Editors note: We are republishing this piece diving into implications of digital archives edition at Britain’s Railway Modeller. The article was originally published on What’s New in Publishing.

Railway Modeller is Britain’s most popular model railway monthly magazine with over 800 issues published since it was launched back in 1949. The publication covers both ready-to-run modelling enthusiasts as well as kit and scratch builders alike.

In early Q4, 2021, the title – owned by Devon-based, family-run publisher, Peco – launched its full digital archive allowing railway modeller enthusiasts to instantly access, read and search over seven decades worth of content across Web, iOS and Android platforms.

The results? Since launching the complete archive on October 13th 2021, the average number of page views of Railway Modeller’s digital editions increased by 664% (in the period post-launch). The three most successful archive editions dated back to the title’s inaugural year 1949 (x2) and one edition from 1979 focused on locomotive building.

Perhaps of more interest to magazine publishers is that the launch of Railway Modeller’s archive digital editions coincided with a sharp 54% uptick in web subscriptions to the title overall, as well as a 20% uplift for its app subscriptions due to a surge in interest in the title.

The newly completed archive of Railway Modeller is a terrific resource for fans of model railways and is an excellent historical record of how the popular hobby has evolved over the decades.

Managing Director of Exact Editions, Daryl Rayner

The popularity of retro content gathers steam

It comes at a time of increased attention on magazine back issues in digital form. In July 2021, Readly, the digital subscription service giving unlimited access to 6,300 magazine titles, launched its ‘Retros series‘ with the ambition to make nostalgic content and back issues available again. The launch came off the back of figures that showed approximately 22 per cent of Readly’s UK subscribers regularly access back issues.

During the July 2021 launch, Chris Couchman, Head of Content at Readly, said that not only do retro issues address a clear reader desire for more archived content, they also help increase interest across publishing titles (echoing a trend seen by Exact Editions).

I personally love to go back and revisit old magazines for inspiration, information and nostalgic moments. For publishers it’s a great way to re-activate already available content and drive current and new readers to their magazines in the app.

Chris Couchman, Head of Content, Readly

Speaking to WNIP this week, Couchman adds, “Recipes, craft patterns and car reviews are popular for back-issue reading as people access the depth of our content, however certain historical events also seem to be very popular for people to re-live or read about, for example Aftonbladet, one of Sweden’s largest dailies, republished their 9/11 issue, which was the most read issue in Sweden during 2021.”

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Photo by Irina Iriser on Unsplash