With an estimated 500,000 model railroaders around the world, the hobby’s biggest publication is using a special issue publication (SIP) to promote its subscription-based video site to an older demographic of readers.
In honor of the 5th anniversary of Model Railroader Video Plus, Kalmbach Media, publisher of Model Railroader magazine, released the SIP, “Model Railroading: The Ultimate Guide,” aimed at integrating video content from the $27 per year subscription site into the brand’s more popular print platform to draw more model train-hobbyists to the digital destination.
“The SIP really serves as a catalogue for the video site,” says David Popp, founding producer and current video producer for MR Video Plus. “What we are hoping will happen with this special interest publication is that people who buy it will give MR Video Plus a look-see. Come take a look, maybe try us for a month, or try us for a year and go from there.”
While sharing the name Model Railroader, the magazine and the video hub operate almost as separate publications in terms of producing their own exclusive content and which demographics fall within their target audiences.
“The traditional Model Railroader reader is from a much older demographic. They average somewhere up in the 60s,” says Popp. “They’re spending their retirement years building these big model railroads and having a great time.”
Therefore, Popp says that this reader typically has more time on their hands to read about their hobby, allowing for more long-form, traditional stories.
“The people that follow my site, almost all of them are still actively working, so therefore, they have shorter amounts of time to do things” Popp says.
With a viewership that skews as young as high school-age, MR Video Plus accounts for the shorter available attention spans by “chunkifying” tips and topics in quick, digestible pieces. It operates on the slogan, “If you’ve got 10 minutes to sit at your desk and eat your lunch, give us 10 minutes and we’ll teach you something new.”
With a larger audience for the magazine—about 90 percent larger—Popp tells Folio: there was a desire to pull from that subscriber base to bring more of its brand loyalists to the site. “Part of the reason we did this was to see if we could create a bigger audience share for the digital product by pitching something that had a little traditional look and feel, yet the design for “The Ultimate Guide” is very different than what a standard issue of Model Railroader looks like.”
The SIP will feature topics that are already found on the video website, including how-to’s and adventure pieces that explore life-sized trains. It will also integrate the monthly columns and sections that the readers of Model Railroader are familiar with, replicating a more traditional magazine issue, yet breaking away from the long storytelling format that readers are more accustomed to.
This “chunkified” content allows the issue to maintain entry-points on every page and in each section to provide as many opportunities for readers to engage with it. “If you turn to any given page, you can almost always come away with a pull quote, a quick tip, or some other call out that just gives you a new piece of information,” says Popp. “There is not as much of your traditional ‘good read’ that you would get in the other magazine. It’s get in, get the crux of the project, and get out—and by the way, you can go watch the video of it.”
Each article is accompanied by a link to a video on the MR Video Plus site that is a part of the free playlist that comes with the SIP. Averaging 10-15 minutes long—just like the average length of the 1500 total videos on the site that is available for access with a subscription—these videos also replicate the concept of containing short attention spans.
Priced at $8.99, the SIP is available both on newsstands and in a digital edition. Popp says that the brand’s special issues, which Kalmbach produces a handful of each year, tend to be a dollar or two more than the standard newsstand price for a monthly edition, to account for the cost of creating a non-monthly copy as well as using higher quality paper and giving it a nicer finish.
While the aim is to pull views to the site, Popp says that they are really in the business of establishing relationships with readers in order to accomplish this mission, regardless of if that means only getting their email address, or becoming the go-to spot of obtaining new information.
Popp continues that subscribers to the video site often view the content creators as “buddies” and even “rock stars” in the industry. By providing a look into their personal lives, he says that the subscribers feel like they know the brand on a personal level. “I think as long as we can maintain a relationship with these people, we have lifelong customers. Most people who get into model railroading, they do it as a lifelong hobby.”
Kalmbach has already given the go ahead for “The Ultimate Guide: Volume 2,”after a successful round of pre-sales. The first guide, just hitting newsstands now, will be followed by the second in April of next year.