New spin-offs intensify teen girl mag competition

The landscape of the tween and teen girl mag market shifts as quickly as its target demo changes their clothes. KidScreen checks in on some new teen market entrants-spin-offs of popular women's lifestyle mags-drawing on the brand equity of their parent...
July 1, 2001

The landscape of the tween and teen girl mag market shifts as quickly as its target demo changes their clothes. KidScreen checks in on some new teen market entrants-spin-offs of popular women’s lifestyle mags-drawing on the brand equity of their parent titles to carve a market niche and grow their demo in the brand franchise. Plus: While the success of girl mags depends upon editorial catering to the wide-reaching tastes of a fickle demo, boy-targeted enthusiast mags thrive in the narrowest of bands. Read on to find out why.

Not only is the size of the teen demo on the upswing, but so is its dollar spend, giving rise to the hyperactivity the teen publishing market has seen of late. Based on average weekly spending figures from the Rand Youth Poll 2000, female teens ages 13 to 19 in the U.S. spent almost US$963.8 million last year on magazines-1.4% of the more than US$70 billion they spent overall. And according to market research firm Teen Research Unlimited (TRU), spending by U.S. teens totaled US$155 billion in 2000 and could continue to rise. There are 31.6 million females and males ages 12 to 19 in the U.S. today, and that number is expected to grow until the year 2010, says Michael Wood, VP at TRU.

‘In a sense, these new titles have rejuvenated the whole category,’ says Karen Jacobs, senior VP and media director at Starcom Worldwide. While 57-year-old Seventeen, 45-year-old YM and 44-year-old Teen still lead the market by circulation respectively, in the three and a half years since its launch, Teen People has been swiftly closing the gap (see ‘Top five teen girl mags by circulation,’ page 44). In ad revenue, Teen People pulls in more dollars than both YM and Teen, coming second behind Seventeen. CosmoGIRL!, nearly two years old, has been seeing impressive growth on circulation and ad revenue fronts (see ‘Top five teen girl mags by ad revenue,’ page 44). Reported figures are not available for Teen Vogue, out with two issues since its debut last October. ELLE Girl kicks off next month.

In terms of established spin-off titles, Starcom’s Jacobs says, ‘we like them all and use them all.’ Of Starcom’s clients, Polaroid has advertised its teen-marketed i-Zone camera in Teen People, CosmoGIRL! and Teen Vogue; Nintendo in CosmoGIRL! and Teen People; and McDonald’s in Teen People. A new Toys `R’ Us campaign is also appearing in these vehicles, as the retailer puts more emphasis on its stores and introduces an interactive gaming section allowing teens to sample games before buying.

While teens, especially at the older end of the demo, may already be picking up the spin-offs’ parent titles, publishers don’t see spin-offs-with content clearly intended for a different reader-as competition for existing titles. Rather, spin-offs are viewed as a strategic tool to draw readers into the brand franchise, extending through to the adult titles. ‘We heard the word `cannibalizing’ used in the beginning,’ says Maria Baugh, deputy editor of Teen People. And yet potential opportunity outweighed potential risk. ‘You get [readers] young, bring them up into the family, and they’re a People reader before you know it.’

And it only makes sense for publishers to enter the teen market with a mag that has built-in recognition through a parent title. ‘Cosmo, People, ELLE, Vogue-they’re tremendous brands,’ says Alan Jurmain, executive director of media services at Lowe, Lintas & Partners. ‘[It's] much easier to start a magazine, or launch any product, by tapping into existing brand equity.’ Not only does a well-known name help get a foot in the door with teens because ‘it lends that familiarity,’ but it can translate into savings in building awareness for the launch, says Brad Adgate, senior VP and director of research at Horizon Media.

While each of the mags appears to be getting a strong draw in ad support and circulation base, which is shaping up to be the spin-off market leader? How is each title attempting to carve a market niche?

As the most mature title of the four, Teen People leads the pack, garnering much industry attention and praise. ‘People magazine has a really strong formula of taking real people and turning them into celebrities,’ and vice-versa, says Teen People’s Baugh. ‘And we took that approach.’

Launched in January 1998 with a frequency of 10 issues and two special editions annually, the Time Inc. title (US$2.99 single copy, US$15.97 subscription) tailors this approach to teens with an editorial mix split pretty evenly among celebs, real teens, fashion and beauty. Cover stories feature celebs, while real teen coverage includes investigative issue-related articles. Teen People also spotlights teens sporting and talking about fashions and the latest trends in its Trendspotting section. In total, the magazine has attracted 10,000 Trendspotters, mainly across the U.S., with some in other countries. As well, about 35 young U.S. journalists form the Teen People News Team and cover what’s happening in their schools and communities, with the opportunity to be published in the mag or on its website (

In a real departure for the teen market, the mag uses real kids and celebs rather than models to showcase the latest fashions. Targeting the 13 to 21 set, Teen People’s readership skews 75% female and 25% male-a further point of differentiation. Drawing male readers is ‘unusual for the category, and something we work hard to cultivate,’ says Baugh. In print and on-line, Teen People features plenty of contests, both reader- and advertiser-oriented. In other advertiser opportunities, the magazine is hosting more than 55 back-to-school events this summer, including signature event Teen People’s Rock n’ Shop, which hits U.S. malls this summer to offer teens a day of music, fashion and beauty.

‘Teen People has soared higher and faster than any other titles,’ both in circulation and ad pages, says Lowe Lintas’s Jurmain. ‘But it doesn’t seem to have satiated the appetite, and there seems to be room for other magazines to continue to grow that category.’

Enter Cosmo’s little sister title CosmoGIRL! Published by Hearst Communications, the mag (US$2.99 single copy, varying subscription prices) is a medley of celebs, music, movies, TV, guys, fashion, beauty, health and stories for the ‘inner girl’ on issues like depression. ‘Aside from O, The Oprah Magazine, CosmoGIRL! has been the most successful launch at Hearst,’ says Kristine Welker, CosmoGIRL!’s publisher.

Targeting girls 12 to 19, the mag kicked off in August 1999, testing the waters with two issues before jumping to 10 a year. Its rate base rose to 750,000 last February.

CosmoGIRL! will be getting more exposure outside newsstands this fall with ‘the first-ever teen beauty awards,’ says Welker. The September issue will include 12 pages of readers’ and editors’ beauty product picks awarded the CosmoGIRL! Kiss of Approval, with two in-store retail promotions to support. A Kiss Rewards promo at CVS’s 4,100 U.S. stores will display ‘approved’ mass/drugstore brands in September and October. A second mid-September event at Bloomingdale’s in Florida’s Aventura Mall will showcase department store products and include the CosmoGIRL! Show.

And the December issue is dedicated to spotlighting CosmoGIRL!s of the year-’positive, inspiring role models that we can all learn something from,’ says Welker. In addition to infusing that empowering message, ‘that’s kind of like the heart and soul of the magazine.’

In advertising, sponsorship opportunities are available for special sections like the September issue’s pullout Backpack Astrologer. The mag’s website ( has an events and promotions section, and invites girls to join its Cyber Panel, with chances to win prizes from advertisers by responding to mini-surveys.

And the magazine is building on Cosmopolitan’s presence in 42 countries to extend the brand internationally, making CosmoGIRL! the first U.S.-based teen magazine to launch abroad. Localized editions in Turkey and the Czech Republic debuted early last year, with U.K., Hong Kong and Indonesian versions slated for fall. The logo is consistent for all versions, and ‘primarily, they’re trying to use as much as they can [from the U.S. or other editions] because it reduces costs,’ says George Green, president of Hearst Magazines International. In the end, local content typically accounts for 60% to 75% or more of editorial. Green projects that Hearst, working with publishing partners, may eventually spin off as many as 30 CosmoGIRL! editions worldwide.

Cover to cover, fledgling Teen Vogue (US$3 single copy, no subscription), for girls ages 12 to 18, breathes fashion and beauty, with a hefty measure of celeb thrown in and a large amount of brand equity to tap into through its 110-year-old parent title.

‘We felt that none of the books were really doing fashion in a way that girls this age really respond to,’ says Patrick O’Connell, director of communications for Condé Nast Publications’ Teen Vogue and Vogue. ‘We work to feature clothing that’s not cost-prohibitive, but will show some expensive items-Vogue has always been an aspirational magazine.’

About to release its third issue next month after starting last October, the mag is still in the test phase of a conservative rollout plan. The first issue was polybagged with Vogue and was sold on newsstands in New York, L.A. and Chicago. The spring issue was available on U.S. newsstands and was mailed to households with teen girls in the Condé Nast database.

So far, says O’Connell, the magazine has been pleased with advertiser interest and newsstand performance. The rate base is 500,000. Ad pages totaled 88.78 for the premiere issue, 68.36 for the second, and the magazine is anticipating the next ‘will be the healthiest issue yet.’ Condé Nast hopes to announce further plans for the publication within the next couple months.

ELLE Girl from Hachette Filipacchi Magazines is not only entering an increasingly crowded marketplace late next month, but is also carving a similar fashion and beauty niche to Teen Vogue’s. Brandon Holley, editor-in-chief of ELLE Girl, admits that her mag will have an ‘obvious competitor’ in Teen Vogue, but says: ‘I think we can both fit comfortably into this void. They’ll do it their way, and we’ll do it our way-it’s healthy competition.’

ELLE Girl will set itself apart from its crop of competitors by being a ‘style package’ versus a lifestyle, service magazine, says Linda Mason, VP and publisher of ELLE Girl, who was involved in Teen Vogue’s launch. And the mag will broadly target girls 12 to 17, but focus on 15 to 17, another differentiating factor according to Holley. ‘We feel like there isn’t a magazine that treats these girls as [if] they’re about to be adults,’ says Holley. ‘We thought it would be fun to give teens a sort of aspirational fashion magazine with resources they could afford.’

The mag will have a global flavor, with teen market reports created in collaboration with the 34 ELLE global editions. And like CosmoGIRL!, ELLE Girl has expansion dreams-the plan is to roll out several international versions over the next five years. A U.K. edition is expected to launch later this year, and Hachette is in discussions with some Asian publishers.

ELLE Girl (US$2.99 single copy, subscription price to be determined) breaks August 28. The debut issue will have a national newsstand presence, supported by ads on MTV and radio. Frequency will increase to quarterly in 2002, and the magazine is aiming for a 300,000 rate base.

While spin-offs appear to have gained a solid foothold in the teen mag market, many in the industry are waiting to see how many titles the market will bear. ‘What will be interesting to see as [today's teen] boomlet passes through is whether the category will be able to sustain this many books on an ongoing basis,’ says Starcom’s Jacobs.

Top 20 fave mags among teen girls

Seventeen 50%

Cosmopolitan 17%

People 14%

Teen Beat 10%

Glamour 10%

YM 8%

CosmoGIRL! 8%

Vibe 8%

Jump 8%

Teen 7%

Rolling Stone 7%

Twist 7%

Vogue 6%

The Source 6%

Teen People 5%

Mademoiselle 5%

Entertainment Weekly 5%

In Style 5%

Time 4%

Latin Girl 4%

Source: The TRU Study-Update Spring 2001/

Wave 37, Teenage Research Unlimited

Note: The TRU Study-Update Spring 2001/

Wave 37 surveyed 2,000 teens ages 12

to 19 in the U.S. during January and

February 2001. TRU requires that magazines

be on the market for more than one year

to be included in the study.

Top 5 teen girl mags by circulation

Seventeen 2,374.8

YM 2,203.0

Teen 2,057.6

Teen People 1,600.5

CosmoGIRL! 601.5

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations

Note: All figures for six months ended

December 31, 2000.

Top 5 teen girl mags by revenue

Title 2000 pages 1999 pages Change 2000 Ad. Rev. 1999 Ad. Rev. Change

Seventeen 1,447.79 1,340.08 8.0% $111.04 $96.88 14.6%

Teen People 1,044.32 932.38 12.0% $67.31 $47.65 41.2%

Teen 573.29 616.85 -7.1% $42.62 $42.39 0.5%

YM 552.24 606.23 -8.9% $45.79 $47.52 -3.6%

CosmoGIRL! 539.37 152.99 252.6% $19.82 $5.71 246.9%

Source: Publishers Information Bureau

Note: Ad revenue is in millions of U.S. dollars.

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