The Top 100 Magazines: Teen magazines

The teen magazine Audit Bureau of Circulations figures, as they stood in December 2007, make for pretty depressing reading if you're part of the generation that grew up on mass circulation magazines such as Smash Hits and Just 17.

A number of closures might have speeded up consolidation in the market but hasn't helped stem the circulation decline. During 2007, sales of teen titles were down by 8.7 per cent, with average combined sales in the sector totalling just over 500,000 - a figure that doesn't even match the circulation of a single top-selling teen magazine in the 80s.

Of the titles left, the market leader Sugar, published by Hachette Filipacchi, had an awful time, dropping one-fifth of its circulation over the year.

Judith Secombe, the publisher of Sugar, says: "The teen market continues to be tough. Sugar has led the magazine market for the last decade and the work we are doing now in print and online will put us in good stead for the rest of 2008 and beyond. We are already seeing very encouraging results from recent sales on the back of the few tweaks we have made to the magazine so far."

However, if you're the publisher of BBC Magazines' Top of the Pops monthly entertainment title, the most recent ABC figures make for pretty cheerful reading.

The magazine increased the number of copies it sold by almost one-fifth year on year, taking its circulation above the 120,000 mark. The title is the sole survivor in the teen entertainment category, following the demise of Essential Publishing's TV Hits, which disappeared as a print publication in November, and the closure of BBC Magazines' It's Hot last July.

Duncan Grey, the publisher of Top of the Pops, attributes the success of the title to a combination of the right cover stars - Rihanna and the X Factor winner Leona Lewis are the current favourites - and the right gifts, at the same time bucking the trend to invest heavily in its online presence.

"We've worked very hard to get it right at the newsstand," Grey says. "There's little loyalty in this sector."

Panini, which is investing in teen titles rather than exiting the market, seems to have hit its stride. Bliss, a year on from its acquisition from Emap, managed growth over the latter six months of the year, adding almost 8 per cent, but the figure for the year is down overall. It has been revamped, and now has greater levels of reader input and a supplement in each issue.

The company is confident it can maintain growth, with Rebecca Smith, the circulation and trade marketing controller, saying: "We're testing out a slightly more quirky approach on covers, and hoping that we'll see growth."

Mizz, which Panini acquired from IPC Media in 2006, increased its monthly circulation slightly. Like Top of the Pops, it attempts to lure readers with a celebrity cover and the ever-present free gift.

Verdict The impact of the internet and the popularity of social networking sites has had some impact on the market. Also not to be underestimated is the pattern of young girls moving more quickly to "older" celebrity titles such as Heat and Closer, bypassing the teen market.

Observers warn not to expect any launches in the market in the near future. Free gifts now seem to be a permanent feature of the sector, with the competition vying to give away the gift with the highest perceived value. As Smith says: "They don't just expect a free gift now, they expect a free branded gift."

TEEN MAGAZINES
Title Publisher Total ABC Period-on- Year-on-
period year
% change % change
Sugar Hachette
Filipacchi 157,261 -15.9 -21.6
Bliss Panini 130,041 7.9 -14.3
Top of the Pops BBC Magazines 124,852 21.2 18.9
Shout DC Thomson 86,618 3.1 7.1
Mizz Panini 71,092 15.1 18.6
Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations, July-December 2007.

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