THE TEEN SCENE INTENSIFIES
TEEN EDITORS TAKE VARIED APPROACHES IN A COMPETITIVE MARKET.
Byline: Karen Parr
NEW YORK — They’re off and running.
Two new teenagers’ magazines have hit the newsstands — Twist and Jump — and another, Teen People, is gearing up for its February debut issue.
They join a host of existing titles: Seventeen, Teen, All About You, React and YM. All are evolving. Issues such as drugs, teenage pregnancy and AIDS push them to keep current. Each one is doing so in its own way, but they all cite the same element: reality.
They use real teenagers’ stories, real teenagers as models and clothes teenagers can really wear.
And they don’t avoid controversial topics, because they feel a responsibility to give their young readers the information they need in a complex world.
WWD posed six questions to these editors in chief: Twist’s Lisa Lombardi, Jump’s Lori Berger, Teen’s Roxanne Camron (who is also editorial director of All About You), Teen People’s Christina Ferrari, YM’s Lesley Jane Seymour, Seventeen’s Meredith Berlin and React’s Lee Kravitz.
Here’s what they had to say.
Describe your editorial and fashion point of view.
Lombardi: We’re trying to keep it real, showing real girls, real bodies, clothes girls like — but keeping in mind, “Would they really wear this stuff to school?” This extends to our advice columns. We have two girls and a guy who are teens answering love and friendship questions. We found them on line with ‘zines already answering questions.
Berger: It’s all about feeling good, emotionally, then physically. We’re not preying on their insecurities, like saying, “This fashion, this beauty is going to change your life!”
Camron: On Teen editorial, we try to keep the magazine reality-based. Fashion is the same. I don’t ever want [our readers] to look at our fashion pages and say, “Huh?” We’ve created All About You to target middle school girls, because young girls are faced with a lot of questions and problems at a younger age.
Ferrari: We’re the first pop culture magazine edited for teens, covering celebrities and entertainment news, as well as topical issues relevant to teens.
Seymour: Our girls are extremely fashion-hungry and like it when you keep your price points achievable. The [editorial] voice is fun, upbeat, girl-positive, humorous and informative.
Berlin: With fashion, we offer a combination of real fashion with price points they can afford and incorporate that with some fantasy in the way it’s shot. We also show real girls in School Zone. With editorial and fashion, the most important message is that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors.
Kravitz: Next month we’re introducing a weekly column called Lifestyle, which will cover the latest trends in beauty, clothes and athletic gear. With editorial, our mission is to help our readers be heard and get involved in the world.
How do you distinguish your title from the competition?
Lombardi: We’re truly interactive. We are really covering the Internet in a major way and reviewing sites.
Camron: We’re much more of a lifestyle magazine and much more general interest than some of our competitors.
Kravitz: Our story mix appeals to both boys and girls and has a weekly frequency. Every article is designed to elicit a response from our readers through an 800 number, mail or our Web site. We are deeply committed to the notion that teen energy and idealism can change the world. Each week we celebrate and profile ordinary teens doing extraordinary things in our Everyday Heroes column.
What changes are you making within the magazine?
Seymour: I have upped the interactive level, with more quizzes and games. I’ve heightened the color — the cover’s gotten much brighter. I’m adding fitness on a regular basis and I’m adding a serious piece each month. I’m taking out some of the sexist things that were there — like when we do a guys-rating-your-clothes story, you also rate his.
Kravitz: Wal-Mart is going to be the exclusive distributor of application forms for our annual React Take Action scholarship program, distributing 1.6 million applications in the next couple of months.
What type of teen are you targeting?
Lombardi: Fourteen-to-20-year-olds — that whole range rather than just teens going to their prom. We have a college page, so we’re trying to get an older reader.
Ferrari: We’re targeting an intelligent, independent trendsetter who’s passionate about celebrities and curious about the world she lives in.
Seymour: Research shows that we have a teen who comes from a higher-income family, and she’s more likely to fit into this profile called “the influencer” — the girl you and I all knew in high school who bought an item and then we all had to have it, too.
How are teens today different from those who preceded them, and how do you, or will you, adapt with them?
Berger: They’re basically enormously more sophisticated, certainly, than I was as a teenager. With the media messages, there’s incredible emphasis on being beautiful, on being a size 8 and on having sex. Our goal is to say, “These are just media messages. It’s OK to be who you are.”
Seymour: The basic issues for teenagers have not changed since the time of Romeo and Juliet — love crisis, parent crisis, self esteem crisis. The three main differences are AIDS, early sexuality and — the wackiest one — is their parents doing drugs. I try to talk to them in their own way about problems.
How do you handle controversial topics?
Lombardi: In our first issue we had a story about two girls in the Midwest whose mother came out as a lesbian. We’re not going to shy away, but I won’t talk about things in a sensationalist way.
Camron: We cover all the controversial topics because it would be irresponsible not to. But we don’t sensationalize.
Berger: In our first issue we did a six-page story on teenagers and HIV, featuring four girls who’d contracted HIV. We find with these pieces we have to be in their face and as real as possible.
Ferrari: We’re not going to shy away from serious topics. We’ll be covering those issues through stories about real teens who have dealt with them successfully.
Seymour: We are less conservative than our competitors. Lots of our readers write in to our Ask Anything column — we get all the light to serious stuff. And while we counsel girls to wait to have sex, we don’t pretend that they’re not having sex; we give them the information they need.
Berlin: I don’t think we’re conservative; we’re honest. We just did a story about birth control — this is what they do, this is how they work. We have said that sex is a big deal and when in doubt, you should wait.
Kravitz: We don’t shy away from them, nor do we glamorize or sensationalize these issues. We think it’s important to give teens the information they need to make informed decisions.