The end of RAIL MAGAZINE?

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Haig paxton

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I have recently unsubscribed from Rail magazine after five years. The reason for this is that I feel it is becoming too political and the editor has a clear pro-Tory, pro-privatisation agenda. Every fortnight it is loaded with stories about HS2, editorials that deride Network Rail yet champion the TOCs. There is much less content on actual operations and trains. The operative on the phone told me that there are a few cancelled subscriptions per day for the same reasons. Thoughts?
 
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Welly

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I gave up on that mag 20 years ago as I could not stand it coming fortnightly rather than monthly but I can hardly describe RAIL being in danger of ending!
 

NSEFAN

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A view on the political side is important, as politics is half of the reasoning behind the behaviour of the modern railway.
 

47513 Severn

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RAIL has be moving away from the enthusiast market for many years. It has instead become a trade magazine for the railway industry and why not? There are several other enthusiast oriented publications out there that are arguably better than RAIL ever was in that respect. It can still be an interesting read although I tend to get through it in about half an hour these days.

Nigel Harris (BA Hons!) seems to get quite a lot of stick in the enthusiast world but I imagine the publishers are pleased with the way he has moved RAIL from that crowded market to the railway professional sector which was previously untapped.

I just wish he would stop printing Barry Doe's drivel!
 
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welshpax

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I used to subscribe and had every issue from Number 1, I realised about 3 years ago that it no longer interests me, I agree with the OP that it has become political and in my opinion doesn't really have a market anymore, if I want something semi technical then I get Modern Railways and if I was something for the enthusiast then I buy The Railway Magazine.

Of course this is just my opinion and I am sure it differs from many other people :)
 

Harbornite

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I used to subscribe and had every issue from Number 1, I realised about 3 years ago that it no longer interests me, I agree with the OP that it has become political and in my opinion doesn't really have a market anymore, if I want something semi technical then I get Modern Railways and if I was something for the enthusiast then I buy The Railway Magazine.

Of course this is just my opinion and I am sure it differs from many other people :)

Surely if there wasn't a market then it would have been axed? I wonder how sales of RAIL are doing in comparison to other mags on this topic.
 

jon0844

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Enthusiasts for just about anything these days probably get what they want from the Internet. I work in technology and print is all but dead, and websites suffer as the readership are very clued up on ad blockers.

I do think industry publications (online and print) still have a future. People in an office environment possibly value something in their hands, to pass to colleagues and also archive.

Any advertising is likely going to command higher rates than consumer sites, especially now social media can bypass normal sites and go straight to the public.

I am sure many titles for enthusiasts will struggle in the future, if not already.
 

Harbornite

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Enthusiasts for just about anything these days probably get what they want from the Internet. I work in technology and print is all but dead, and websites suffer as the readership are very clued up on ad blockers.

I do think industry publications (online and print) still have a future. People in an office environment possibly value something in their hands, to pass to colleagues and also archive.

Any advertising is likely going to command higher rates than consumer sites, especially now social media can bypass normal sites and go straight to the public.

I am sure many titles for enthusiasts will struggle in the future, if not already.


The railway magazine reported that its sales have been increasing.
 

Ianigsy

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I haven't bought Rail in about 15 years, partly because I needed to economise and go down to one railway magazine a month, and partly because it was becoming a trade journal with a couple of heritage articles, presumably to keep the long term buyers happy. Not surprised that The Railway Magazine has been doing better of late- it goes out of its way to offer something for everybody and seems to be well regarded in the industry so it gets exclusives that others wouldn't.
 

yorksrob

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There's nothing like having a journal with pictures and articles in your hands to read.

Rail Magazine still manages to do some really good articles on various aspects of the industry, even though the grinding of editorial axes can be tiresome at times.
 

richw

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I pick up Rail and something like Autocar when I am off on my travels or camping. Don't bother when i'm sitting at home. Do find it interesting to read every now and again but would get bored if I had 2 copies a month.
In 2015, Rail magazine sold 20,063 copies, a 0.4% increase on previous year.
The top selling railway magazine was Railway Magazine at 37,291 which had a 0.7% increase.
The average UK magazine readership fell 4%, and only 60 of 422 publications saw increased sales in 2015.

These figures include digital sales.
 

richw

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For clarity, is that per issue?

The source suggests annual, most magazines on the list are between 10000 and 40000.
Free issue magazines are in the millions- such as the National Trust members issue
 

theblackwatch

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Those ABC figures are average sales per issue. Rail's was over 40,000 in the 80s, but it's hovered around the 20,000 mark for the past few years.
 

RichmondCommu

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Bring back the rail tour reviews. They were the best bit. Why did they get rid of them? If you've got a rail tour then surely you've got a rail tour review?
 

richw

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Those ABC figures are average sales per issue. Rail's was over 40,000 in the 80s, but it's hovered around the 20,000 mark for the past few years.

hadnt realised it was per issue. As a fortnightly magazine will mean more annual sales than any other railway magazine in that case.
 

jon0844

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If the magazine is aiming to become more of an industry magazine, I wonder if it gives away any copies to boost the circulation? That's quite common for trade publications, although advertisers tend to prefer paid-for copies, as people generally hang on to something they paid for.

Free newspapers in the millions are of course valuable too, but somewhere in-between you have free titles in the thousands that are often chucked away by recipients and considered junk mail. I have managed to stop getting a lot of trade titles that I had no interest in, but someone at the publisher would be counting to try and get more advertising money for!
 

SpacePhoenix

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Does an "industry magazine/journal" already exist that many in the industry will already get?
 

whoosh

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RAIL magazine:

Photos of 'Industry Leaders' at lecturns at awards ceremonies.

Yawn.
 

Greenback

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I gave up on it around six years ago, and my interest in the type of articles the magazine produced had been on the wane for some time before that.

I think it was a bot too much of a [product for the enthusiast in the mid 1990's, but around the end of the decade I started buying it again. It seemed to be at it's peak between the late 90's and mid 00's, if you accept my definition of peak as being most closely aligned with my own interests!

After that, it seemed that the magazine started drifting towards being an industry magazine, much as Modern Railways had done a decade or so before. I started to get bored with the articles focusing on 'industry leaders' and how good HS2 will be.

Now it's Today's Railways or The Railway magazine for me.
 

yorksrob

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It's interesting, I grew up reading Railway Magazine in the early 90's, but don't tend to buy it now as I find it's balance has shifted a bit to much towards the heritage side of things now.

Modern Railways has always been an industry journal and that's what makes it interesting in many ways - a certain amount of technical information along with good pithy columnists.

Whilst I agree with others on here that Rail can go overboard on the multiple page interviews with industry leaders, I enjoy a certain amount of discussion around the politics and economics of the railway. Rail included some interesting articles on the new TPE and Northern franchises recently.
 

SpacePhoenix

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I wonder how many people stopped reading it when Model Rail was split off from it to become a magazine in its own right
 

Greenback

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We are all different, but I didn't see Modern Railways as an industry magazine in the 1980's and early 1990's. In those pre internet days I found it very good for news, and I recall some very interesting features on freight operations. Generally, there was plenty to interest me in each issue.

At the same time, Rail seemed to be more focused on spotters, for want of a better word, with lots of articles about individual locomotives and classes from what I remember.

Those were the two magazines that I bought the most between 1983 and 2006. I more or less stopped with MR around 2000 because I considered it had become far too technical and engineering led. In recent years, I feel that Rail has moved more towards the interests of the industry insider. That doesn't mean my perceptions are right, it's only the way I see things. I'd be interested to find out how much the internet has impacted on these mags, as I can see how the readership will have moved to the web for up to date news on what's going on, leaving them to fill their pages with something else.

Perhaps that has helped move the RAIL title into being less of a general interest publication and more focused to a particular market?

(My problem with discussing RAIL is that I haven't even looked at an issue in a shop for a couple of years, so things may change and I won't know!)
 

Taunton

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I think the focus on industry staff is mainly driven by the advertising revenue. I do believe that payment for magazines covers little more than the actual circulation costs (a far larger proportion of total magazine costs than you might think), and the advertising income covers the rest. Unfortunately, if you can get the circulation numbers and thus the advertising, then the editorial content becomes secondary.

I did have Rail magazine for a few years in the late 1980s, but like one mentioned above I gave it up when it became fortnightly, mainly because the same amount of editorial content was then just spread more thinly.

Bring back the rail tour reviews. They were the best bit.
There was a railtour review writer at that time called Maxey who had a notably witty yet penetrating style, in the spirit of Ian Walmsley nowadays in Modern Railways (actually, only as I write this I wonder if it was indeed IW as a nom-de-plume in his younger years).

Modern Railways seems to have made the greatest transition to being an insiders journal, particularly for management staff, yet the ads, a significant proportion of which are for enthusiast-type product, are a bit of a giveaway for those who are buying it. Unfortunately even it, at the top of the tree, has gone rather too far down the "just reprint the press releases" route, as is apparent by some of the PR waffly stuff that can appear regurgitated, which you would have thought it's editor James Abbot would have picked up in a moment.
 

jon0844

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Advertising would once cover your costs, and often secure money for a year or more (series bookings locked in) and the cover price brought extra profit.

Now it's hard to know what ad revenue you'll have in the current issue, let alone a 6 or 12 month period. Cue last minute deals for peanuts, or even free ads repeated if there's no easy editorial or filler ads left.

Suffice to say, many people have had no choice but to hire low paid staff 'reporters' to regurgitate press releases. In many cases, an editor will be forced to write up a non-story or do a boring feature just to mention the names of potential advertisers.

I've seen so many ad sales people using the 'Hey, we've just featured you in the latest issue - would you like to take an ad?' and it is down to desperation.

In the trade space, it's easier and you'd be surprised how much more popular you become if you start writing about who is coming and going. Many execs have huge egos and love to have them massaged, so often it's a case of pandering to them by featuring them in rather boring interviews that don't really reveal anything.
 

WatcherZero

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I like Modern and Rail for being industry focused, I have no interest in fleet lists, heritage tours, modeliing, etc...

One recent trend ive not been a fan off, and admittedly Modern has been a bigger perpetrator is the 12/14/16 page infomercials where all the articles are written by advertisers and passed off as journalistic content.

Modern I also find to be almost exclusively focused on London and the South East, Rail is more balanced national coverage while TRUK is more focused on the North and North East in particular.
 

Haig paxton

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Nigel Harris has a political axe to grind. He has lost me owing to his obsession with promoting HS2 and dedicating too much coverage to this. Also the constant union bashing and anti Labour and nationalistion stance coupled to an absolute refusal to acknowledge that TOCs are profit driven has made my mind up.
 

Harbornite

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At the same time, Rail seemed to be more focused on spotters, for want of a better word, with lots of articles about individual locomotives and classes from what I remember.

Sounds rather like railways illustrated.
 
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