Creating a 'Party in a Magazine' at 'Seventeen'

Q&A With New Editor in Chief Ann Shoket

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Millions of teen girls are going to finally find out what Seventeen minus Atoosa equals when the first issue from successor Editor in Chief Ann Shoket arrives March 13.
Ann Shoket, the news editor in chief at 'Seventeen': 'The magazine is doing very well so I don't want to change the DNA.'
Ann Shoket, the news editor in chief at 'Seventeen': 'The magazine is doing very well so I don't want to change the DNA.'
They'll also get the debut of an official Shoket/Seventeen MySpace page and a blog by Ms. Shoket, who was executive editor at Hearst Magazines sibling Cosmo Girl until Seventeen's top spot opened up last year.

For now there's the first Shoket editor's letter to peruse online -- and her answers to a few questions from MediaWorks.

MediaWorks: What do we know about Seventeen's target audience today, and how has that audience changed over the last five or 10 years?

Ann Shoket: I have worked in teen-girl magazines for 10 years now. Teen girls have absolutely changed in that time. What they're interested in has changed; the way they relate to the world has changed.

What hasn't really changed is the idea of being a teenager: finding out who you are and how you're going to live your life the absolute best way you can do it. That's still the core of being a teenager.

When I started to think about Seventeen magazine I wanted to think about the DNA of the magazine and what girls need that they're not getting. I took my own experiences for the last seven years at Cosmo Girl and thought about what I haven't always been able to do. It boils down to fun.

I set out three guiding principles for the magazine: fun, confidence and interactivity. And more than just interactive, it has to be interactive on the page -- with fun charticles, arrows and bursts. My art director described looking at the May issue as a "party in a magazine."

MediaWorks: What do the audience and media-world changes mean for Seventeen?

Ms. Shoket: Certainly 10 years ago we were just at the beginning of this digital revolution that we are now knee-deep in. There's so much potential for Seventeen to grow and to really be a multiplatform brand. We are going to continue TV, we are going to blow out the site, which is about to relaunch, and we are going to push mobile.

Which is not to say the magazine isn't the centerpiece of the brand. It is.

The digital change has changed the way girls think visually-they're seeing so many MySpace pages, they go to Perez Hilton where it's all blips and blurbs and handwriting on pictures -- and all of that informs everything in the brand and everything we do.

I say this all the time but I think it's the absolute truth about a website working with a magazine: The web is a tremendous place for users to share ideas with each other and the magazine is where we give them ideas they never would have thought of on their own.

MediaWorks: Do you plan any new directions for Seventeen -- or will this be the same magazine we knew under Atoosa?

Ms. Shoket: The magazine is doing very well so I don't want to change the DNA. I see what's going to happen as an evolution. With this renewed emphasis on fun and confidence, I think you'll see a shift in tone in the magazine.

There are a couple places where we are going to push a little harder to stake our claim, like in the college area. Body image is a really important thing for the magazine. Everyone talks about loving your body. Our approach is much more realistic: It's focused on body peace, having respect for their bodies and accepting what they can do. If they end up loving it, great.

However, in addition to workout moves to get a nice firm tush, we also have a story that tells you how to dress for your shape. It's not figure fixers; it's figure enhancers.

MediaWorks: With Elle Girl and Teen People shut down and Conde Nast Publications proud of Teen Vogue but also launching Flip.com, how much space is left for print magazines in teen girls' lives?

Ms. Shoket: Magazines, the physical feeling, is important. You want to have that experience. It's a nice quiet reading time. You want to flip through it. You might have your TV or computer or iPod on, but you still want to read a magazine too. I'm confident about the future of print magazines.

Of course it's important for us to think of ourselves as a surround brand. And we're working on it. And I think you'll see in the April issue, where every page in the magazine leads you to the web. Not just in the way many other magazines have done -- "for more of this go online." It's another element.

It's easy for people to point at the teen magazines and say that there's danger ahead or that we're on thin ice. But I am so confident about this generation of girls and about our ability to be flexible enough to go wherever they are and reach out to them. They need advice from someone they can trust and they need entertainment and that's what we're here for.

MediaWorks: What will you post to your blog?

Ms. Shoket: I'm doing it to establish a relationship with the readers. I'm new to them; they don't know me. It's important for them to trust the person who's giving them advice in their lives.

It's not going to be about my personal private life. It's not going to be about 34-year-old Ann Shoket's life in New York City. And it's not going to be about 16-year-old Ann Shoket's life in Yardley, Pa.

It's going to be about the kinds of thoughts I have as a teen-magazine editor that I can share with the girls, advice I can't wait two months to share with them, or context I can give them about what's going on the world and how it relates to them.
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