The teenage magazine market right now looks more crowded than
Leonardo DiCaprio’s fan club. And the latest round of the Audit Bureau
of Circulations figures revealed that most of the titles have lost
sales. On the surface it looks as though something is going wrong, but
as with all matters relating to adolescence, the situation is not that
straightforward and part of the solution can be found in parents’
Overall, sales fell 4.6 per cent period on period, and the traditional
’girlie’ titles all took a hit: top seller Attic Futura’s Sugar - until
now a sure bet for continued increases - fell 3 per cent year on year;
Emap Elan’s recently revamped Bliss took a 6.1 per cent smack; BBC
Magazines’ Live and Kicking and DC Thompson’s Shout dropped by 7.2 per
cent and 17.7 per cent respectively; and Emap Metro’s Big! gave the
market an even bigger shock by losing 23.9 per cent of its sales.
The only titles to have gained were the music and TV-based ones such as
the BBC’s Top of the Pops - which has just switched from classification
in the music sector - and Attic’s TV Hits. But compared with the
soaraway success of these two magazines in recent ABC rounds, the rises
Although aimed at far younger audience than the other magazines, BBC’s
Girl’s Talk is classified in the teen group. It continued to increase
sales, this time by 18.7 per cent year on year. Luckily for the BBC, the
hormones of Girl’s Talk’s readers have yet to turn them into the
inconsistent, fickle newsagent stalkers which publishers are spending so
much money trying to understand.
Because this market has been such a reliable area of growth in the past
five years, an overall drop of nearly 5 per cent looks scary. But
reflecting the age group they target so closely, it is no surprise that
the magazines themselves are so subject to change with little warning.
Teenagers do not all want to read something obviously aimed at their age
group; they don’t want to read something for younger kids and they
aren’t even that keen on a title aimed at their older sisters.
They are difficult to please: they change their minds more regularly
than adults and, according to publishers, are more conscious about
design, packaging and value for money than ever before.
Sarah Fisher, publisher of IPC’s Mizz and 19, both of which underwent
dramatic and costly redesigns last year, says: ’Readers are demanding
high quality products and value for money. The norm is a highly
varnished cover. A big factor for influencing their purchasing decisions
is innovative production formats and quality paper: something that
stands out on the newsstand.’
Fisher and her team managed to stem the declines of Mizz and 19 with a
pounds 1 million relaunch package: she took Mizz’s core readership down
from 14- to 17-year-olds, to ten- to 14-year-olds and reckons she can
get sales up to around 150,000 by the next ABC round. 19 got spruced up
to reinforce its position as a read for a core group of 17-year-olds.
The magazine has yet to record a post-ABC figure, but Fisher says nine
out of the 11 issues since then have been up year on year. The same
applies for Emap’s J17, which last year glossied-up and lost its old
Just Seventeen masthead.
Again, it does not have an official figure but sources say it is selling
All three titles spent a lot of money sharpening up their design and run
regular cover promotions. Fisher says these can increase sales by up to
10 per cent per issue. What may be surprising for some observers is the
fact that 19 is 30 years old. This is testimony to the belief that it is
possible to revitalise an old brand and catch the eye of a new breed of
Jackie Almeida, a director of CIA Medianetwork, says constant
refreshment of titles is vital. ’It’s hard for magazines to have staying
power because today’s teenagers are more sophisticated,’ she says.
’Readers can quickly reject things and move on and, in that sense, it’s
one of the most demanding areas. One would imagine that if there’s no
cash injection, there will be further declines. But the titles that have
invested will stabilise and reap growth through it.’
Perhaps the most effective way of breathing life back into an ailing
title is to make dramatic changes, maybe going as far as altering
everything bar the name. The next redesign is expected to come from
Emap’s More, which has just hired a new editor, Terry Tavner, the editor
of the recently repositioned Eva. Emap Elan’s managing director, Paul
Keenan, has promised action later this year, but is keeping tight-lipped
Many believe that, while the market is heaving with titles, launches can
serve to revitalise its fortunes. At least three launches are expected
over the next 12 months and this will certainly affect the buying
patterns of readers. In this market, they buy two or three titles at any
one time and regularly buy three magazines a month. That’s double the
average adult purchase.
Attic Futura, which has become known as something of a maverick in this
sector, is working on a launch but is being very discreet about it. IPC
is looking at further launches and maybe even acquisitions. Sally
O’Sullivan’s Cabal Communications is working on the idea of a title for
16- and 17-year-old girls to sit alongside Front, its forthcoming young
men’s title. It is definitely on her A list, O’Sullivan says. ’Wherever
you look there is always room for a new magazine as long as it’s well
targeted. It would definitely be glossy and perfect bound.’ O’Sullivan
is another great believer in the power of branding and packaging in this
market. ’The readers are very much into feel: the glossiness and
presentation,’ she says.
It is therefore inevitable that over the next 12 months the teenage
shelf space in the newsagents is going to look more glamorous. Existing
titles already shout out with glitzy covermounts and pages of handsome,
young, non-threatening boys with which to entice teenage girls.
Publishers’ increased investment, not only in presentation but also in
research, is already pulling in new types of advertisers, and sales
teams are offering them more creative solutions. CIA’s Almeida points
out that advertisers are increasingly using a mixture of sampling,
promotions and straight page ads, thanks to the availability of good
Smart publishers will be using every available penny to keep their
magazines and the market spiced up. Those that don’t will probably sell
out to the cash-rich publishers who will then turn those titles around
to fill the gaps in their portfolios. The next task will be to fight off
competition from other media which, according to Almeida, will be one of
the big threats to the market in coming years.