'Seventeen' Loses Its Editor to Web

Teen Guru Atoosa Rubenstein Plans to Consult, Write Book

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Atoosa Rubenstein is leaving her post as editor in chief of Hearst Magazines' Seventeen after three years in the job, positioning her exit as a risk-taker's decision to try new things, including a website for teens, a book and consulting on teenagers.
Atoosa Rubenstein
Atoosa Rubenstein Credit: AP

In a long note on her MySpace page this morning, Ms. Rubenstein said her quitting will actually lead her to get even more involved with teens. "At the end of this year, I'll be leaving Seventeen," she wrote. "And that brings me to US: Because I'm not leaving YOU. I'm leaving Seventeen, so I can be in closer touch with you. My mission has always been this: To protect you and help you find, accept and explore your truths because your truth will unlock the door to your dreams. And you have always played the same role in MY life, too. After all, I'm following my truth here, practicing what I preach."

Bad news for title
Surprised media buyers said the news doesn't sound good for the magazine, let alone the teen category, where both Elle Girl and Teen People gave up and shut down in the past year.

"I think it's going to have an effect on advertisers and readers in the short term, as we saw at Jane magazine when Jane Pratt left," said Robin Steinberg, senior VP-director of print investment, MediaVest. "Atoosa's commitment to the magazine said to me there's longevity in the category for this group. The fact that she's walking away to go just to the web makes me less confident about teens and the tangible product."

Ms. Rubenstein had raised her and her magazine's profile over the past two years with ventures such as the one-season MTV show "Miss Seventeen," in which teen girls competed for an internship and were judged by Ms. Rubenstein, and the CW series "America's Next Top Model," whose winner this season will appear on the cover of Seventeen.

"My gut tells me, as does information that I've seen from focus groups, that teens do want to continue to read magazines and be able to extend to the digital arena," Ms. Steinberg added. "But the fact that this teen guru is walking away from this platform is a sign of something more serious."

"The editorship of Seventeen, the biggest teen magazine in the marketplace, is a coveted position," a Hearst spokeswoman said in a released statement. "Hearst has begun the interviewing process and will name a successor before the end of the year."

Her decision seems to be driven by a desire to develop her own brand as a teen guru. "I don't play the game in a safe way," Ms. Rubenstein told The New York Post. The Post reported the "exclusive" this morning, although Jossip.com actually beat the tab with the news last night.

Paid circulation
Paid circulation at Seventeen, the largest of the surviving teen girl books, dipped slightly in the most recent reporting period. The magazine claimed average paid circ of more than 2 million copies per issue during the first half of this year, down 1.2% from first-half 2005, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Its newsstand rose 1%, no small feat in a tough retail market for magazines, but subscriptions fell 1.6%.

That put Seventeen in good company. Its sibling rival at Hearst, CosmoGirl, notched a 0.5% paid circulation gain in the first half, coming in at 1.4 million, as newsstand sales fell 14.7% and subscriptions rose 6.9%.

At Conde Nast Publications, Jane reported average paid circulation of 706,561, up 0.9% on a newsstand plunge of 14.8% and a subscription increase of 5.3%. Founder Jane Pratt exited in September 2005.

Average paid circ at Conde Nast's Teen Vogue plummeted to 972,555, a 36.4% nose dive mostly due to attrition among former subscribers to the defunct YM, whose list the publisher bought and served with Teen Vogue. Subscriptions to Teen Vogue fell 42.2% while newsstand sales dipped just 1.9%.

Ad-page battle
In ad pages, Seventeen trails Teen Vogue, according to the Publishers Information Bureau: Seventeen ran 732 ad pages January through September, down 2.6% from the equivalent period last year, while Teen Vogue ran 901, up 24.2%. From January through September, ad pages rose 1.9% to 591 at Cosmo Girl and sank 25.8% to 426 at Jane.

"From the first time I met Atoosa, I knew this was a young woman with a tremendous creative energy and she has proven that over and over, both in creating CosmoGIRL! and then taking on the editorship of Seventeen after Hearst acquired it in 2003," Cathleen Black, president, Hearst Magazines, said in the company's statement. "At both titles, she created strong teams, and during her time at Seventeen, she increased newsstand sales, launched the reality show, Miss Seventeen, on MTV and created her own website and a presence for Seventeen on MySpace among other key partnerships strengthening Seventeen's leadership in the teen category. We expect to have an ongoing relationship with Atoosa in her future endeavors. We think the world of her and wish her only the best."

Ms. Rubenstein did not immediately respond to messages left seeking comment.
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