Teen Mags? So Five Years Ago

Advertisers Enamored With Web, Niche Channels

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NEW YORK (Adage.com) -- The demise of the 8-year-old Teen People's print edition last week is one more indication of just how quickly digital media can change the game. At its launch, the title was heralded as an instant hit.
Teen marketing dollars are heading to the web, and teen titles are following.
Teen marketing dollars are heading to the web, and teen titles are following.

But a lack of ad pages led to the decision that the brand would operate more efficiently as a website, the same conclusion Hachette Filipacchi reached for Elle Girl earlier this year.

Following marketers online
Video-game advertisers, to cite a classic teen category, have cut their magazine spending to $28.8 million last year from $46.1 million in 2002, a 37.5% drop, according to TNS Media Intelligence. At the same time, they increased web spending to $12.6 million last year from $4.6 million in 2002, a jump of 174%. Youth-obsessed Alloy Media & Marketing said movie studios have increased spending at the company's nontraditional youth-oriented platforms by 300% in three years.

Last week, an AOL-owned action-sports website called Lat34.com asked youth-marketing agency Fuse how to tell teens about its sponsorship of the U.S. Open of Surfing. "Five years ago the conversation would have been all about print media," said Bill Carter, partner, Fuse. "There might have been some secondary conversations about the web. In the conversation we just had, none of it was about print."

Even if print were on the table -- and certainly Conde Nast's Teen Vogue has been a success -- Mr. Carter added, teenagers view magazines such as Teen People as mainstream during a period when marketers want to go niche. "The pool of money gets chopped up a lot of different ways, but the general publication as a place where marketing dollars land I don't believe has a future," he said.

Other avenues
Entire other avenues are becoming more attractive, too. "Ten years ago brand marketers still asked very basic, even skeptical questions about things like event marketing, athletic marketing and celebrity endorsements," Mr. Carter said. "Today that doesn't happen."

Indeed, even Aveda, a marketer that chose to roll out its first skin-care products for teens using the Teen People brand, was not that concerned about the print product folding. Aveda was using the brand as much for the events it was providing as it was for the print advertising.

Given the current landscape, it's no wonder the execs behind Teen People, like those at Hachette Filipacchi's Elle Girl earlier this year, decided having a website and no magazine was just as cost effective. The ad-page slide at Teen People in 2005, which left the title off 4.6%, accelerated in the first half of this year, when pages were down 14.4%, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Meanwhile, ad revenue at TeenPeople.com grew sixfold from 2004 to 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

The web's ability to disseminate information, fashion, styles and trends across the entire country has also made teenagers feel more savvy -- and when they look to magazines, they are more interested in "sophisticated" titles.

'15 going on 25'
"Teens are an aspirational lot," said Rob Callender, trends director, Teenage Research Unlimited. "They always want to be X number of years older than they are. We're seeing that increasing now -- we see teens thinking of themselves as 15 going on 25. They see themselves as very sophisticated. That being the case, it's maybe not entirely surprising that Teen People shut down, because teens were probably reading actual People."

Indeed, not all teen-marketing dollars are now flooding to the web. Some are even flowing to other kinds of magazines. Oscar Montes de Oca, who handles ad strategy for Squeeze jeans and has advertised in Teen People and Teen Vogue, said everything has changed about the brand's strategy. "Five years ago we were pretty much in every magazine that corresponded to the juniors division," he said. Then it decided that retail promotions were a better use of its budget.

Now the brand wants to be back in front of consumers, but is talking almost exclusively about targeted niche plays, such as College Bound Teen magazine and its accompanying direct-mail programs, and -- to be sure -- digital platforms.

Squeeze can't afford to appear in Conde Nast Publications' Lucky, for example, but it may buy space on Lucky.com. "Print is still pretty expensive," Mr. Montes de Oca said. "No matter what the budget is we'll get more bang for our buck online."

The survivors
The surviving teen magazines argued that they won't be abandoned. "It's easy for people to fall back on a discussion of which medium is better, which medium has momentum," said Jane Grenier, associate publisher, Conde Nast's Teen Vogue. "Our reader has clearly expressed interest in this authoritative fashion and beauty information from a source she can trust."

Michael Clinton, exec VP-CMO, publishing director, Hearst Magazines (publisher of CosmoGirl and Seventeen), acknowledged that teen girls today multitask more than previous generations did, but "the magazine format is one that they want as part of their overall experience."
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