MEDIA TEENS AND TWEENS: Media Roundup - Youth-targeted publicationshave truly come of age

Belying the myth that today's youngsters don't read for pleasure,

magazines are leading a huge surge in teen and tween media outlets.

Standard bearers such as Boy's Life, Teen, Seventeen, and Tiger Beat

have encouraged many youths to read magazines. Then, the successful

launch of Teen People a few years ago prompted a flood of adult media

brands to re-package their formula for this exploding market. This led

to titles like Cosmo Girl, Elle Girl, and Teen Vogue.

Even more encouraging was the launch of MH-18, a spin-off of Men's

Health, one of the first product-driven lifestyle magazines for teen

boys. Though that magazine closed after only five issues, and several

similar recent ventures - such as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's

magazine - failed, many well-known brands such as MTV are still strongly

considering entry into the teen and tween print arena.

"Teen girls have always read magazines," explains Illene Siemer, who

runs the youth marketing division of Weber Shandwick Worldwide. "But

teen boys are also starting to read more as publishers realize that it

wasn't that they didn't want to read, it was just that they didn't have

the magazines to read."

Growing with its audience

What makes the teen and tween media outlets so popular these days is not

just the billions of dollars this group currently has in disposable

income, but also what they will spend in the future. "Teens establish

brand loyalty at an early age," says Temi Sacks, president of New

York-based T.J. Sacks & Associates, in explaining why so many companies

are so eager to reach this group.

In many ways, teens and tweens (defined as aged 8-14) are still

developing their tastes, and thus are far more likely to look to outside

sources for advice on what to wear, what makeup to use, what music to

buy, what gadgets to own, and even which celebrities to adore. That

means reporters and editors in this space are constantly looking for new

products and trends, making them ideal targets for PR campaigns.

"Teen outlets, and especially the teen girl magazines, are more

receptive to pitches than a lot of general interest reporters, because

they are so product-focused," says Siemer. "The kids want what's new,

and it's the editorial staff's job to find out what that is."

While there are some editors in their 30s and 40s writing for youth

magazines, Kim Flanagan, VP at Lane Marketing Communications, says teen

and tween reporters and editors "tend to be younger than your typical

journalist." Flanagan adds that can make them more open to creative

pitches, such as a recent Lane media outreach to teen girl outlets on

behalf of Nike, which involves an ongoing storyline that includes Nike

product references.

But Sarah Bessette, account supervisor with Access Communications in New

York, says it's a misperception to assume that there is some sort of

kiddie corps in charge of these outlets. "We noticed that many tend to

be similar to the journalists at women's fashion magazines," she


"They really understand the market they are reaching."

Serving your readers' needs

One characteristic of that market is its fickleness. Wendy Watson, SVP

and leader of Porter Novelli's youth marketing practice, points out many

of the teen and tween editors at long-lead publications face the added

pressure of having to anticipate what will be hot in a few months, no

easy feat given the short shelf life of some youth fads.

For the most part, outlets aimed at youth tend to focus on upbeat "good

news" features and stories, but these reporters do deserve credit for

evolving with the times. YM magazine, for example, initially stood for

"Young Miss." Later that was changed to "Young & Modern," and now it

stands for "Your Magazine." While they may never resemble Cosmopolitan

for content, the outlets are trying to take on the role of an elder

sibling as they delicately educate their readers in the areas of

sexuality and relationships, as witnessed by a recent YM cover story on

how to hide a hickey.

It's also important to realize that the audience for teen magazines

isn't quite what it seems. Since most teens are aspirational, magazines

aimed at one demographic are often read by a slightly younger one. By

the time a boy or girl reaches 17, they are often turning to young adult

outlets such as Maxim, Rolling Stone or Glamour.

In turn, "a lot of the 17 and 18 magazines are being read by youths

starting at age 13 or 14 who are trying to emulate their older brothers

and sisters," explains Ron Antonette, Golin/Harris' VP of youth

marketing and brand strategies. Ditto for the tween outlets whose

readership extends down to as young as age eight.

Adding substance to the style

A common misperception is that magazines aimed at teen or tween

audiences are exclusively celebrity- or fashion-driven. Many have been

willing to tackle tough issues such as eating disorders and birth

control. "There are magazines that want to offer more substantial

stories," says Jen Dobrzelecki, account supervisor with Nichol &

Company, which represents Valvoline Instant Oil Change service


Dobrzelecki was able to pitch Valvo-line in a piece on young women

working in predominantly male jobs. The story, which editors eventually

turned into cool jobs for teenagers, ended up in Teen People and

Seventeen. In turn, that led local affiliates in Houston and Pittsburgh

to interview two of the girls featured in the national stories.

Among the leading journalists in teen and tween media are Lauren Beckham

Falcone of the Boston Herald, Seventeen editor-in-chief Annmarie

Iverson, Brandon Holley, editor of the recently launched Elle Girl, and

Tommi Lewis Tilden of Teen.

Ironically, PR execs say TV and radio, where many teens and pre-teens

spend their time, are far harder markets to crack. When an outlet such

as MTV covers a new product, it's usually part of an ad campaign or

product-placement effort. The same goes for radio, where even the banter

of local DJs may be scripted and paid for in some way. "With this

audience, you really have to blur the line between publicity and

promotion," says Antonette.

"There are editorial opportunities that can be had by doing promotional


And while this is supposed to be the digital generation that spends more

time online, teen-centric websites seem to come and go on almost a

monthly basis, making it hard to come with a comprehensive online media

outreach program. "There are so many sites that the kids go to, that

there's no one site to focus on," says Golin/Harris' Negin Kamali. "It's

worth the effort to be at an Alloy or a Sports Illustrated for Kids site

because they are trafficked by a cooler, younger crowd." But Kamali adds

that many of the most popular sites for teens are often general-interest

outlets, which can make it inefficient for pitching solely to an

under-18 audience.

Of course, the other way to reach this group is through their


Access' Bessette represents the tween chain Limited Too and was able to

get the retailers' clothing featured on a number of back-to-school

fashion pieces in outlets ranging from the Chicago Sun Times to morning

TV shows.

But she warns that, obviously, parents and teens don't always agree on

fashion. For example, when Limited Too's celebrity stylist Stephanie

Wolf, who's helped design looks for Britney Spears and Christina

Aguilera, appeared on Good Morning America, she was asked whether such

clothing is appropriate for teens, and if these girls should be looking

to celebrities for fashion guidance. "Luckily," Bessette says, "we had

briefed her that the best response was that it needs to be a mutual

decision between girls and their parents."


Newspapers: Boston Herald; Los Angeles Times; USA Today; college and

school newspapers

Magazines: Seventeen; Teen; YM; Boy's Life; Teen People; Cosmo Girl;

Teen Vogue; Stuff; Tiger Beat; Twist; American Girl; Discovery Girl; Boy

Crazy!; J-14; J-17; Girl's Life; Latin Girl; Sports Illustrated for

Kids; Rolling Stone; Spin

TV & Radio:

MTV; local radio stations

Internet: Alloy; Bolt;;;;;;

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