrum. In my best year of MR writing (four articles), I made less than one percent of my income from publishing MR-related articles. I suspect that most modelers with large, well-developed railroads are like me: well-established professionals who eventually get around to publishing, mostly because people (including editors) have been bugging them. When I've published some 3000 articles in my career, another one in a hobby magazine is not an ego thrill. Magazines go to staff-written articles when the supply of free-lance articles dries up.

    Yet the magazines can not pay more, because circulation is declining, which means that ad revenues are declining.

    I think this means the hobby will be depending more and more on writers (or "content providers") who are willing to work (or "share content") for free. I think that's not going to happen until a new model of revenue is developed for the Internet. In the near future there's going to be a dip in the quality and quantity of MR information. The best writers--or content providers--are going to get squeezed out, and stop writing or providing.

    I see a drop-off even now. While there is a wave of new writers coming of age, they too will get disillusioned over time.

    CHARGER TrainBoard Member

    We are letting our Trains subscription run out next month. I will say I enjoy the content and read almost every article in every issue. But I don't think I get $43 dollars worth of enjoyment out of it, and there are a lot of other things both RxR related and not that I would rather spend the money on. Another point I'd offer is the last three train shows and two railroad museums I visited all had back issues of Trains and MR for sale for a buck each. Some issues were as new as 2-3 months old.

    For $30 or less for the year I would be renewing, and that poses the question, at what price would it take to get you to subscribe to the mags? I'd be interested to see the marketing dept. projections if they dropped their price $5-12 dollars a year how many more people would sign up?
  11. Rossford Yard

    Rossford Yard TrainBoard Member


    There are a couple of guys in DFW who have mag worthy layouts, but have submitted them and been turned down until they get better photography. MR will edit the articles for them, and computer draw the track plans, but who is going to submit their layout if they need to pay a professional photographer to do it in addition to not getting paid?

    The other thing I would foresee without independent payment is that the articles would start coming from sources that would benefit from the free advertising, i.e. scenery articles from Woodland Scenics, or more likely, a new company looking for free publicity. We certainly see more advertiser related articles now, probably in return for keeping their advertising in place at a certain fee - a free pump in the body of the mag in addition to the ad.

    I don't disagree with those who frequent the net (check my post count!) and it probably will become the new source for real and real time modeling info. Tough times for print media and no real strategies for staying profitable that I have seen. Its just hard to sell what you can get for free on the net, I guess.

    Related topic - how frequently do any of you download stuff from the information station at MR.com? I got an email ad yesterday for a pdf. on "Visiting Compact Layouts" for $8.95. Is this catching on? It should, but so far I have not been tempted.
  12. brakie

    brakie TrainBoard Member


    Actually getting a article publish in MR is easier said then done.One HO club I was a member of several years ago sent a article in about the club and it was rejected after correcting the article by THEIR guide lines it was still rejected.The layout was and remains a quality layout that features some top notch modeling.

    Maybe the article was rejected due to the numerous Athearn locomotives? After all MR seems to favor pictures of expensive high end equipment on Godzilla size layouts..
  13. bnsf971

    bnsf971 TrainBoard Member

    I bought an MR about this time last year, and it sat on the coffee table, unread, until August of this year. I finally picked it up, leafed through it, and tossed it. I get more out of Trains, probably because of my involvement with the 1:1 version over the years, but that may prove what was said in a previous post about it becoming more trade-oriented.
    I like Kirk's magazine, and will continue to purchase it, because I am supporting the best efforts of a friend. It also has more content I can use, rather than the, umm, "rookie-oriented" articles found in MR.
  14. brakie

    brakie TrainBoard Member

    Terry,IMHO I fully believe in the coming years modelers will read magazines/e-magazines that deals with their modeling scale and interest.I fully believe the days of general model magazines is fading into the sunset because the worm has turned again for the hobby as future modelers will be more focus on modeling realistically as possible instead of generic modeling that is common today.
  15. Chaya

    Chaya TrainBoard Supporter

    Exactly my point, yes. The old MR's that were so great had dark, nasty old black & white photos--and it didn't matter. The important ingredients were lots of great text, photos that were "pretty good for an amateur," and new ideas from different people. Now we've got a "coffee table book" written by the same group of guys. Over and over again. I WANT to see all those articles they're rejecting.

    Writing articles for magazines has never been a great way to earn a living (to say the least). It was always done for love. Being able to post your stuff on the internet has all the advantages and none of the disadvantages.

    OTOH, perhaps MR demands professional photos and limited text because their own market research tells them that without that, they won't be able to sell the magazine.

    I've bought their Download Station stuff twice. The price seemed stiff for having to use my own color ink to print it. The one that didn't need color ink was worth every penny, though--an article on yards. I learned a lot from it. If I had the money I would probably buy more PDF's.
  16. Chaya

    Chaya TrainBoard Supporter

    That may be. MR seems to have extremely high standards: ordinary layouts or how-to's by ordinary people don't make the cut. Maybe they're trying to protect their marketability, but I'd be surprised if their solution--getting staff to write everything--is the right one in the end.

    I know the MR staff get out and make friends in the hobby. Used to be, they could get those friends to write articles. The staff often traveled out to take the photos. Maybe everyone is too busy these days?
  17. rschaffter

    rschaffter TrainBoard Member

    I'm fortunate in that my Library has Trains (sans photos) available online at no cost to cardholders, so you might check with your library.

    They actually have MR online as well, but it is not as useful without the photos!
  18. mcjaco

    mcjaco TrainBoard Member

    Nope. I know David Popp came down to take pictures of my friend's layout (the one used in the steel girder construction artcle a few years back), and he helped write it.

    My friend basically dropped him an email stating what he was up to, and it went from there.

    I don't subscribe to either. I end up grabbing my Dad's copies after he's done with them, a few months later. I figure I'm saving trees, and my Dad can't throw anything out, so it's helping my Mom keep the clutter down LOL. I still read through all of them front to back, even if it's not something that I think will be interesting. Usually, I find some nugget in there that piques my interest. I do know that their requirements for photos are pretty steep, which I think most of us can't stomach. I have a little POS 4 megapixel Nikon, I'm not going to spend hundred of dollars on a 14 MP camera to submit pictures for an article. So, in that regard, I think they've narrowed the pool of contributors significantly.

    As for the other N scale mags, I don't typically buy them, and I don't subscribe. Occasionally, I'll pick one up when I know a friend wrote an article, but otherwise, I haven't seen much in them to keep me waiting for the next one.
  19. JoeW

    JoeW TrainBoard Supporter

    Got to get in on this one.

    I just could not hold myself back from entering this dialog. That is because it appeals to many categories of interest I have in the hobby. First I am model railroad enthusiast second I am a model railroad advertiser (although not recently) third I am an internet content provider.

    As a Model railroad enthusiast I am in agreement with many of you and your opinion about Trains and Model Railroader mags. I have to admit that my model railroading has greatly improved because of the internet and the way the information flows freely. It is not so much that it is free that makes it better though. It is really about speed and interaction of many others with the same interest.

    There are many forms of content provision available on the web. From people with a personal layout page to groups of individuals gathered to be a resource. In all this I do sense that there is an underlying desire to find revenue in the future for some of these efforts. There really is some high quality stuff currently available on the web today for free. However people are always willing to pay for value. What I am saying is I don’t think that it will always flow as freely as it has been.

    Kalambach publishing has been a deliverer of high quality printed content information for many years. They seem to be making an effort to figure out how they will fit into the digital revolution. But like many of those in the printed information business they are experiencing some real challenges. They have a significant investment in the way they’ve done things. Part of that investment is becoming obsolete but not all of it. I think they will have to move more quickly, adapt and learn the new media as it evolves. That may mean shedding weight along the way. But I do think they will come through like they have in other difficult times.

    Since this dialog started form an N scaler’s perspective I think it is good to look back from where we began. In my opinion it wasn’t until early 1970’s that N scale began to evolve as a modeling scale. It was MR or RMC that would bring us an occasional article specific to our scale. They did a respectable job for us considering they had a multiple of scales and categories to cover. It wasn’t until 1989 that we received a specific publication about N scale. If you revisit those publications I think you will find that the articles were driven by the author’s enthusiasms, spirit and passion for the hobby. It is the publications job to recognize how best deliver it to us. I think our enthusiasm as model Railroaders will continue to provide us with content. It is the selling and sharing of it that is up for grabs.

    The good thing is there are many of concerned about our hobby and there seems to be a desire to protect it. That is what comes forth in this particular dialog. After considering the content of this forum I am convinced that our hobby is alive and well. We are intelligent consumer with a long term interest in our hobby. I am excited about where were going and I am pleased with where we have been and how well it has been recorded.
  20. RatonMan

    RatonMan TrainBoard Member

    Fortunately, if you are a Santa Fe fan as I am, the ATSF H&MS is out there with it's quarterly magazine and it's ALL Santa Fe! I will buy a mag off the rack ONLY if it has an ATSF article, or more. Otherwise, I sit in Borders, or B&N and read them over a cup of coffee. They just aren't worth it.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 19, 2009

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