YOUTH MEDIA: YOUNG LADS’ MAGS - Teenage boys used to read Beano, now they are just as likely to buy Loaded. Lucy Hone reports on changing habits

When it comes to choosing magazines, ’playground cred’ has long been key among self-respecting teenagers.

When it comes to choosing magazines, ’playground cred’ has long

been key among self-respecting teenagers.

But changes are afoot in the youth market. Where boys used to hide

happily behind a copy of Shoot while their female counterparts hungrily

devoured Big’s Position of the Week, more and more copies of FHM and

Loaded are finding their way into the playground, awakening teenage

boys’ appetites for lifestyle magazines similar in tone and content to

those of girls.

Between the six months to March 1996 NRS period to the six months to

March 1999, the number of 15- to 19-year-olds reading FHM rose ten-fold

from 98,000 to 991,000. Loaded’s reach among late teen readers rose over

the same period from 100,000 to 656,000.

Despite IPC and Emap’s understandable reluctance to acknowledge the size

of their products’ teen readership, other publishers have been less

reticent about associating themselves with the sector. Cabal

Communications launched Front in October 1998 as a lifestyle magazine

for the pre-Loaded generation, and produced a record first ABC for a

men’s lifestyle title of 140,154 for January to July 1999. Meanwhile,

BBC Worldwide is also understood to be looking at the youth market and,

in FBX, created the first general interest title for seven- to

11-year-old boys this March.

This sea change in the youth market is backed up by the London-based

research agency, RDSi, whose ’Five to 16 Years’ child/teen monitor ranks

Emap Metro’s FHM and IPC’s Loaded as the most popular magazines among

14- to 16-year-old boys. But, according to RDSi, the reading habits of

11- to 13-year-old boys continue to adhere to a more traditional


In their early teens, boys are still wrapped up in magazines that

reflect their specialist interests and provide them with peer group

approval and security. Magazines are sources of information-gathering

about the latest computer games and football facts; a way to swot up on

the latest signings.

So, RDSi found that the most popular titles for 11- to 13-year-olds are

The Official PlayStation Magazine, Match, Beano, Nintendo 64, Shoot and


Two years on and the game has changed. Among 14- to 16-year-olds, after

FHM and Loaded, Max Power, Front, MOTD, Mountain Biking and Match were

the most popular publications. Although Mountain Biking, Match and MOTD

illustrate the continued interest in sport among boys of this age, the

emergence of magazines with a much greater lifestyle content proves

teenage boys’ reading tastes are beginning to change.

Until recently, football and computer titles were the only ones to fill

the void left between the Beano and FHM. But the introduction of hybrids

such as Front and Max Power, with their mixture of health and lifestyle

issues, means teenage boys have been able to choose from a wider range

of relevant material. Lucy Peile, a researcher at RDSi, says: ’FHM

appeals to boys aspiring to be young, independent adults - leaving home

and driving. Our research has shown us that it makes them feel they are

tapping into that lifestyle to some degree.’

But how much of a problem does this present for agencies and


Jane Wolfson, media planning manager at Initiative Media, which handles

media for Lynx, says: ’It really depends on the brand. For us it’s not

such a problem because Lynx is all about being aspirational. But it is

something we have to keep an eye on and we wouldn’t use Front because,

although it’s as young as Loaded, it doesn’t have the same


For publishers, developing teen tastes are an opportunity. In fact,

considering how crowded and flat the teenage girls’ market is at

present, it seems strange that the industry’s leading protagonists

aren’t plunging into the boys’ market. With all but two of the sector’s

raft of titles recording circulation declines in the latest round of

ABCs compared to the success enjoyed by Front, isn’t the boys’ sector

the obvious route ahead?

Apparently not. The teenage girls’ publishing giants are all happy to

admit that they’ve looked at the market, many even had dummies in

research, but have declined to dip into such potentially costly


Neil Raaschou, the managing director of Attic Futura, which publishes

the leading teen girls’ title, Sugar, says he was deterred by the

differences between the boys’ and girls’ market. He explains: ’Teenage

girls all go through the same sort of life stages, they very quickly

become concerned about how they look and feel, they’re interested in

fashion and beauty, whereas boys are slower to mature, they’re less

concerned with their outward appearance and more into games - both sport

and computers - and as such they are harder to reach on a mass-market

scale and are more into buying mags that appeal to their special


Haymarket, the publisher of Campaign, remains confident about the

continued demand for specialist publications for teenage boys. Despite

some gloomy ABCs over recent years from the football sector, Haymarket

invested heavily in July’s launch of Goal, a ’baby glossy’ football

title for nine- to 14-year-old boys.

Its publisher, Kevin Whitchurch, says: ’Boys of this age are still

obsessive about activities, while girls are obsessive about their lives.

Girls are concerned about growing up, while boys aren’t. They certainly

can’t articulate those feelings and therefore don’t need a magazine to

articulate it for them.’

Each publisher has different reservations over the viability of a

dedicated teenage boy lifestyle title. Cabal Communications’ managing

director, Andrew Sutcliffe, says it’s a question of morality. Front,

although read by young teenagers, is officially targeting 18- to

21-year-olds. ’I can’t avoid the fact that Front, FHM and Loaded will be

read by people who shouldn’t be smoking and drinking,’Sutcliffe says.

’But I’m not sure I’d be happy putting Jo Guest’s boobs in a magazine

for 14-year-olds.’ While Marie O’Riordan, group publishing director for

youth titles at Emap Elan, explains: ’I worry that they’d only stay with

you for six months before graduating to Loaded and FHM.’

So it looks like the specialist titles targeting boys in their early

teens are safe for another year, but those targeting older boys had

better get their thinking hats on. As one pundit puts it: ’The

traditional teenage magazines are disappearing down the plug hole. Kids

just aren’t buying them any more, and why would they when they get

music, sport, tits and a whole lot more for just an extra pound?’