Teen Magazines

Text-only Preview

Seventeen magazine made its debut in the
• Some teen magazines focus primarily on celebrities and
1940s, teen magazines have been one of the most
the entertainment industry. Twist, J-14, and M all attract
successful genres of magazines. But in the late 1990s, the
young tween and teen girls interested in music, entertain-
teen magazine market exploded, with scores of new titles
ment, celebrity gossip, and pull-out posters.8 The oldest
entering the playing fi eld in response to the largest youth
teen fan magazine is Tiger Beat, launched in 1965. In
market since the Baby Boomers—an estimated 33 million
1972, Right On! started up to spotlight the latest news
Right On!
12- to 19-year-olds who spend upwards of $175 billion
and information about Blacks in the entertainment busi-
annually.1 The sheer size of this group of “Echo Boomers”
ness and was later joined by Word Up!
and Black Beat,
and the competing media choices available to them have
which focus on the urban music scene.9
splintered the youth audience in more ways than ever
before. Niche journals for boys interested in extreme sports,
• Alternatives to the traditional celebrity or beauty and fash-
“little sister” magazines spun off from popular women’s
ion-driven magazines have also emerged for teens. Girls’
titles, online companions to print editions, and alternative
Life, or GL, winner of the Parents Choice Award, pro-
‘zines—all these trends and more are reshaping the world of
vides girls ages 10 to 15 a balance of information about
teens and magazines in new ways.
beauty, fashion, and celebrities with advice about friends,
family, boys, school, self-esteem, and profi les of real girls
Teen Magazines, Past and Present
facing challenges.10 Smaller alternative magazines that
focus more on self-development and social issues have
• During the 1990s, teens constituted the fastest-growing
found a niche as well among teen girls. Teen Voices, a
segment of the population, which signaled to publish-
quarterly nonprofi t magazine launched in 1990, has a
ers that the market could support more teen titles: the
national readership of 75,000 and a companion Web
The Henry J. Kaiser
number of new teen magazines more than tripled from 5
site, Teen Voices Online. Created to reach “high-risk”
inner-city girls on issues such as nontraditional career
Family Foundation
in 1990 to 19 in 2000.2
choices, teen pregnancy, and sexual assault, almost
2400 Sand Hill Road
• Up until the late 1990s, Seventeen, Teen, and YM were
all the magazine’s editors are minority girls and young
Menlo Park, CA 94025
the top three teen magazines, with a total of 6.3 million
women who live below the poverty line. New Moon,
readers. Then the teen magazine market became more
started in 1992 with a current circulation of 30,000, has
Phone: 650-854-9400
crowded and competitive with adult-to-teen crossovers
a focus on self-development for girls 8 to 14 years old.11
Fax: 650-854-4800
that shifted the balance, starting with Teen People in
1998, followed by CosmoGirl!, Elle Girl, and Teen
• While there are more ethnic-oriented magazines than
Vogue. These changes ultimately forced Teen to fold,
ever before, the majority are aimed at young adults rather
Washington Offi ce:
Seventeen’s ad revenues to drop, and YM’s circulation to
than teens. Some teen launches have been short lived,
decline. The fallout eventually led Seventeen and YM to
such as Latin Girl, which at its startup in early 1999 was
1330 G Street, NW
reposition themselves to target older teens 17 and up.3
touted as the fi rst and only national magazine created to
Washington, DC 20005
address the needs of Hispanic female teens who want
• Each of these so-called “little sister” startups has its own
to maintain their bicultural identity.12 Others are smaller
Phone: 202-347-5270
distinct take: CosmoGirl! is targeted to the Cosmo read-
publications with a mission such as Blackgirl Magazine,
Fax: 202-347-5274
er’s younger sister but without the explicit sex talk, Elle
which started as a bimonthly publication in 2002 by a 13-
Girl is for the of
f-beat, street-chic girl with a multicultural
year-old girl with the goal to empower African American
fl air, and Teen Vogue is aimed at the fashion-conscious
teens by “promoting positive messages and imagery.”13
adolescent female.4
SuperOnda, a magazine that partners with several
universities, is targeted to the 18-year-old Hispanic high-
• By 2004, analysts warned that the teen market had
achiever, with a focus on education and career, as well
peaked.5 According to the group that tracks magazine
as entertainment, news, and politics.14
circulations, the Audit Bureau of Circulation, in 2003 the
teen market reported circulation losses from the previous
• The Scholastic Teen Magazine Network reaches the
year with one notable exception—CosmoGirl! whose
highest number of 12- to 17-year-olds, through its outlets
circulation was up 18.5 percent.6
New York Times Upfront, Scholastic Action, Scholastic
Scope, Scholastic Choices, Junior Scholastic, Science
• Launched in 1944, Seventeen is the oldest and remains
World, and Literary Cavalcade. Taken together, the
the most popular teen magazine in circulation today.
magazines have an estimated circulation of 11.2 million.15
Striving to maintain its dominance in the fi eld, in 2003
Seventeen launched a return to Middle America values
with a wholesome (as opposed to sophisticated) fashion
The Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profi t, private operating foundation dedicated to providing information
T H E H E N R Y J . K A I S E R F A M I LY F O U N D A T I O N
and analysis on health care issues to policymakers, the media, the health care community, and the general public.
The Foundation is not associated with Kaiser Permanente or Kaiser Industries.

Magazines and Teen Boys
• As part of the annual Teen Read Week, SmartGirl and
Young Adult Library Services Association (a division
• While most magazines for teen girls are about beauty,
of the American Library Association) have conducted
cosmetics, people, and relationships, those for teen boys
online surveys about teen reading interests, habits, and
are about electronic gaming, sports, music, cars, and
attitudes since 1999. The Teen Read Week 1999 survey
other hobbies. The magazine market for teen males is
found that two-thirds (66%) of youth ages 11 to 18
dominated by smaller niche publications that appeal to
report regularly reading magazines. Adolescents consis-
specialized interests, such as GamePro, Slam, Thrasher,
tently cite magazines as their favorite non-book reading
and Under the Radar. For the most part, teen boys who
material.27 In 2001, almost one-third (31.3%) named teen
read mass-market magazines gravitate toward men’s
magazines as their favorite non-book reading material.28
magazines such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Spin, and
Vibe, which reportedly attract a high male teen reader-
ship.16 For instance, 18- to 20-year-olds comprise 18
Content of Teen Magazines
percent of the total readership for Maxim and 19 percent
for Stuff.
Stuff 17
• A 1997 analysis of articles in leading teen magazines—
Seventeen, YM, Sassy, and Teen—found themes relating
• Unlike adult-to-teen crossovers of women’s magazines,
to appearance (37%), dating (35%), and clothes and
spin-offs of men’s magazines have not proven successful
fashion (32%) were most prevalent. Few articles focused
among teen boys. For example, MH-18 was developed
on topics such as self-confi dence (16%), family (15%),
as a brand extension of Men’s Health after focus group
career (12%), school (12%), becoming independent
research indicated that teen boys ages 13 to 17 wanted
(5%), and even fewer related to health issues such
lifestyle, relationship, and career information,18 but it
as alcohol, drugs, and smoking (3%, respectively), or
folded within a year.19 One brand extension that has been
sexually-transmitted diseases (3%), pregnancy, and
highly successful is Sports Illustrated for Kids whose
contraception (2%, respectively).29
subscriber base is 8- to 15-year-olds, predominantly boys
(82%) under age 12.20
• Teen readers may have more opportunity to see faces of
cultural diversity on the magazine cover than inside the
• Recently, major advertisers have begun to pay atten-
magazine. A 1997 study of the leading teen magazines
tion to some of these niche publications. The Source, a
found that the vast majority of women and men were
hip-hop magazine whose readership is 88 percent teen
White in the article photographs (73% and 80%, respec-
males, became one of the fastest-growing publications
tively) and ads (88% for both genders).30 But according
during the late 1990s, attracting advertising from major
to a 2002 New York Times survey that analyzed the eth-
apparel brands, athletic shoes, soft drinks, music, and
nicity of magazine cover models over a fi ve-year period,
even VISA and the milk industry. Other publishers fol-
1 in 4 teen magazines featured a minority on the cover in
lowed this lead to tap the hard-to-reach 15- to 19-year-
2002, more than any other magazine category.31
old teen male subculture, including Vibe’s attempted
spin-off Blaze, and others such as TransWorld Snow-
boarding, Freeze, and BMX Snap.21
Role of Teen Magazines in Girls’ Lives
• Boys’ Life, the magazine of Boy Scouts of America
• Studies of teen magazine readers indicate that they turn
fi rst published in 1911, publishes two separate editions
to these magazines as a valued source of advice about
monthly, one for 6- to 11-year-olds and the other for
their personal lives. According to a focus group of 7th
teens ages 12 to 17,22 with a total paid subscription of
through 11th-grade girls, conducted by Teenage Re-
1.2 million and advertising revenues of more than $5
search Unlimited for YM, teen readers want the content
in their magazines to refl ect their lives, and they rely on
magazines as a sounding board, fashion and beauty con-
sultant, and close confi dant.32 Another survey conducted
Teen Magazines and Advertising
by Taylor Research & Consulting Group indicated that
12- to 15-year-old girls look to magazines (42%) almost
• Advertisers target teen consumers not only in teen
as much as their friends (45%) for the coolest trends.33
magazines but also in a variety of magazines that attract a
large teen readership, ranging from women’s and men’s
• In-depth interviews with girls ages 12 and 13 who were
magazines to music, sports, and entertainment.24 A 2003
regular readers of teen magazines found that girls used
study conducted by the Simmons Market Research Bu-
the magazines to formulate their concepts of femininity
reau indicated that 12- to 17-year-olds comprise almost
and relied heavily on articles that featured boys’ opinions
one-quarter (22.9%) of readers of women’s magazines,
about how to gain male approval and act in relationships
and slightly less than one-fi fth of sports (19%), fashion
with males.34
(18%), and automotive (17.6%) magazines.25
• For African American readers, the teen magazine tends
not to be as important an infl uence as peers and cultural
standards in defi ning femininity. In-depth interviews with
Teen Magazine Readership
African American girls 13 to 18 years old who were
regular readers of the leading teen magazines indicated
• According to a 1999 study by the Kaiser Family Founda-
that they were less infl uenced by images of idealized
tion, 15- to 18-year-olds spend an average of 13 minutes
beauty in the mainstream magazines than by their cultural
a day reading magazines. In any given day, nearly 6 in 10
standards which frequently were in direct opposition.
teens this age will read a magazine, with boys more likely
The girls indicated that they wanted more diversity in
to do so than girls (63% vs. 55%).26
the magazines, from the models and types of beauty
products featured to the images of success and cultural
experiences portrayed.35
Key Facts: Tweens, Teens, and
Fall 2004
Page 2

Teen Magazines and the Web
• Another teen magazine genre becoming more prevalent
taps Christian teens who enjoy popular culture. Joining
• Some industry analysts cite the Web as one of the larg-
Guideposts for Teens46 and Brio,47 are Breakaway aimed
est threats to teen magazine readership,36 while others
at teen boys48 and Feed targeted to the urban hip-hop
suggest that going back and forth between the print and
culture.49 The newest launch in this niche is Beautiful
online worlds is becoming an integral part of life for teen
Girl, a beauty magazine started in 2003 as a quarterly
magazine readers.37
publication with a companion Web site, both aligned with
Christian beliefs designed to inspire teen girls to discover
• Teen magazines are transforming their editorial formulas
their inner beauty.50 Like other teen publications, these
to cultivate an online presence and sustain Net-savvy
magazines feature celebrity profi les, entertainment news,
readers’ interest between print issues. Editors of teen
health and beauty tips, relationship advice, spiritual guid-
magazines report that most site visitors have already read
ance, quizzes, and fi ction.
the magazine and go online for more articles, compel-
ling magazines to offer at least 50 percent original Web
• Teen Internet magazines, or Webzines, are emerging
content.38 According to CosmoGirl!, almost 6 in 10 teens
as a forum for teen voices, written by teens for teens.
visit a teen magazine’s Web site with an open copy of the
There are as many different types of Webzines as there
print version of the magazine.39
are print magazines. Some are short-lived, while others
outlive their print counterparts. Blue Jean Online, is a
• Teen magazines use their companion Web sites to
creative forum written and produced by teen girls and
solicit reader feedback and build a loyal following. Polls,
young women ages 14 to 22 who express their perspec-
surveys, and message boards provide readers the op-
tive through their writings, reviews, art, photography, and
portunity to express their opinions and experiences, and
other creative work.51 Still other Webzines offer a space
contribute ideas to the print version. The Internet’s mul-
for cultural diversity to fl ourish and empower minority
timedia capabilities are also being used for advertising
youth. One example is the bilingual online magazine Teen
that offers Internet-only promotions, sweepstakes, and
Latinitas created for girls ages 15 to 20, started by stu-
special events and for streaming video movie previews.
dents at University of Texas to provide culturally relevant
Elle Girl actually launched its W
Elle Girl
eb site before the print
content and build a sense of community where girls can
communicate with others who have similar sensibilities,
interests, and concerns.52
• Teen magazines use the Web to recruit “cool hunters” to
stay informed about emerging trends in the youth culture.
For example, Teen People accesses a network of 9,000
“trendspotters” across the nation that keep the editorial
staff up -to-date about teen concerns and issues.41
• The Internet has also become a place where teen
magazines provide support to their readers during a
crisis. For example, after 9/11, all the magazines added a
special section and reached out online to readers about
the terrorist attacks. On September 12, 2001, the editor
of CosmoGirl! sent an e-mail to 200,000 subscribers to
check on them and used the American fl ag as a logo to
1 Teenage Research Unlimited, “Teens Spent $175
launch a “Kiss America” Campaign. YM posted an online
Billion in 2003,” Press Release, 9 January 2004, http:
bulletin board with fi rst-person responses to the tragedy,
as well as information on how to deal with stress and
(accessed June 1, 2004); Harris Interactive, “Generation
where to volunteer.42 Teen People developed a “Stars,
Y Earns $211 Billion and Spends $172 Billion Annually,” 3
Stripes and Strength” page asking readers to suggest
September 2002, http://www.harrisinteractive.com/news/
ways to “fi x” America.43
allnewsbydate.asp?NewsID=667 (accessed June 1, 2004).
2 Kim Campbell, “Teens Read, and Advertisers See a
Green Light,” The Christian Science Monitor, 13 September
Teen Magazine Trends
2001, http://www.csmonitor/2001/0913/p16s1-ussc.html
(accessed June 1, 2004).
• Single-copy newsstand sales of teen magazines have
3 Peg Tyre, “No Longer Most Likely to Succeed: In
declined substantially in recent years. Since 2001, Teen
an Overcrowded Market, Teen Magazines Fight for
People dropped 20 percent in newsstand sales, and
Their Lives,” Newsweek, 19 April 2004, 59, http:
Seventeen declined by 35 percent.44
//www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4710901 (accessed June 17,
• TV crossovers with a potential built-in audience are
4 Katherine Stroup, “Cheat Sheet: Teen Magazines,”
generally considered safe new launches. For example,
Newsweek, 10 February 2003, 74.
MTV recently experimented with two issues of an in-
5 Jon Fine, “Looking to Rebuild: G&J to Cut Rate Base for
house publication tied to its programming and sold as a
‘YM’ by 25,” Advertising Age, 29 March 2004, 3.
stand-alone newsstand title with a circulation of 300,000.
6 Magazine Publishers of America, “Fact Sheet: Circulation
Each issue was one of a kind with a different name and
for ABC Magazines, 2003,” http://www.magazine.org/
a different approach. The magazines covered new fi lm re-
content/Files/2003allabccirc.xls (accessed June 4, 2004).
leases, video games, and toys, and it came wrapped in a
7 David Carr, “Reinventing Seventeen with a View Toward
plastic bag that contained a smaller magazine about new
Middle America,” The New York Times, 24 November 2003.
music, along with a multimedia compact disc featuring
8 Bauer Publishing, http://www.baueradsales.com
movie and game trailers and samples of music, games,
(accessed June 15, 2004).
and movies.45
9 “Teen Magazine,” http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.co
m/teen%20magazines (accessed June 12, 2004).
10 Girls’ Life, http://www.girlslife.com (accessed June 14,
Key Facts: Tweens, Teens, and Magazines
Fall 2004
Page 3

11 Bonny Norton, “When Is a Teen Magazine Not a Teen
33 The Taylor Research & Consulting Group, Taylor Kids
Magazine?” Journal of Adolescent & A
Journal of A
dult Literacy
dolescent & A
45, no.
Pulse: Where the Wired Things Are, as cited in
Teen Media
4 (December 2001/January 2002), http://www.reading.org/
Monitor: T
Monitor: een Girls, The Kaiser Family Foundation 2, no. 1
publications/jaal/jaal0112.html (accessed June 14, 2001);
(October 2003).
Jeff Lemberg, “Two Magazines Deliver Teen Voices as
34 Lisa Duke and Peggy Kreshel, “Negotiating Femininity:
They Really Are,” Women’s eNews, 5 April 2002, http:
Girls in Early Adolescence Read Teen Magazines,” Journal
//www.womensenews.org/article.cfm?aid=868 (accessed
of Communication Inquiry 22, no. 1 (1998): 48–72.
ommunication Inquiry
June 14, 2004).
35 Lisa Duke, “Get Real! Cultural Relevance and Resistance
12 “She’s Hip, She’s Smart, She’s Unique, She’s… ‘Latin
to Mediated Feminine Ideal,” Psychology & Marketing 19,
Girl,’” 23 October 1998, http://www.laprensa-sandiego.org/
no. 2 (February 2002): 211–233.
archieve/october23/girl.htm (accessed June 14, 2004).
36 Jeremy Lee, “Teen Magazines,” Campaign, 20 February
Latin Girl was listed as defunct in Magazine Publishers
Latin Girl
of America, “Fact Sheet Industry News and Resources:
37 Harris Interactive and Teenage Research Unlimited,
Defunct and Suspended Magazines, January–December
Born to be Wired: The Role of New Media for a Digital
2001,” http://www.magazine.org/fi nance_and_operations/
Generation, A New Media Landscape Comes of Age,
fi nance_operations_trends_and_magazine_handbook/
Executive Summary, http://us.i1.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/i/
1488.cfm (accessed June 14, 2004).
promo/btbw_2003/btbw_execsum.pdf (accessed May 14,
13 Blackgirl Magazine, http://www.blackgirlmagazine.com
(accessed June 14, 2004).
38 Aimee Deeken, “Teens T
ell All,”
eens T
Adweek 44, no. 46 (24
14 SuperOnda Media Kit, http://www.hispanicbusiness.com/
November 2003): IQ6.
39 Magazine Publishers of America, Market Profi le:
2 (accessed June 15, 2004).
15 Scholastic Teen Magazine Network, http://
40 Deeken.
teacher.scholastic.com/products/stmn/index.htm (accessed
41 Greg Lindsay, “Ask Not What Your Teen Magazine
June 14, 2004).
Can Do for You, But…,” Folio 30, no. 15 (1 December
16 Mark Harvey, “Magazines: Let’s Hear It for the Boys,”
2001):14; Elizabeth Canning Blackwell, “What Do Teens
American Demographics 20, no. 8 (August 2000): 30.
Really Want,” North Shore Magazine, as cited in Teenage
17 E-mail correspondence and telephone interview with
Research Unlimited, http://www.teenresearch.com/
Sam Belil, Director of Research, Dennis Publishing, 14
NewsView.cfm?edit_id=60 (accessed June 6, 2004).
June 2004. Based on 2004 MRI data, 18- to 20-year-old
42 David Handelman, “Fresh Faces: Teen Magazines
audience composition for Maxim is 2,254,000 and for Stuff
Change with the Times,” Brandweek 42, no. 39 (22
is 983,000.
October 2001): SR8.
18 Harvey.
43 Lindsay.
19 Magazine Publishers Association, “Fact Sheet Industry
44 Paul Colford, “Column,” New York Daily News, 20
News and Resources: Defunct or Suspended Magazines,
February 2004.
January–December 2001.”
45 David Carr, “MTV Gives Magazine a Remix,” The New
20 Sports Illustrated for Kids Media Kit, http://
York Times, 20 October 2003.
www.sikids.com/magmediakit/facts.html (accessed June 15,
46 Guideposts for Teens, http://www.gp4t.com (accessed
June 14, 2004).
21 Jeff Gremillion, “Where the Boys Are,” Brandweek 40,
47 Brio, http://www.Briomag.com (accessed June 14,
no. 5 (1 February 1999): 36.
22 Boys’ Life Media Kit, http://www.boyslife.org/about/ads/
48 Breakaway, http://www.family.org/teenguys/breakmag
editions.html (accessed June 14, 2004).
(accessed June 14, 2004).
23 Magazine Publishers of America, “Fact Sheet: Circulation
49 Feed, http://www.feedstop.com (accessed June 14,
for ABC Magazines, 2003.”
24 “Teen Targets: A Look at Where Advertisers Are
50 “New Teen Magazine Lets God Be Stylist,” 24 July 2003,
Reaching Teens, on Television and in Magazines,” Adweek
http://magazines.press-world.com/v/852.html (accessed
Magazines Special Report 44, no. 42 (27 October 2003):
June 14, 2004).
51 Blue Jeans Online, http://www.bluejeanonline.com
25 Larry Dobrow, “Simmons Measures Teen Readers,”
(accessed June 14, 2004).
MediaPost’s Media Daily News, 18 June 2003.
52 “Bilingual Latina Girls Magazine Celebrates 1-Year
26 Donald Roberts and Ulla Foehr, Kids & Media in America
Anniversary with Launch of Teen Version,” FindLaw:
(NY: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
Legal News and Commentary, 26 March 2004, http://
27 SmartGirl and Young Adult Library Services (a division
www.fi ndlaw.com (accessed June 14, 2004).
of the American Library Association), Survey Archives,
Teen Read Week 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, http://
www.smartgirl.org/speakout/archives.html (accessed May
14, 2004).
28 SmartGirl and Young Adult Library Services, Teen Read
Week 2001, http://www.smartgirl.org/speakout/archives/
Additional copies of this publication (#7152) are
trw/trw2001.html (accessed May 14, 2004).
available on the Kaiser Family Foundation’s website at
29 Nancy Signorelli, “A Content Analysis: Refl ections of Girls
in the Media,” The Kaiser Family Foundation and Children
Now, April 1997.
30 Ibid.
31 David Carr, “On Covers of Many Magazines, a Full Racial
Palette Is Still Rare,” The New York Times, 18 November
2002, C1.
32 Magazine Publishers of America, Market Profi le:
(NY: Magazine Publishers of America, 2000),
http://www.magazine.org (accessed June 4, 2004).
Key Facts: Tweens, Teens, and Magazines
Fall 2004
Page 4