ABC: Teen Magazines

The teenage market continued to be a tough one, with sales of both lifestyle and entertainment titles down.

Hachette Filipacchi's Sugar maintained its number-one slot in the sector despite coming under pressure from Emap's Bliss. Bliss relaunched with a new format last year.

Bliss failed to leapfrog Sugar, which has also invested in a redesign under its new editor, Annabel Brog. The Emap title experienced a slight period-on-period decline but, year on year, its circulation rise was the strongest in the sector. Sugar's circulation was down slightly, but not enough to concede the top slot to Bliss.

Julie Harris, the general manager of Hachette Filipacchi's women's group, says: "Our aim was still to be the market leader and we've achieved that in a market that is getting more and more difficult and is contracting."

Changing patterns in media consumption, with free content available via the web and increasing numbers of teenagers turning to weekly celebrity titles, have led publishers to invest heavily in brand extensions such as WAP, SMS and web platforms.

Dawn Bebe, the managing director of Emap Elan, says: "We are delighted with Bliss' progress in the ever-changing youth market. The title's growth in copy sales is just one measure of its market dominance."

Emap's More title, the fortnightly for 18- to 22-year-old women, posted an impressive circulation rise. The publisher argues that young women's appetite for real life, fashion and celebrity news remains undiminished.

The National Magazine Company's COSMOgirl!, which moved to publishing every three weeks in 2004, suffered a large fall in its circulation, partly due to the change in frequency. The title has now moved back to a monthly circulation. Its rival title Elle Girl did not publish an ABC, opting instead to issue an annual figure at the end of the year.

Publishers struggled in the teenage entertainment category, a sector that was down 18 per cent year on year. This tough environment explains Hachette's decision to sell TV Hits to Essential Publishing. Publishers argue that the dominance of rock music and the lack of superstar teen bands such as the Spice Girls have contributed to the difficult climate.

BBC's Top of the Pops moved to a fortnightly frequency and managed to top the sale of Emap's Smash Hits. Alfie Lewis, the publisher at BBC Magazines' teen group, says: "While the music charts remain dominated by rock music, a resurgence of the large sales figures of several years ago may not be immediate.

"However, how many teen publishers can boast sales of more than 100,000 copies an issue? Our sister title It's Hot has had a challenging period.

But a relaunch in September, with a greater emphasis on cartoons and aimed at a slightly younger reader, will give the title a new focus and appeal."

Verdict: Publishers predict more tough times ahead, with increased competition from celebrity weeklies and the internet. However, both Hachette and Emap are committed to increasing investment in their titles, arguing that teenagers are still willing to pay for premium content. The entertainment category appears to be in terminal decline, with publishers hoping for a shift in music listening towards younger, more pop-oriented acts.

TEEN MAGAZINES TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on- Year-on- period year % change % change Sugar Hachette Filipacchi 285,082 -3.5 -3.4 Bliss Emap 276,253 -3.1 7.4 More Emap 275,620 0.4 6.9 COSMOgirl! NatMags 163,602 -23.3 -18.3 Top of the Pops BBC Magazines 140,192 -30.2 -35.4 Smash Hits Emap 120,541 -4.4 -0.1 TV Hits Essential Publishing 84,463 -18.5 -15.9 It's Hot BBC Magazines 82,199 -19.1 -10.2 Sneak Emap 80,077 -12.0 -13.3 Shout DC Thomson 67,354 -0.2 -1.3 Mizz IPC 66,571 -5.3 -14.8 Source Audit Bureau of Circulations, January-June 2005.