TARGETING 20-SOMETHINGS?

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Call them slackers no more.

Generation X is making its voice heard through an onslaught of hip new magazines written by and for the twentysomething crowd.

"I think a lot of people believe there's no intelligent voice for people in their 20s and 30s," said Richard Thau, executive director of Third Millenium, a New York-based public policy group for the generation.

He sees the new wave of Generation X titles following the pattern of computer titles from the early 1980s or gay titles of the late 1980s and early '90s. A need arose in the marketplace, met by a slew of new magazines. But only the strongest survived.

With names like Shift, Third Word, Real, Hypno, Bikini, Axcess and Pure, the start-up publications on shoestring budgets often fly in the face of conventional titles and may not be easily recognizable to marketers.

But that in part is their reason for being.

"Young people are media savvy. We don't want magazines named `Youth Today.' It takes a degree of subtlety to cut through the resistance. We don't like being marketed to," said David Egger, co-founder of San Francisco-based general interest magazine Might.

Marketers have long been trying to reach the 40 million people in the 18-to-30-year-old age group, who spend $125 billion a year on goods and services.

"It's tough to reach this generation," conceded Christopher Fuller, 26, the national field coordinator for Washington-based political action group Lead or Leave. "I think we're smarter and wiser than past generations and realize we're being marketed to."

Debbie Menfi, senior VP-media director at Deutsch, New York, said, "There is definitely a little room in the market for them [new magazines]. In terms of an age segment, the 18-to-30-year-olds are important to a lot of marketers and they have been difficult to reach through traditional media." She also cautions, however, "from a business perspective, a lot of the new magazines are going to have to evolve beyond the basement level."

Sean Patrick Walsh, founder and editor of Austin, Texas-based literary magazine i.o., repeated a lament commonly heard among the young entrepreneurs when he said, "We started this magazine because we did not find anything like it in print."

But he also gave a tip of his hat to a past generational success story: "We're trying to do for writers what Rolling Stone did for music a generation ago."

Many of the new titles say they're trying to break through the media hype.

"We're not trying to give you a world view driven by cosmetics, press releases and girlfriends," said Sean Gullette, co-editor and co-publisher of KGB, a New York-based magazine of culture and politics. "We're trying to open people's eyes to something new."

The premiere issue attracted such advertisers as Finlandia vodka, Hennessey cognac and Replay jeans-a feat that helped keep KGB solvent as its founders prepare to go to press with the third issue next month.

"There's a lot of people with a lot of energy, a lot of drive and a lot of ambition," Mr. Thau said of the influx of new titles.

"But can they get the cash to survive? My guess is that over the long haul, most won't."

With the exception of established titles like Details at Conde Nast Publications or a Time Inc. test, Mouth2Mouth, few new titles have deep pockets behind them.

One new title already linked with a conventional publisher is Manhattan File, a free publication that will be distributed in New York. Backing is being provided by News Communications, a publisher of free newspapers.

The new magazine will concentrate on fashion and club listings. Cristina Greeven, 24-year-old co-publisher, said the title has already booked Revlon, Absolut vodka and Chemical Bank for its premiere issue, which hits the streets July 28 before starting every-other-weekly publication Sept. 8.

Another magazine that seems to have deep pockets is Swing, a 100,000 circulation title in the works from David Lauren, son of designer Ralph Lauren.

Mr. Thau said it's imperative to build "generational awareness," but he believes most new titles will have to leap beyond their generational identity.

"Rolling Stone survived the hippie era because it was a magazine about music, not about hippiedom," he said.

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