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
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
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
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
'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.
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).