With the demise of the print version of Teen People hot on the heels of Elle Girl (YM folded last year and there has been a similar trend with UK teen titles), many of us in the teen media space have been thinking about the future of teen mags and the reasons why these two stalwart titles folded. Samir Husni, chairman of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi, aka Mr. Magazine, had a quote about this that I thought was extremely poignant: “Physically, emotionally and mentally, they [teens] are growing up faster than they were growing 10 years ago.” So while we have always known that teens “read up” and are aspirational in their magazine choices, they are now reading up a whole lot faster. When I was 13, I read Seventeen. I bet there are lots of 10-year-olds who are reading Seventeen now.
We’ve already seen this with the proliferation of celebrity weeklies and the celebrity gossip online. The teens who read Teen People are now reading People, US Weekly or blogs like Pink is the New Blog. This is why the J-14-type mags are still doing so well – their readers are younger tweens who just want photos to tear out and pin-up on their bedroom walls or tape inside their notebooks. So who are the major players left in teen girl mag space? (this is excluding the many, many youth produced indie ‘zines I love so much): Seventeen, Cosmo Girl and Teen Vogue. The all-American good girl, the tiny bit edgier girl and the fashionista. I think Teen Vogue will be fine, if only because they take the haute that girls who are into fashion devour in adult Vogue and let them know where and how they can recreate those looks on a teen budget. They are focused. Seventeen and Cosmo Girl will continue to face stiff competition for girls’ time, and subsequently advertisers’ dollars as one-way media (girls reading magazines) is quickly being replaced by social media. They will also continue to be read by younger and younger girls, which will lead to them having to be somewhat self-censoring on some of their more risque or controversial content. Finally, check out Media Life’s assessment of the challenges all of the teen girl magazines face in their quest to reach girls online — the article asks:
“The big question: What must they become? And the bigger question: Will they be too late?”