TEEN MAGS GETTING A NEW LOOK
Byline: Lisa Lockwood
NEW YORK — Now is no time to be snoozing in the teen magazine business.
As the category becomes increasingly competitive, Seventeen and Teen People — ranked number one and number 2, respectively, in ad pages — are getting makeovers, beginning with the February issues. Seventeen has completely redesigned the magazine and reinvigorated the editorial under new editor in chief Annemarie Iverson, while Teen People has tweaked its graphics and design and added some new features under managing editor Barbara O’Dair, who took the helm last February.
Iverson, who came on board Sept. 24, said her mandate was to “wake a sleepy giant,” and add spark to the pages, especially in fashion and beauty. As the category leader, Seventeen has a rate base of 2.35 million.
Although Seventeen has the second largest paid circulation among all beauty-fashion or teen magazines (after Cosmopolitan), it was in need of some improvements, she said.
“The fashion and beauty was sad and quiet,” said Iverson. “The message was quiet. The features weren’t visualized, and it was completely stuck in the Eighties. The magazine was slightly preachy and slightly middle aged in its fashion and beauty.” For example, an earlier Seventeen used phrases like “Minis Galore.”
“What teen would ever say that?” she asked.
For the February issue, Iverson hired top quality photographers for its fashion and beauty pages, such as Walter Chin, Pamela Hanson, Kim Myers-Robertson and Didier Malige.
“Seventeen had stopped being fun. It was too earnest. We’re bringing the fun back to the fashion,” said Iverson, who previously was editor in chief of YM, and before that was beauty and fashion news director at Harper’s Bazaar. Iverson named Shawn Young, a former creative director at Allure and In Style, as a consulting creative director in October. Iverson explained that in the past, the magazine had a “recessive” design. “Now it’s in your face, fun and animated.”
The February issue, which carries 74 ad pages, down from 79 a year ago, features actress Katie Holmes on the cover, photographed by Chin. The issue also has a new logo in bold typeface. Each month, the logo’s colors will change to match the cover’s background.
Besides adding lively graphics and hot colors, Iverson has several new features, some of which are geared to the older teen. With a median age of 18.8, about half of Seventeen’s 14 million readers are actually older than 19, according to Mediamark Research Inc. In fact, Seventeen is the most subscribed to and read magazine on college campuses, according to the fall 2000 Student Monitor. Iverson said she started a new column called College Style, where each month they’ll visit a different university and shoot the hot looks on campus. For February, they visit New York University.
Another new concept is the liberal use of “17” throughout the magazine. For example, there’s the “17 Hottest” items girls would want to wear right now; “17 Under $17,” highlighting beauty products, and “When I was 17,” a back-of-the-book column, written by Jewel. It will change each month.
Celebrities will be featured prominently in the pages, as well as the cover. “Readers want to see an actress [on the cover] who’s going to college and has a purpose in life. You can’t just be a pretty face,” said Iverson. The February issue has stories on Alanis Morissette and Prince William (Iverson said the magazine has a spy in Scotland getting information on him).
At Teen People, O’Dair hired Jill Armus, formerly of Real Simple, Saveur, Entertainment Weekly and US, as creative director in June. Together, they set out to increase the magazine’s accessibility, clarity and cleanliness. “People thought with the popularity of MTV, kids wanted helter-skelter pages. We’re moving away from that a little bit,” said O’Dair. Celebrating its fourth anniversary in February, Teen People — which was awarded a National Magazine Award for General Excellence this year — has seen its rate base mushroom to 1.6 million from 500,000 at the launch. According to O’Dair, Teen People will maintain its editorial mix of one-third each for fashion-beauty, real teens-real world and entertainment.
“We’re keeping the same mix, but presenting it differently,” said O’Dair, a former executive editor at Harper’s Bazaar and editor of US.
She said when she arrived at Teen People, she wanted to take her time before making any changes. “The magazine was doing well and had a strong standing. I wanted to learn the market and listen to the readers. I wanted to be totally educated and prepared for what I wanted to do.
“I thought we could amp up the photography and the look of the book,” she added.
For starters, she decided to add an extra table of contents, bringing the total to three, to make finding the stories more accessible. “It shows the richness and diversity of the book and gives things their proper play,” said O’Dair. Each of the three sections now opens with a dedicated page, and a mini table of contents on the bottom. “I really believe in clarity and cleanness. I was worried that the readers were missing a lot.”
The magazine — which has always been at the vanguard of the teen music scene — reaches readers in college, as well as sophisticated 13 and 14 year olds, but its median age is between 16 and 17, said O’Dair.
Teen People continues to show non-model teenagers wearing the clothes, never using professional models. Celebrities play a major role in the fashion and front-of-the-book coverage. Its Entertainment section, for example, emphasizes the styles, hair and beauty worn by top celebrities, and its Star Tracks section include five pages of celebrity couples.
Another new edition to the magazine is poetry.
“I always thought poetry was a great thing for teenagers,” O’Dair said. She also includes some longer features about the return of rock, and a section on the basics of terrorism and Afghanistan. She has moved the month’s calendar to the front of the book, and completely changed the magazine’s typeface. “It will be more colorful. They want bright, but they don’t want garish,” she said. Similarly, O’Dair wants pages that are energetic but not hectic.
The February issue, which carries 48 ad pages, down from 70 a year ago, features a black-and-white photo of actor Josh Hartnett on the cover. The cover will be a split run: subscribers and half the newsstand copies will get Hartnett wearing a T-shirt, and the other half of newsstand will have him bare-chested. “We’re hitting both notes, commercial appeal and tasteful treatment. A 10-year-old’s mother might not like her daughter reading the bare-chested one, said O’Dair. All the copies contain a pull-out poster of Hartnett.
Business wise, the teen category had a mixed performance this year. Seventeen carried 1,355.6 ad pages, down 7.6 percent from a year ago. Teen People finished the year with 1,048.9 ad pages (with an extra issue), off 0.1 percent from a year ago, while YM, with a rate base of 2.2 million, carried 759.3 ad pages, up 38 percent from a year ago, according to Media Industry Newsletter.