Tweens, Teens, and Magazines (page 2)

— The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
Updated on Feb 18, 2011

Magazines and Teen Boys

  • While most magazines for teen girls are about beauty, cosmetics, people, and relationships, those for teen boys are about electronic gaming, sports, music, cars, and other hobbies. The magazine market for teen males is dominated by smaller niche publications that appeal to specialized interests, such as GamePro, Slam, Thrasher, and Under the Radar. For the most part, teen boys who read mass-market magazines gravitate toward men's magazines such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Spin, and Vibe, which reportedly attract a high male teen readership. 16 For instance, 18- to 20-year-olds comprise 18 percent of the total readership for Maxim and 19 percent for Stuff.
  • Unlike adult-to-teen crossovers of women's magazines, spin-offs of men's magazines have not proven successful among teen boys. For example, MH-18 was developed as a brand extension of Men's Health after focus group research indicated that teen boys ages 13 to 17 wanted lifestyle, relationship, and career information,18 but it folded within a year. One brand extension that has been highly successful is Sports Illustrated for Kids whose subscriber base is 8- to 15-year-olds, predominantly boys (82%) under age 12.20
  • Recently, major advertisers have begun to pay attention to some of these niche publications. The Source, a hip-hop magazine whose readership is 88 percent teen males, became one of the fastest-growing publications during the late 1990s, attracting advertising from major apparel brands, athletic shoes, soft drinks, music, and even VISA and the milk industry. Other publishers followed this lead to tap the hard-to-reach 15- to 19-yearold teen male subculture, including Vibe's attempted spin-off Blaze, and others such as TransWorld Snowboarding, Freeze, and BMX Snap.
  • Boys' Life, the magazine of Boy Scouts of America first published in 1911, publishes two separate editions monthly, one for 6- to 11-year-olds and the other for teens ages 12 to 17,22 with a total paid subscription of 1.2 million and advertising revenues of more than $5 million.

Teen Magazines and Advertising

  • Advertisers target teen consumers not only in teen magazines but also in a variety of magazines that attract a large teen readership, ranging from women's and men's magazines to music, sports, and entertainment. A 2003 study conducted by the Simmons Market Research Bureau indicated that 12- to 17-year-olds comprise almost one-quarter (22.9%) of readers of women's magazines, and slightly less than one-fifth of sports (19%), fashion (18%), and automotive (17.6%) magazines.

Teen Magazine Readership

  • According to a 1999 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 15- to 18-year-olds spend an average of 13 minutes a day reading magazines. In any given day, nearly 6 in 10 teens this age will read a magazine, with boys more likely to do so than girls (63% vs. 55%).26
  • As part of the annual Teen Read Week, SmartGirl and Young Adult Library Services Association (a division of the American Library Association) have conducted online surveys about teen reading interests, habits, and attitudes since 1999. The Teen Read Week 1999 survey found that two-thirds (66%) of youth ages 11 to 18 report regularly reading magazines. Adolescents consistently cite magazines as their favorite non-book reading material. In 2001, almost one-third (31.3%) named teen magazines as their favorite non-book reading material.

Content of Teen Magazines

  • A 1997 analysis of articles in leading teen magazines— Seventeen, YM, Sassy, and Teen—found themes relating to appearance (37%), dating (35%), and clothes and fashion (32%) were most prevalent. Few articles focused on topics such as self-confidence (16%), family (15%), career (12%), school (12%), becoming independent (5%), and even fewer related to health issues such as alcohol, drugs, and smoking (3%, respectively), or sexually-transmitted diseases (3%), pregnancy, and contraception (2%, respectively).29
  • Teen readers may have more opportunity to see faces of cultural diversity on the magazine cover than inside the magazine. A 1997 study of the leading teen magazines found that the vast majority of women and men were White in the article photographs (73% and 80%, respectively) and ads (88% for both genders).30 But according to a 2002 New York Times survey that analyzed the ethnicity of magazine cover models over a five-year period, 1 in 4 teen magazines featured a minority on the cover in 2002, more than any other magazine category.

Role of Teen Magazines in Girls' Lives

  • Studies of teen magazine readers indicate that they turn to these magazines as a valued source of advice about their personal lives. According to a focus group of 7th through 11th-grade girls, conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited for YM, teen readers want the content in their magazines to reflect their lives, and they rely on magazines as a sounding board, fashion and beauty consultant, and close confidant. Another survey conducted by Taylor Research & Consulting Group indicated that 12- to 15-year-old girls look to magazines (42%) almost as much as their friends (45%) for the coolest trends.
  • In-depth interviews with girls ages 12 and 13 who were regular readers of teen magazines found that girls used the magazines to formulate their concepts of femininity and relied heavily on articles that featured boys' opinions about how to gain male approval and act in relationships with males.
  • For African American readers, the teen magazine tends not to be as important an influence as peers and cultural standards in defining femininity. In-depth interviews with African American girls 13 to 18 years old who were regular readers of the leading teen magazines indicated that they were less influenced by images of idealized beauty in the mainstream magazines than by their cultural standards which frequently were in direct opposition. The girls indicated that they wanted more diversity in the magazines, from the models and types of beauty products featured to the images of success and cultural experiences portrayed.

Teen Magazines and the Web

  • Some industry analysts cite the Web as one of the largest threats to teen magazine readership,36 while others suggest that going back and forth between the print and online worlds is becoming an integral part of life for teen magazine readers.
  • Teen magazines are transforming their editorial formulas to cultivate an online presence and sustain Net-savvy readers' interest between print issues. Editors of teen magazines report that most site visitors have already read the magazine and go online for more articles, compelling magazines to offer at least 50 percent original Web content. According to CosmoGirl!, almost 6 in 10 teens visit a teen magazine's Web site with an open copy of the print version of the magazine.
  • Teen magazines use their companion Web sites to solicit reader feedback and build a loyal following. Polls, surveys, and message boards provide readers the opportunity to express their opinions and experiences, and contribute ideas to the print version. The Internet's multimedia capabilities are also being used for advertising that offers Internet-only promotions, sweepstakes, and special events and for streaming video movie previews. Elle Girl actually launched its Web site before the print edition.
  • Teen magazines use the Web to recruit "cool hunters" to stay informed about emerging trends in the youth culture. For example, Teen People accesses a network of 9,000 "trendspotters" across the nation that keep the editorial staff up -to-date about teen concerns and issues.
  • The Internet has also become a place where teen magazines provide support to their readers during a crisis. For example, after 9/11, all the magazines added a special section and reached out online to readers about the terrorist attacks. On September 12, 2001, the editor of CosmoGirl! sent an e-mail to 200,000 subscribers to check on them and used the American flag as a logo to launch a "Kiss America" Campaign. YM posted an online bulletin board with first-person responses to the tragedy, as well as information on how to deal with stress and where to volunteer. Teen People developed a "Stars, Stripes and Strength" page asking readers to suggest ways to "fix" America.
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