PRIMEDIA SUSPENDS REGULAR PUBLICATION OF 'TEEN'

Special Issues Will Still Appear on Newsstand

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In the clearest sign yet of how greatly the teen-girl magazine category has changed, Primedia suspended publication of Teen, long one of the category's Big 3 titles.

The 10-times-a-year title had come to Primedia as part of last summer's Emap USA acquisition. Teen staffers learned the news today at their Los Angeles offices.

"When we did the acquisition" of Emap, said John Loughlin, president of Primedia's consumer magazines, "anyone who saw the black book" -- meaning Emap's financials -- "knew that Teen was a challenged property, and that it had been. Emap came close to shutting it down."

Buyers sought
Emap had also fruitlessly searched for a buyer for the title in early 2001, but found no takers, even after substantially reducing its asking price of $80 million to $100 million.

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Mr. Loughlin said that the Teen brand would still surface on newsstands as themed special issues.

Last October Primedia cut the frequency of teen-aimed titles Teen Beat and Tiger Beat, making them quarterlies, laying off about 20 staffers and moving their editorial operations from New York to be overseen by Teen's Los Angeles-based staffers.

Around 40 layoffs will result from the shutdown. Tommi Lewis, Teen's editor, did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment, but Mr. Loughlin said Ms. Lewis would stay on with the company for at least a "transitional period."

Grand dame
Teen was one of the grand dames of its niche, having been published for 44 years, and it ranked with Primedia's Seventeen and YM as a title with substantial circulation -- and a dowdy and decidedly traditional approach.

But the category was greatly shaken up by the arrival of Lang Communications' hipper Sassy in the 1980s, while newcomers such as Time Inc.'s Teen People remade the teen-girl market in the late '90s.

Stiff competition
Teen's most recent makeover came early last year, with plans to focus the title tightly on celebrity, style and shopping, but as a lower-rent version of InStyle and Lucky, it failed to slow its slide. Last year Teen People's circulation eclipsed that of Teen, making it the third-largest magazine in the category, and it won a National Magazine Award for general excellence to boot.

At the time of the Emap acquisition, Tom Rogers, Primedia's CEO, painted a scenario in which the younger-skewing Teen would feed its readers to the company's older-skewing Seventeen, still the top title in the category with a circulation of 2.3 million.

"We had looked for synergies," Mr. Loughlin told AdAge.com shortly after breaking the news to Teen staffers. "But that's the operative word: We looked for them. At the end of the day, we made a judgment that the time and dollars it would take to revitalize Teen were better spent on our core property of Seventeen."

Primedia is currently engaged in selling off some assets to pay down debt associated with its Emap deal. Mr. Loughlin said no parties had approached the company "specifically about [purchasing] Teen."

For the last six months of 2001, Teen's circulation fell 22.8% -- the largest drop of any major consumer magazine, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations figures. In early 2001 its rate base, or circulation guaranteed to advertisers, was 2 million. At the time it was closed, its rate base was 1.2 million. Ad pages, though, rose 8.2% last year, to 620.4.

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