ABC Magazines: Teen magazines

The teen market, like the men's monthly sector, has taken a bit of a battering this period.

Not only did it lose a magazine when The National Magazine Company finally gave up on CosmoGIRL! owing to poor sales, but the top three magazines all saw their sales fall.

Hachette Filipacchi's Sugar, Panini's Bliss and BBC's Top of the Pops all took hits on the sales front.

The industry in general ascribes the downturn of a once-strong sector to the fact teenagers and their tastes are changing so rapidly that a monthly magazine doesn't have the speed and agility to keep up.

While it is clear that the internet hasn't spelled doom for the magazine industry as people once thought it would, it is equally clear that teenag-ers use the internet in a different way to adults. With the explosion in social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace and user-generated content sites such as YouTube, young people are now controlling and editing content themselves - a proposition magazines struggle to match.

This is why Hachette Filipacchi has invested heavily in relaunching its website as the newly named Sugarscape, according to Judith Secombe, the group publishing director of Sugar: "We saw what happened to Jelly Fish (NatMags' attempt at launching an online magazine, which was dropped at test stage), so we've put some really big thinking into this whole new offering."

She adds: "It's not just a website; it's a destination that will allow readers to do so much more than a traditional portal and will give them much more control than most other sites."

In-depth knowledge of the teenage audience is proving vital in the current market, something Panini, which bought Bliss from Emap last year, is struggling to convert into a successful magazine.

Meanwhile, over in the entertainment sub-sector, the BBC's Top of the Pops looks like it may be shoring itself up after a bad performance last time round. The same too is true for It's Hot!, which showed signs of halting its circulation freefall with a better period-on-period performance. However, it looks like there is continued trouble for TV Hits, which saw another decline in circulation.

Duncan Grey, the associate publisher of the teen group at BBC Magazines, says: "The sector appears to have reached a period of stability. Furthermore, with Top of the Pops, the on-shelf standout and resulting success of our premium summer bumper issues, coupled with the increasing membership of our fortnightly webmails means the relationship we are building with our audience continues to grow."

Despite the present struggle for readers, Secombe says advertisers are still interested in the sector, but are looking for more than double- page spreads: "They are really interested in some of the live events we do, because they get much closer to the audience and can really interact with them. This is where our market needs to go if it is going to survive."

Verdict There may be trouble ahead for this market, with closures and failed online launches in this period. Along with a downturn in sales, this means that the publishers need to be looking at new and inventive ways of reaching their target audience.

This may work out as a perfect opportunity for advertisers to really get involved with a magazine's growth by working closely to create something that not only challenges perceptions, but is also highly profitable.

on-period on-year
% change % change
Sugar Hachette Filipacchi 187,059 -6.7 -6.6
Bliss Panini 120,506 -20.6 -43.5
Top of the Pops BBC Magazines 102,997 -1.9 -11.9
Shout DC Thomson 84,007 3.8 1.2
Mizz Panini 61,781 3.1 2.7
It's Hot! BBC Magazines 57,515 0.9 -13.1
TV Hits Essential Publishing 39,098 -17.4 -28.6