It’s a milestone any title would be proud of: 1,000 issues in print. For Steve George of Model Railroader, it’s proof positive that a passionate and connected audience will stick with you.
“In many ways, specialized interest has been around all along,” George said to Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni in a recent interview. “Obviously, with companies like [Model Railroader publisher] Kalmbach and other publishers, they’ve been doing this from day one, as in our case.
“It’s kind of a reverse Darwinism,” George continues, saying “we’re seeing that the specialized animal is one that’s surviving in the challenge market because, if they’re done well and they’re authentic enough, they’re going to find those smaller, but more passionate audiences who will stick with them through thick and thin over the years.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by many niche publishers as the swing to niche continues, regardless of how long they’ve been around. It starts with having a solid product in print.
“You’ve said this,” George says to Husni, “and you’ve heard others in the field say it; there is something about print that is innately impactful and tangible. We’re in an era where we have websites that the pages just scroll endlessly, so you don’t get the same effect with a bottomless well of interest and content that you do when you have a tangible, physical product,” George notes.
That curation effect is clearly powerful in comparing print to digital, yet it doesn’t explain the title’s longevity in the decades prior to any kind of digital footprint. For that, it comes back to being authentic and available to your target audience.
“The common thread here is that we’re as intensely passionate about producing the brands that we do in the different categories as the readers who buy those magazines and who engage with those brands. And that’s something that is consistent, even as diverse as our titles and our interest areas are, that is a consistent thread,” he explains.
One thousand issues and 83 years in, that’s still what counts in niche publishing.