Magazine ABCs Jan-June 2006: Teen magazines

The teenage market is enduring a torrid period with older celebrity titles and free internet content hitting circulations in the sector.

More! deserted the sector and relaunched into the women's lifestyle and fashion market, leaving Emap's Bliss as the leading teen title. However, Bliss's circulation was still down by almost a quarter for the period.

Hachette Filipacchi's Sugar, which long occupied the top spot, also posted a significant decline in sales. The title has relaunched in a smaller format this year in an attempt to win back readers. The National Magazine Company's Cosmopolitan spin-off was slightly better off, with a period-on-period decline of less than 20 per cent. Only DC Thomson's Shout bucked the trend for falls in teen lifestyle titles, adding 11.5 per cent in sales to record an ABC figure of 82,983 copies.

Competition from outside the sector has made things hard, according to observers. Dawn Bebe, the managing director of Emap Elan, says: "The teenage magazine market is one of the most challenging sectors with increasing numbers of teenagers choosing new media platforms to satisfy their interests.

"Adult magazines are now also picking up younger readers. But, saying this, there are still very few places where teenage girls can get private advice, support and empathy. There is still a market for teen titles."

Ofcom's Communications Market report revealed last week that 15- to 24-year-olds were reading fewer magazines and turning their attention away from traditional media in favour of the internet.

Jessica Burley, the managing director of NatMags, says: "This is a very challenging marketplace. The numbers speak for themselves. But an increased focus on blogs and user- generated content is key to getting these girls to interact with the brand."

For the teen entertainment titles it was also a bumpy ride, with Emap axing Sneak last week following its closure of Smash Hits in January. Sneak launched in April 2002 with a campaign developed by Mother. Emap introduced the title a few months after BBC Worldwide closed its similarly targeted Star Magazine. This leaves BBC Magazines' Top of the Pops magazine - which continues to publish despite the BBC axing the TV show that spawned it - as the sole survivor in the teen music sub-sector.

The title has recorded a 21 per cent rise in circulation since December, after deciding to publish once every four weeks at the beginning of the year. Duncan Grey, the associate publisher of teen magazines at BBC Worldwide, says the rise in circulation can be attributed to the research it carried out into its readers and the wider market. "As a result of this research, we enhanced some areas of the magazine, such as fashion, real life and gossip, which is communicated clearly on the cover."

The recently redesigned It's Hot, also published by BBC Magazines, posted a slight rise and Essential Publishing's TV Hits was down 14 per cent for the period to 54,726 copies.

Verdict The rise of blogs and other user-generated content has meant that the likes of MySpace and Bebo have taken over the job traditionally done by teenage lifestyle magazines. Embracing these changes and expanding titles beyond the newsstand, as well as including celebrity content, will help publishers retain teen readers.

TITLE PUBLISHER Total ABC Period-on Year-on
-period -year
% chg % chg
Bliss Emap 213,466 -23.0 -22.7
Sugar Hachette Filipacchi 200,187 -20.0 -29.8
COSMOgirl! NatMags 142,010 -18.0 -13.2
Top of the Pops BBC Magazines 116,858 21.0 -16.6
Shout DC Thomson 82,983 11.5 23.2
It's Hot BBC Magazines 66,168 2.9 -19.5
Mizz IPC 60,130 -0.5 -9.7
TV Hits Essential Publishing 54,726 2.9 -19.5
Source Audit Bureau of Circulations, January-June 2006.