<b>MEDIA PROFILE: Teenage girls just wanna have fun - and be taken seriously</b>

Shedding their teenybopper stereotype for more mature pursuits, young women are undergoing a marketing makeover. Melanie Shortman shows how one of their favorite mags is reflecting the change.

Shedding their teenybopper stereotype for more mature pursuits, young women are undergoing a marketing makeover. Melanie Shortman shows how one of their favorite mags is reflecting the change.

Teenage girls, as many exhausted parents already know, are a force to be reckoned with. Despite being saddled with stereotypes of irrational mood swings and boy craziness, teen girls have proven of late to be socially conscious, media savvy, and financially independent. They're earning big allowances, chatting on cell phones and computers, making change in their communities - and as a result they're emerging as a coveted target for marketers. "It's a crowded market," says YM editor-in-chief Christina Kelly. "Everyone wants to reach teenage girls." According to the Magazine Publishers of America, magazines outperform both prime-time television and the internet in reaching 12- to 17-year-olds. That's why YM (which now stands for Your Magazine, after years as Young and Modern) is a hot target for PR practitioners, who can pitch everything from health issues and teen-related nonprofits to celebrities and lip balm. The teen magazine arena is competitive, with YM and Seventeen regularly duking it out for the lead. In 2001, YM placed second among teen titles - which include Cosmo Girl, Teen People, and Teen Vogue - with a circulation of 2.2 million and a total audience of 9 million, only 100,000 less than Seventeen. The contest is so close, however, that lately both have been touting the top rank. YM readers' median age is 18, and 88% are female. (Marketers should take notes from the million teen boys who read to gain insight into the way girls think.) At the beginning of 2002, Kelly made headlines by banning diet stories and anorexic-looking models from YM. "The need to be super thin is all consuming for many girls, and eating disorders continue to be a major problem," she says. This meant a shift toward featuring more "normal looking" girls and celebrating the actions of those who fight for change. Another key move was to simplify the book into six sections: Diary, Beauty, Boys, Stars, Stories, and Style. The November issue's Diary section profiles the holder of the title "Strongest Girl in the World," two girls who fight tobacco companies targeting teens, and book reviews, along with standard front-of-the-book columns with advice and embarrassing stories. Beauty, Boys, Stars, and Style are full of products and personalities, such as the final four contestants from American Idol, makeup tips for school, and tap-dancing hotties. The November Stories section features girls who have done something admirable, dubbing them the "20 Coolest Girls in America." They include gold medalist Sarah Hughes and an openly gay teenager who helped make a film about the pressures of fitting in at high school. Also included in the back of the book are columns Gadget Girl (a perfect pitch for teen-oriented tech products) and Yearbook (with pictures of a star from his or her high school days). Like teenagers, YM's editors are hands-on, and one of the most important parts of a fashion or beauty pitch is to let them view the product ahead of time. "For beauty products, you totally need to send samples," Kelly says. And with their two-month lead time, this means thinking ahead. Jared Jones, a senior associate with Coltrin & Associates, invited editors to view fashion items in May. The journalists came armed with Polaroid cameras and took pictures for use at their planning meetings. Trenesa Stanford-Danuser, VP of lifestyle and trends at Marina Maher Communications, says her agency sends beauty products along with a pitch letter. "If you can't experience it, then it's lost," she says. Not surprisingly, the magazine relishes exclusives. "We want to have it before other people do," Kelly says. When Beth Nussbaum of Dan Klores Communications was promoting the teen flick Swimfan to teen magazines, her pitch to YM was made special by giving it exclusive access for behind-the-scenes photos. "I called [entertainment editor] Patty Adams first and wrote a little e-mail," she says. "I said, you can bring a photographer if you give me a feature." YM's editors are also very open to pitches. "It's a lot of what the entertainment and beauty departments do, listening to publicists and going to events," says Kelly. Be sure to send e-mails or products before tying up an editor's phone line - and never call to ask if your product was received. "They hate that," says Stanford-Danuser. If an editor doesn't get back to you after a couple of weeks, follow up by discussing how the product can be used. The good and bad news for PR practitioners is that teen girls are a fickle bunch. What is uncool today can be all the rage tomorrow, making for ample but challenging opportunities. "We count on the fickle behavior because the trends might change in a blink," says Stanford-Danuser. "It's fun, and it keeps us on our toes." ------------ Contact list YM Address: G+J USA Publishing, 375 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017-5514 Phone: (646) 758-0493 Web: www.ym.com Editor-in-chief: Christina Kelly Fashion director: Elizabeth Kiester Beauty director: Abby Gardner Entertainment director: Alyssa Vitrano Senior entertainment editor: Patty Adams

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