Staple mags keep connected with kids

If the kids magazine section of your local newsstand appears to be swelling, it's not your imagination. Of the top 10 kids magazines cited in a 1999 study by Simmons Market Research (see chart page 47), at least six have popped...
August 1, 2000

If the kids magazine section of your local newsstand appears to be swelling, it’s not your imagination. Of the top 10 kids magazines cited in a 1999 study by Simmons Market Research (see chart page 47), at least six have popped up in the last decade. And if the year-to-date ad revenue figures for the key players are anything to go by, business is better than ever: As of May, revenues for Boys’ Life were up 67% this year over last, while Nickelodeon posted a 65% increase, Disney Adventures was up 44% and Sports Illustrated For Kids posted an increase of 19%.

(Crayola Kids was also humming along, with ad revenues up 55%, when Meredith Corporation, which published the mag under license for Crayola maker Binney & Smith, unexpectedly pulled the plug in May. The publisher cited ‘strategic differences in how we wanted to approach the magazine,’ and at press time, Binney & Smith was evaluating other publishing opportunities.)

From the publishers’ point of view, the impressive growth in the kid mag market is yet another effect of the growth in kids entertainment in general. ‘Marketers have recognized in greater numbers the huge influence that kids have in product purchasing decisions within their household, above and beyond what they may choose to buy on their own,’ says Glenn Rosenbloom, group publisher for the consumer magazine group of Disney Publishing Worldwide. ‘The kids print arena is now significant enough in terms of reach to be a very complementary medium to television.’

Below, we take a look at some of the key players and how they’ve managed to be successful.

Sports Illustrated For Kids

Sports Illustrated For Kids (US$2.99/copy, US$29.95/subscription) is looking to score with kids ages eight to 14 by taking them to some of their favorite places: The ballpark, the basketball court and the wrestling ring, to name a few.

SI For Kids spotlights all the sports kids would be interested in, told from all the angles: News, athlete profiles, stats, profiles of kids in sports, posters, trivia, playing tips, puzzles and action photos. As kids have become more interested in extreme sports and video games, these topics have been added to its pages.

The Sports Illustrated brand was the key to launching the magazine in 1989 and growing the publication. ‘Every kid knows what Sports Illustrated is,’ the brand connotes trust and credibility among parents, and the connection with the adult-targeted predecessor gives the tween magazine access to the top athletes, says publisher Sheila Buckley.

A page about highlights what’s new on the magazine’s website each month, and references throughout the magazine also draw attention to the site. ‘The magazine is distributed, and we immediately see a lift in the amount of Web traffic,’ says Buckley.

Perhaps more so than any other kids magazine that began as a magazine, SI For Kids has extended its franchise beyond print. In addition to the website, spin-offs include licensed merchandise, more than 150 books, a road trip launched last year and repeated this summer, and the Sports Illustrated For Kids Omnibus Study that’s conducted in four waves per year. The total revenue from the franchise in 1999 added up to about US$43.5 million, and of magazine-only revenues totaling US$37.6 million, about 41% was from ad sales, 56% was from subscriptions and 3% was from newsstand sales.

Marketing opportunities under the SI For Kids brand umbrella include on-line, a syndicated newspaper strip in more than 80 U.S. newspapers, the road trip, the Omnibus Study and custom publishing. SI For Kids has previously developed custom publishing programs with Gatorade and Kellogg, and new efforts are planned for fourth quarter.

Girls’ Life

Straddling the border between kid and teen magazines is the seven-year-old Monarch Services publication Girls’ Life (US$2.95/copy, US$14.95/subscription), targeting girls ages 10 to 15.

In a sassy, off-the-cuff style, the magazine takes on issues at the heart of being a preteen or young teen, from surviving your parents’ split to boosting your body confidence to deciphering baffling boy behavior. Inside the bi-monthly publication, readers find fare typical of a service magazine for teen girls or women, from advice columns to information about beauty, sports, music, books and websites, but all presented from an age-appropriate perspective. Publisher and founding editor Karen Bokram says readers associate Girls’ Life with ‘smart, yet fun, yet sensible, yet interesting editorial.’

Last month, the magazine relaunched its website, introducing a monthly on-line magazine of original content. In May, its first book, The Girls’ Life Guide to Growing Up, kicked off in a joint venture with Beyond Words Publishing, and Bokram sees doing more.

Roughly 20% of the magazine’s distribution is on newsstands, with the remainder from subscriptions. Girls’ Life is also ‘the magazine of choice’ for the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, and Girl Scouts subscribers receive a 10% subscription discount and an insert by GSUSA inside each issue.

Bokram estimates that US$1.7 million of the magazine’s total annual revenue comes from advertising, US$4 million from subscriptions, US$1.2 million from newsstand sales, and US$500,000 from other sources, such as list rental.

For marketers, the magazine offers not only print and on-line opportunities, but custom solutions, such as this summer’s 10-city fashion show mall tour with Nautica.

Kid City

Just as its name connotes, Kid City aims ‘to create a community for kids,’ says Maureen Hunter-Bone, editor-in-chief of children’s periodicals (Kid City, Contact Kids and Sesame Street Magazine) at Sesame Workshop.

Kid City, published 10 times a year for kids ages six to 10-plus, began in 1974 as The Electric Company Magazine, based on the literacy TV series of the same name. But the magazine soon evolved from being reading skills-based into a general-interest publication. After the show went off the air, the magazine was repositioned as Kid City in 1988.

‘What we’re out to do is to help kids explore, play, make sense of the world they live in-in a really fun way,’ says Hunter-Bone.

Each issue is themed, ‘extremely interactive’ and gives kids many entry points, from graphics to hooks like celebrities or sports stars, says Hunter-Bone. The July/August issue, for example, centers around heat and features an interview with the sun, a photo feature on hot spots around the world, a make-your-own-song vocabulary activity with the band 98¼ and a matching puzzle about fireworks.

The magazine is also helping kids get on-line, says Hunter-Bone, primarily by tying into Sesame Workshop’s Sticker World website. A ‘Kid City Bookmark’ feature, which lists books and websites related to the theme, a calendar and a Sticker World page all drive kids webward.

Kid City had a 1999 circulation of about 276,000 and is not available on newsstands. Total revenue is split about 10% ad revenue and 90% subscriptions, which go for US$21.97/year. Advertising in Kid City and Contact Kids is handled by the Boys’ Life sales force that offers marketers Kids X 3, a package combining Boys’ Life, Kid City and Contact Kids.

Also from Sesame Workshop is Contact Kids, which focuses on science, technology and nature and targets kids ages eight to 12, and Sesame Street Magazine, which is bundled with Sesame Street Parents and targets two- to six-year-olds. Both come out 10 times a year.

Boys’ Life

Boys’ Life may not be as slick as some of its counterparts, but photos and stories of kids up to their knees in action, like a 12-year-old Scout hanging off a sailboat’s side to keep it from flipping, keep the energy flowing.

Approaching its 90th anniversary next year, the monthly magazine for boys ages six to 18 published by the Boy Scouts of America began expressly as a Scouting publication. Today, its tagline is ‘the magazine for all boys,’ although the majority of the readers are Boy Scouts members, who can subscribe for half of the full US$18 a year price. The magazine is only available through subscriptions, which supply about 80% of the publication’s total revenue (advertising accounts for the rest).

‘We cover pretty much anything that’s of interest to kids,’ says managing editor William E. Butterworth IV. That can range from team and pro sports to animals, fiction, books, hobbies and video games. Stories in the general-interest magazine depict kids doing ‘amazing things’ most kids may never have a chance to do-like a recent profile of a 17-year-old championship golfer-as well as ‘stuff that’s very approachable that they could easily conceivably do,’ like scuba diving, sailing or mountain climbing, which Scouts can participate in at BSA-run ‘high adventure camps,’ says Butterworth.

The magazine is published in two versions, one aimed at kids ages six to 10 and another at kids ages 11 to 18, corresponding with the ages of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts respectively. Both share the same cover and about 80% of their content, although the junior issue features more cartoons, larger photos and less text.

Additional opportunities for marketers include a camp sampling program, a mini-magazine offered in the fall to potential new Boy Scouts registrants and repurposed material, such as comic book versions of classic tales from back issues, to use as premiums.

Coming up next year is the National Scout Jamboree, drawing 30,000-plus Scouts from across the U.S. There is a Jamboree supplement and marketers can sample product and provide displays.

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