Just a year ago, the main players in the field were K-III Magazines' venerable Seventeen, Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's fast-growing YM and Petersen Publishing Co.'s 'Teen, which picked up readers of Lang Communications' Sassy when that magazine folded.
But with the U.S. Census Bureau saying that by 2010 the U.S. teen market will hit 34 million, up 17.2% from the current 29 million, more publishers are chasing that audience.
A BOOMING DEMO
"It's a booming demographic," said Lisa Lombardi, editor in chief of Snap!, slated to launch this fall. "By the year 2005, there will be more teen-agers in the U.S. than any other age group."
Another factor is teens' increasing levels of disposable income. According to American Demographics, teens account for more than $100 billion in annual consumer spending-2% of total consumer expenditures.
Two weeks ago, Bauer Publishing announced the September launch of Snap!, aimed at 14-to-19-year-old girls. In January, Time Inc. revealed plans for a teen spinoff project of People, tentatively titled Teen People and targeted for newsstands in November.
In January 1995, Weider Publications announced its plans to develop Jump, aimed at girls ages 12 to 17; 500,000 copies will hit newsstands Aug. 5.
These publishers are eager to spend money on developing titles, despite some high-profile projects that have crashed, including Time Inc.'s Mouth2Mouth, Hachette Filipacchi and NBC's Tell, and Quake, a joint venture between Welsh Publishing and Cowles Magazines.
The difference this time around, however, is that publishers are refining their target audience from teens in general to teen-age girls.
"YM and Seventeen and 'Teen are very good publications. But my personal feeling is that they are out of touch with real girls' lives. The kinds of models they use and fashion they portray, especially the price points, are not realistic. They're fantasy books," said Ms. Lombardi, who previously was executive editor for YM. She added that Snap! will include editorial on entertainment, relationships and "real" beauty/fashion coverage.
The publishers of Seventeen and YM doubt whether readers of these magazines are really demanding new books.
"I don't subscribe to the idea that the market needs anything or that teen-agers feel a void," said Seventeen Publisher Laurie Burgess.
For the newcomers, YM Publisher Alyce Alston has this warning: "Ad pages aren't there yet for this market. They're all looking at long-range growth of this market, but it's not going to happen tomorrow." Seventeen, YM and 'Teen split 2,500 ad pages in 1996, Ms. Alston said.
'SEVENTEEN,' 'YM' GOING STRONG
Ad pages for January through April so far this year have been strong for Seventeen and YM. Seventeen is leading with 378 ad pages, up 2.8% over the same period in '96, according to Publishers Information Bureau. YM ad pages are up 17% to 151. Ad pages for 'Teen were down 9% to 160.
Seventeen is winning the circulation battle, too, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations figures. For 1996, Seventeen's circulation grew 12.4% to 2,442,090. Total circulation for YM was flat at 2,153,815; 'Teen was down 2.4% to 1,327,893.
Ad dollars are limited, agreed Robert Geller, president of Robert Geller & Associates, New York, the media buyer for Coty and Lancaster fragrances.
"There really are only enough ad dollars to support a magazine and a half," he said. "As an advertiser, I never felt that the teen-age market was undermagazined. Ad support is not going to materialize from thin air or double to support all these newcomers."
NEED FOR 'SOMETHING DIFFERENT'
But Teen People Managing Editor Christina Ferrari believes "the audience is ready for something different. There's a real shift in desires. Girls' interests are broad- ening and they want to be talked to as well-rounded individuals."
While the main audience for the Time Inc. title is expected to be female, Ms. Ferrari wants to create a title that "doesn't alienate boys."
Plans call for the magazine to present celebrity as well as human interest