Media Profile: Smells like teen spirit - Sam Brown, editor, J-17

Just Seventeen’s office resembles a teenage girl’s bedroom. It is messy, the music is loud and the walls are adorned with posters of teen heart-throbs such as Joe from EastEnders and Brad Pitt.

Just Seventeen’s office resembles a teenage girl’s bedroom. It is

messy, the music is loud and the walls are adorned with posters of teen

heart-throbs such as Joe from EastEnders and Brad Pitt.



But although its readers’ interests - make-up, pop-stars and snogging -

change little, the magazine itself has just undergone a serious

makeover.



For the first time in its 13-year history Just Seventeen has gone

monthly.



The May issue retains the garish pinks and purples of its weekly

predecessor, but it’s now called J-17 and has adopted a more

heavyweight, glossy format.



Baker explains the positioning is somewhere in between the girls’ titles

Bliss and Sugar, and entertainment titles such as Smash Hits and Top of

the Pops Magazine.



’Our core reader is 14 years old and isn’t a navel-gazer. She doesn’t

want to be grown-up but wants to be cool,’ says Baker, wincing at the

marketing speak.



Previously selling around 130,000 as a weekly, publisher Emap Elan hopes

that J-17 will sustain a monthly circulation of over 320,000.



Baker joined as editor last September. And although this was her first

foray into the teen-mag market she certainly looks the part in her black

outfit and Doctor Martens boots.



’I love it,’ she says, describing herself as ’not a particularly

geriatric 30-year-old.’



Baker started out in book publishing but became disillusioned and moved

into journalism by joining Chat as an editorial assistant before

becoming properly ’blooded’ on real-life story magazine Take A

Break.



She says after a year she’d ’had quite enough of tragic depressing

stories’.



Baker describes her subsequent position as features editor on New Woman

as a ’dream job’ at the time. ’I had wanted to work on a monthly and

admired New Woman’s policy of tackling controversial subject areas.’



But her editorial ambition won through when she was approached to head

up Just Seventeen: ’The mag’s got such an amazing history and strong

brand identity. It’s the epitome of teen spirit.’



’It was a real culture shock for the first few months. I didn’t

understand a lot of the headlines and I needed to watch a lot more

telly.’



Her advice to PR people targeting the magazine is to do so more

carefully.



’We often get information on pet foods and this morning we received a

press pack on Cowes Week,’ she says in despair.



Despite the new upmarket format, Baker is determined to retain J-17’s

long-held values as demonstrated by her view on those subtle and low

profile Spice Girls: ’Anybody who says you can do what you want and

don’t need to take any shit, is okay by me.’



Baker’s long term ambition is to leave J-17 in good shape and spend some

time working in New York. ’It’s one of the things you’ve just got to

do,’ she says.



In the meantime she believes that she can at least give the likes of

rivals Bliss, Sugar and Smash Hits a run for their money.



HIGHLIGHTS

1991 Features writer, Chat

1992

Features writer, Take A Break

1995

Deputy editor, New Woman

1997

Editor, J-17



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