MEDIA: PRE-TEEN GIRLS: Pre-teen girl mags fashion fresh focus - The market for pre-teen girls magazines is expanding with launches taking very different stands on the issue of boys, reports Stephen Armstrong

The magazine market for pre-teen girls has traditionally remained

relatively stable with a handful of established titles featuring fiction

and pictures of animals.



But in January this year, the market became embroiled in controversy

with the launch of Mad About Boys. The magazine, launched by publishing

house Planet Three, hit a wall of press fury over its title - deemed to

be rather saucy - and its focus on make-up, fashion and, of course,

boys.



Michele Elliott, director of children's charity Kidscape, accused the

publishers of making up the little girl on the cover 'to look like a

French tart'.



'By encouraging young girls to be sexual, you don't only open them up to

the possibility of older boys taking advantage of them. You open them up

to the possibility of paedophiles,' she said.



Woolworths took heed and banned the title from all of its stores; a

group of eight Labour MPs, including the Health Select Committee

chairman David Hinchliffe, supported a Commons early-day motion

attacking the publisher.



The motion condemned the magazine for 'encouraging girls as young as

nine to diet'.



At the same time, high-profile journalists such as India Knight wrote

articles supporting the magazine and decrying the critics as excessively

moralistic and unrealistic. Mad About Boys carried on publishing.



In March, Mad About Boys was joined by another, slightly younger rival

called Cool Magazine. This title, from DC Thomson, proposes a more

traditional view of the pre-teen market, offering a diet of stories, pop

pictures, animal pictures and light fashion and beauty. For PROs, this

end of the market can have immense value.



'A lot of pop music PROs have a tendency to try and move their bands up

in age and become obsessed with cool magazines and the style press,'

says Julian Henry, Henry's House director and the man who looks after

pop band S Club 7.



'For us, when we launched S Club 7 and the Spice Girls, we knew

concentrating on the audience that buy the records is key. These

pre-teen mags, like Mad About Boys, Cool Magazine, Girl Talk and FBX,

are probably the second most important market.



'We concentrate on building long-term relationships with those magazines

and we aim for a responsible approach. I think Mad About Boys has

received a bad press, but it's a market you have to be careful with as

controversy can lead to lost sales.'



MAD ABOUT BOYS - MARIELLA LANDOLFI



Position: editor



Publisher: Planet Three



Frequency: monthly



Target audience: girls aged 10-13



'I joined the magazine half way through issue two from the Unilever -

backed teen website wowgo.com, which folded last year. Prior to that, I

had been working on websites and customer magazines aimed at a variety

of teen, pre-teen and adult markets.



'Mad About Boys is aimed at girls aged ten to 13 and it was launched in

January after a lengthy process of tracking research into the changing

attitudes of all kids aged five to 14. Our marketing director, Richard

Maskell, identified the gap in the market. It's clearly a vibrant

marketplace, as there are other launches coming along. But we think our

USP is strong and more competition just makes for a healthy

marketplace.



'Mad About Boys is a lifestyle magazine with regulars such as

horoscopes, reader problems and a teen vox pop where we ask girls of our

readers age an issue of the month. This might be something political or

it might be an issue like how old should you be before you start wearing

make-up.



We also have features on celebrities, pop, fashion, make-up, sport,

hobbies and boys.



'Our USP is that we feature 12 teen boys aged 13 to 17 and get our

readers to vote for the 'boy of the month' by post or on our website

madaboutboys.com.



Ultimately, our readers are up for fun. They are into boys, but they are

in to a lot of other things as well.



'We've been pretty well served by the PR industry, although there are

still lots of people who make the mistake of thinking we're like Just 17

and send us stuff aimed at GCSE-aged girls. I mean, our readers are

thinking about that sort of stuff at 13, but it's a long way off.



'In some ways the (negative) press coverage (at the launch) was a

blessing. We were getting loads of unsuitable stuff when we launched,

but after the coverage, people realised what sort of age and magazine we

were and now we get all sorts of products that are perfect.'



COOL MAGAZINE - ANNE KEMP



Position: editor



Publisher: DC Thomson



Frequency: fortnightly



Target audience: girls aged 7-10



'At DC Thomson, we're always looking to launches and trends and we focus

group pretty regularly. We did some very extensive work into this market

and Cool is really a result of our national focus groups. Girls aged

seven to ten are just reaching the age where they are developing their

own opinions and they were pretty clear about what they wanted.



'The process took quite some time, but we finally put the editorial team

together last October and we launched on 9 March this year. We've got

fashion and beauty in the magazine, but the beauty stuff is very much in

the glitter and lipgloss vein. We don't get into skincare regimes or

anything.



They do like fashion and shopping, so we have features on both in each

issue. They are making up their own minds in this area, although they

will admit that mum is with them when they make their decisions.



'We have lots of stories. There's a photo story about three friends and

a cartoon that's a bit of fun. We're also serialising books, starting

with the Definitely Daisy series. We also have posters of animals and

some mainstream pop stars such as Westlife and Steps.



'The magazine is hosted by five cartoon characters -the Cool Girls - and

their dog. Each one of them is an expert in something, like Poppy is the

party expert who is giving advice on sleepovers next issue while Fifi is

the fashion expert. There aren't any boys, unless they are famous.

There's no school either, although we have a problem page where school

appears.



'We've been well served by the PR industry, as most of our staff have

experience on similar magazines and so have good contacts.



'We are surprised, however, at the companies that send us products that

clearly aren't for our age group. We get all sorts of proper make-up and

videos with teenage classifications. It's a waste of time, because we

just won't run that sort of stuff. The magazine is for girls up to ten

and that's the only stuff we'll write about.'



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