ABC Intro: Teen Magazines

Emap's Bliss was the teen sector's success story of the past year. It is now snapping at the heels of Hachette Filipacchi's market-leading Sugar, with a circulation increase of 18 per cent year on year. This followed serious investment from Emap in the title, which included a new format in terms of sizing and packaging.

The teenage market has seen a number of changes in the frequency of titles. In the battle of the "little sister" magazines, The National Magazine Company's COSMOgirl! has recently moved to publishing every three weeks. Its rival, Hachette's Elle Girl, went monthly a year ago but still sells less than half the number of copies boasted by COSMOgirl!.

BBC Magazines' Top of the Pops went fortnightly, its increased frequency leading to more copy sales each month despite a 12 per cent fall in average copy circulation year on year.

Teen entertainment titles showed an overall decline of 10 per cent across 2004 but Emap's Smash Hits had solid growth after several periods of large decline. Smash Hits' sister weekly title, Sneak, did not show the same improvement, despite a revamp in October 2004 - its circulation was down 12 per cent year on year.

Among the lifestyle titles, the three teenage magazines to see their circulations fall were DC Thomson's Shout, Emap's Sneak and IPC Media's Mizz, which has lost almost 30 per cent of its circulation year on year.

Following the closure of Emap's longstanding J-17 and IPC Media's 19 last year, more closures cannot be ruled out.

It remains a challenging time for teen titles. Teenagers are continuing to look towards "older titles", leading to a squeeze for the specialist teenage magazines. Digital TV, the internet and mobile phones mean teenagers' media consumption no longer revolves around reading magazines.

With constantly changing markets and readers, publishers have to be smart to keep on top. Marcus Rich, the managing director of Emap Performance, says: "The teen market is a tough one - the audience has more ways of accessing information than ten years ago."

Publishers agree that insight into the lives of teenage girls is what every magazine in this market craves. But the tendency of entertainment titles to rely on crowd-pleasing cover stars, such as the boy band McFly, to shift magazines in the entertainment sector remains.

Alfie Lewis, the publisher of the teen titles Top of the Pops and It's Hot at BBC Magazines, says: "It's important for publishers to keep talking to readers and giving them what they want. Publishers should be broadening the appeal to teenagers by varying the stars actually inside the magazines."

With fluctuations in sales from issue to issue being a noticeable feature, the free covermounted gift has become the staple tactic to achieve respectable ABC figures.

Verdict Publishers agree that the main challenge lies in penetrating the multitude of media now available to teenagers. To maintain readers, magazines must continually reinvent themselves, focusing on editorial, packaging, covermounts and cover stars, as well as the frequency of their titles.

TEEN MAGAZINES

TITLE Publisher Total ABC Period-on- Year-on-

period year

% change % change

Sugar Hachette

Filipacchi 295,364 0.1 1.2

Bliss Emap 285,061 10.8 18.0

More! Emap 274,635 6.5 5.8

COSMOgirl! NatMags 213,311 6.6 7.6

Top of the Pops BBC Magazines 200,907 -7.4 -12.8

Smash Hits Emap 126,100 4.5 10.2

TV Hits Hachette

Filipacchi 103,658 3.3 -20.4

It's Hot BBC Magazines 101,547 11.0 -12.8

Sneak Emap 90,946 -1.5 -12.7

Elle Girl Hachette

Filipacchi 90,334 n/a n/a

Mizz specials

series IPC 84,859 n/a n/a

Mizz IPC 70,320 -10.0 -29.9

Shout DC Thomson 67,466 -1.2 -20.3

Kiss Emap 12,739 14.4 18.0