For years the teen-girl category was ruled by the troika of Seventeen, Teen and YM. In `97 Time Inc.'s Teen People launched just after Sassy died, and Hearst Magazines followed in '99 with CosmoGirl. Primedia shuttered Teen in `02-shortly after Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.' 2001 debut of Elle Girl. And earlier this year, after two years of test issues, Conde Nast Publications rolled out Teen Vogue.
"The A-list has expanded," said Steve Greenberger, senior VP-director of print at Zenith Media, New York. His current A-list? Seventeen, CosmoGirl, YM, Teen People-and just-launched Teen Vogue. The teen category is one of the magazine world's best examples of the medium's response to an ever-fragmenting American landscape. There's the fashion play with Teen Vogue; there's the bid for a multicultural every-girl from Elle Girl; there's the editor-as-empowered-best-friend from Atoosa Rubinstein's CosmoGirl. And there's the entertainment-celebrity play from Teen People, which, despite reducing its rate base to 1.5 million from 1.6 million with its October issue, has executed its strategy well enough to bring itself within shouting distance of mass players YM, owned by Gruner & Jahr Publishing USA, and Seventeen, just acquired from Primedia by Hearst.
Some observers personify the titles. CosmoGirl "is more like the cheerleader," said George Janson, director of print at Mediaedge:cia, New York. "Teen Vogue is the prom queen." And Elle Girl? "Student council president."
Such tight identifiers murk it up for the mass players. YM is coming off a string of double-digit ad page gains and scored points with media buyers for cultivating a more music-based identity. But it took its rate base down in April to 2 million from 2.2 million, following well-publicized fallout from significantly overstating its newsstand sales numbers in 2001.
And all observers watch and wait to see what Hearst will do with its newest acquisition. Executives familiar with the situation said the company has searched for a new editor in chief, and observers remain curious as to what else Hearst may do with the title, including possibly reducing its hefty 2.35 million rate base. A Hearst spokeswoman said in an email that the company had no news regarding personnel or rate base changes.
"I have believed for a long time the category was overcirculated," said Karen Jacobs, senior VP-director of print at Publicis Groupe's Starcom, Chicago. "It doesn't surprise me if some of the big guys are thinking about taking their circulation down. I think it's overdue, honestly."
But a demographic bulge, according to U.S. census projections, will swell the ranks of teen girls through 2010. "Right now, everyone's attitude is to spend more money against this group," said Charles Valan, VP-strategic print services, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Universal McCann, New York. "It can't be ignored."
contributing: katie johnson