MAINSTREAM MAGAZINES: The Allure of Youth - With two new teenage titles preparing to launch, Harriet Marsh reports on the market that's as lucrative as it is fickle

It is unpredictable, fickle and demanding, and has a voracious

appetite for the next big thing - in this, the teenage magazine market

has much in common with its tricky target consumers.



The latest round of Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, for the period

June to December 2000, showed that the teenage magazine market is

experiencing typically mixed fortunes.



Sales across the sector were down by 5.2 per cent period on period and

by 7.3 per cent year on year, with music/entertainment magazines,

notably Smash Hits and Top of the Pops magazine, suffering more than the

celebrity/lifestyle titles such as Sugar or It's Bliss!



'In the heyday of pop magazines, they were the only place you could find

out about pop music. Now you can gain access to pop heroes through a

myriad of different platforms,' Trevor Dunn, the managing director of

pop at Emap Performance, says. 'This probably explains the long-term

decline of the market.'



The teen pop music magazine sector took off in the mid-90s - between

1995 and 1997 it grew in volume by 53 per cent - but the rapid growth

has been followed by a steady decline.



Many publishers explain this peak and the ensuing trough by drawing a

direct parallel with music market sales, most notably CD singles which

are generally bought by teenagers.



'When sales of CD singles peaked in 1997 and 1998, so did the

circulation of pop magazines,' Alfie Lewis, the publisher of Top of the

Pops magazine at BBC Worldwide, says. 'At present, sales of CD singles

are down around 20 per cent year on year which is roughly what the pop

titles are down.'



Following this logic, pop magazine publishers are waiting hopefully for

the next big thing - the equivalent of the next Spice Girls: 'We're

hoping it may have arrived,' Lewis admits. 'Hear' Say's initial sales

look promising. It all depends on how long their success lasts.'



While the established pop titles wait for the next pop phenomenon to

drive their fortunes skyward, new entrants to the market can discover

that, in the minds of the voracious teenager, they can become the next

big thing. This seems to be the case with Attic Futura's latest teen

title, cd:uk, a magazine linked to the hugely successful Saturday

morning TV show featuring the teen cult presenters Ant 'n' Dec and Cat

Deeley.



Caroline Connor, the commercial director at Attic Futura, predicts that

the title will hit its first target ABC of 180,000. 'Teenagers have

voracious appetites for the new,' she says, but adds: 'This is a very

innovative target group so you have to keep close to it and to remember

that it changes quickly.'



If this makes teenagers sound more trouble than they're worth, then

think again.



The Winter 2001 monitor report from Childwise reveals that teenage

pocket money now averages about pounds 12 per week. In addition, their

pester power influence is huge. The average spending per month by 11-to

16-year-olds totals pounds 51.40. Of this, pounds 13.40 goes on clothes,

pounds 9.50 on music and CDs and pounds 6.00 on computer software.

Teenagers, it seems, are healthy consumers.



'Teenagers are a very valuable market to target and magazines remain the

best way to do that,' Lewis says. 'In the same period as circulation has

fallen across the market, ad revenues have been stable.'



Lewis attributes this in the main to the boost in revenue from mobile

communication companies: 'Revenue from toil- etry brands and cosmetics

has dropped across the market but mobile communications companies have

replaced this.'



It seems that the challenges associated with publishing in this market

are less commercial than editorial. 'In this market you need to rethink

the editorial tone on an issue by issue basis,' Lewis says. 'Readers

last, at the most, two years, so you're always talking to a new group.

It is very different from the adult market.'



So can teenagers ever be loyal to a single brand? No, Lewis says:

'Teenagers are not loyal at all. It has taken a while for the market to

admit it but our target group will go to the news- agent half sure of

what magazine they're going to buy but open to persuasion on two

factors. First, who is on the cover and, second, where is the coolest,

best value free gift.'



In October last year, BBC Magazines launched Star - a teen celebrity

title ideally suited to ensuring that an appealing celebrity can front

each issue. It has yet to report circulation figures but it is looking

for a settle-down circulation of 150,000 to 200,000.



Celebrity seems to be the driving force behind the successes among the

teen lifestyle titles. Emap Elan's teen title It's Bliss!, which showed

the biggest year-on-year increase in the market in the latest ABC's, has

also adopted a celebrity position, although with a personal

emphasis.



'It's Bliss! relaunched a year ago as the magazine which makes you

famous,' Liz Martin, the group marketing manager for youth and

entertainment at Emap Elan, says. 'This was in response to the growing

interest among teens in celebrity. The idea is that we've tapped into

the sensibility that celebs are real people and everyone can be famous -

you may not be a model, you may be a vet. It is coming at it from a more

emotional angle which teenage girls want.'



Perhaps the biggest success story in this market to date, however, has

been Attic Futura's teen lifestyle title Sugar. The title has been the

market leader since its launch seven years ago, remaining 120,000 copies

ahead of its nearest competitor and claiming high reader loyalty. So

what's the secret to its success?



The group publisher, Lara Wilkins, suggests the magazine has a must-read

element. 'It is about constantly evolving as new trends happen, as new

fashions arrive. It is about keeping your finger on the pulse. Even if

you have a strong brand name, if the product isn't right, you won't keep

readers,' she says.



So what will drive this market forward? When Attic Futura launched

Sugar, the general consensus was that there was little room for more

brands in the teen market. Today the common view remains the same,

despite the prospect of two more launches, Elle Girl from Emap Elan and

Cosmo Girl from The National Magazine Company.



Both were originally scheduled for a spring launch but have now been

delayed until autumn. Despite this, Becky McBride, the associate

publisher on Cosmo Girl, remains upbeat. 'The market is ready for a new

launch, that's why it has slowed,' she says. 'We plan to reinvent and

reinvigorate it, as Sugar did.'



McBride believes Cosmo Girl will go head-to-head with Sugar, which would

also be the logical niche for Elle Girl, given Sugar's market leader

status and positioning as a baby glossy. NatMags is also hoping that

Cosmo Girl will help to lure in premium advertisers, which are now

following the US example and eyeing up the potential in catching the

female teen consumer early. 'Premium brands haven't had an appropriate

environment in the UK in which to advertise before,' she says, 'but they

will in Cosmo Girl.'



The market will be watching with interest to see if NatMags can live up

to this promise.



TEENAGE MAGAZINES

Title Publisher Total Period Year Total

ABC on on adspend

period year (pounds m)

(%) (%)

1 Sugar Attic Futura 422,179 1.5 -1.9 2.28

2 More! Emap Elan 305,344 1.7 1.7 4.18

3 Top of the Pops BBC Worldwide 305,122 -21.6 -17.2 1.77

4 It's Bliss! Emap Elan 300,191 4.3 4.3 1.51

5 Smash Hits Emap 221,622 -11.5 -8.2 3.08

6 TV Hits Attic Futura 201,855 -1.4 -1.7 0.89

7 J-17 Emap Elan 200,330 0.1 -13.0 1.77

8 Mizz IPC Media 163,672 0.9 2.0 0.82

9 19 IPC Media 133,890 -9.7 5.8 1.90

10 Looks Emap Elan 132,032 -0.8 -3.7 1.40

11 Shout DC Thomson 123,360 5.8 -2.7 0.51

12 Live & Kicking BBC 116,255 -17.1 -29.8 0.52

Sources: The Audit Bureau of Circulations (July - December 2000) /AC

Nielsen MMS (July - December 2000).



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