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Teenage Magazines Market Assessment
Key Note Publications Ltd, January 2001
The teenage magazine market, while potentially very lucrative, also tends to be very volatile. Population trends are currently working in favour of the market, which also benefits from the fact that many teenage girls are keen readers of magazines, which can have an important influence on the habits and attitudes of this age group. On the more negative side, however, young people are notoriously fickle in their tastes, and magazines need to work hard to keep their loyalty.
After a boom in the mid-1990s, the second half of the decade saw very mixed fortunes for the teenage magazine market. Overcrowding in the market followed the rush of new titles that appeared after the launch of Attic Futura's Sugar in 1994, and sales have been slipping since 1997. Among the factors which have been cited to explain this have been: the changing face of the pop music industry currently, there are no big stars to replace the sales-generating success of Boyzone and the Spice Girls and the phenomenon of `getting older younger', which means that those in their mid to late teens are increasingly switching their allegiance from teenage titles to those aimed at an older age group.
The overall market is segmented into fashion/lifestyle and pop/entertainment titles. The former is the largest sector in terms of numbers of titles, and has gained share over the past 3 years in both volume and value terms.
Despite the fact that circulations have been falling for many magazines, successive rises in cover prices have meant that sales revenue has shown reasonable growth this is particularly important for teenage magazines, which are less able to attract large amounts of advertising than the glossy titles aimed at older women. This is partly because teenagers' own disposable incomes, although increasing, are generally low, and partly because of their incomes advertising to young people is a sensitive area, and likely to attract controversy. However, there are signs that things are becoming more promising at the older end of the market, with high-spending advertisers, which are already beginning to target US teenagers in the hope of capturing early loyalty, reportedly showing an interest in the UK market.
Magazine publishers are having to spend a great deal of marketing effort in maximising copy sales, including extensive use of covermounts, and initiatives such as events and exhibitions, which help put magazines and their advertisers in touch with the hard-to-reach teenage market.
The rapid growth in mobile phone ownership among teenagers, and with it the increasing popularity of text messaging, is beginning to be exploited by teenage magazines as a means of finding out about, and keeping in touch with, their readers. Brand extensions - through product licensing and the extension of magazine brands into other media - are being utilised within the teenage magazine sector, as in other parts of the magazine market.
Although the Internet is undoubtedly very important to teenagers, attempts to combine teenage magazines and the online world have so far met with limited success. This is partly because of the difficulties presented by the teenage market for those seeking revenue through e-commerce - and there are also concerns about sexual explicitness and safety, especially in relation to the chat room elements of some teenage sites.
During 2000, a number of fast moving consumer goods (Fmcg) companies attempted to set up their own teenage magazine-style sites, several of which were closed soon afterwards. These experiences have caused some teenage magazines to hold back for the moment on their own plans for online development.
The mid-1990s peak in the teenage magazine market coincided with a good deal of adverse publicity concerning the sexual content of magazines aimed at young women in their early-to-mid teens. The industry has taken steps towards self-regulation in this area, and the content of most magazines has been toned down. Teenage magazines have recently been enlisted by the Government to help in their campaign to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies by carrying advertisements and advertorials.
The exclusive research conducted for this report indicated that a very high proportion of adults are aware of the strong influence exercised by magazines. The balance of opinion seems to be that explicit articles about sex should not be encouraged in teenage magazines, and at present a relatively small proportion think that magazines take a responsible attitude to issues such as teenage pregnancy and drugs.
Despite the current problems in the teenage magazine market, a number of new launches have taken place or are planned. There is a move away from sex-based content towards a focus on celebrities there are also attempts to capitalise on the fact that high-end advertisers are showing an interest in capturing the loyalty of young women, with planned teenage versions of glossy adult titles. Both of these trends are also apparent in the US teenage magazine market.
The sales revenue is forecast to rise only modestly over the next 5 years, and there will no doubt be more magazine closures. However, in the long term, teenage magazines are in a strong position to benefit from trends such as cross-media strategies and the growth of online brands.