'Teen' has growing pains

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Teen got beat.

And now owner Emap USA, reacting to the pressures of a hotly contested niche, will substantially remake the aging Teen from a general-interest title to one tightly focused on shopping, style and celebrity.

"You couldn't be as painfully aware of the competition as I am," said Lynn Lehmkuhl, Teen president.

With the upcoming fall launch of Hachette Filipacchi Magazines' Elle Girl and Conde Nast Publications' test of Teen Vogue, in 2001 the teen-girl category will have gone from three major titles to seven in three years.

And, simply put, the new kids on the block-Hearst Magazines' CosmoGirl and AOL Time Warner's Teen People-have eaten away at the market once owned predominately by Teen, Primedia's Seventeen and Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's YM.

"Clients will say, `why didn't you include Teen People?"' in media plans, said Gene DeWitt, CEO of Optimedia International, New York. "Seventeen is a wonderful magazine, but it's gotten a little formulaic. Teen-same thing."

Only Seventeen, the category's largest title, grew ad pages last year-increasing 8% to 1,447.8-while YM and Teen dropped 8.9% and 7.1% respectively. Teen's single-copy sales declined a steep 22.6% and overall circulation was down 3.2% for the second half of 2000.

ACTING LIKE THE OLDER GIRLS

The Teen makeover, which draws a heavy influence from Conde Nast's shopping title Lucky and AOL Time Warner's In Style, will feature strong shopping elements with virtually every story, replete with depictions of products used by celebrities or in photo shoots and-a la Lucky-URL links so readers can make immediate purchases.

The redone title will hit newsstands July 3 for the August back-to-school issue-the niche's traditional Fat Tuesday. (YM unveiled a redesign earlier this year too.)

Gone are teen-title staples such as advice columns, confessional pieces and quizzes. In are pieces on young stars' bedrooms-with shopping info on the their tchotchkes-and a heavily graphic, almost catalog-like approach.

"Project Ritalin," joked Ms. Lehmkuhl, in a reference to readers' shrinking attention spans.

The new shopping emphasis, Ms. Lehmkuhl said, likely will mean Teen's status as the youngest-skewing teen title will change. "We are no longer going to target the younger reader," she said.

A rate-base decrease from the current 2 million is undecided, but Ms. Lehmkuhl's comments make it sound likely. Citing "huge rate-base pressures" affecting all magazines, Ms Lehmkuhl admitted, "it's enormously expensive to maintain a rate base."

Emap will begin broadly showing the new Teen to advertisers this week.

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