Girls Just Want to Have Toys ; Teen Magazines Are Giving Away Gadgets and Ringtones to Shore Up Circulation. Lisa Brinkworth Reports
Brinkworth, Lisa, The Independent (London, England)
Lauren Proctor is 15 and a magazine junkie. But she's part of a dwindling market. Because teenagers are more interested in internet chatrooms and accessing the Net through their mobile phones, the magazines aimed at them are in deep trouble.
While Lauren is happy to shell out a sizeable chunk of her pocket money on magazines every month, she admits to being the exception among her crowd in Horsham, West Sussex.
"A lot of my friends are reluctant to spend pounds 2 or pounds 3 a month on magazines when they can get news stories faster on- line," she says. "I think magazines aimed at my age group have serious competition from the internet and chat rooms. Most of my school friends spend their spare time using MSN Messenger while on their mobile phones. They're more likely to read my magazine than to buy one themselves."
Lauren's story is symptomatic of a wider downturn in publishing in which more than half of the magazines for younger people have experienced heavy drops in sales in the latest ABC circulation period. The music and entertainment sector has suffered most. The BBC's Top of the Pops has fallen by 14 per cent in the past year, Emap's Smash Hits has lost 19 per cent and Hachette's TV Hits suffered a 30 per cent drop. Among specialist teenage girls' titles, Sugar magazine sustained a 10 per cent drop and Mizz sales fell by 30 per cent on last year.
Marcus Rich, managing director of Emap Performance, which publishes Smash Hits, admits it has never been harder to win the interest of teenagers. "Five to 10 years ago was a good time to launch a teenage magazine," he says. "Young girls would come home and watch Blue Peter before tea, then their media world revolved around reading magazines in their bedrooms."
He claims that the huge growth in television channels and multi- television homes is consuming the leisure time of teenagers just as much as the accessibility of computers. "These days, most kids are watching digital television channels, they are connected to chat rooms and they are using mobile phones. Inevitably, some titles have simply fallen off the radar," he says. The BBC's Dare magazine, is such an example, having closed after just 10 issues.
"The teen market is undergoing a dramatic transformation," says Rich. "There was a time when teenagers would buy two or three magazines a month. That's not the case anymore."
When Lauren's friends do take an interest in magazines, they are attracted to gossipy titles such as Heat and Closer, which are ostensibly aimed at an older readership. "My friends consider them better value for money as they are cheaper and provide a lot of celebrity gossip," she says.
There is a blurring of distinction between the reading material favoured by mothers and their daughters. Lysanne Currie, editorial director of Hachette's teen titles including Sugar, agrees that the teenage market is being squeezed as older teenagers are moving towards gossip and adult magazines …
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Publication information: Article title: Girls Just Want to Have Toys ; Teen Magazines Are Giving Away Gadgets and Ringtones to Shore Up Circulation. Lisa Brinkworth Reports. Contributors: Brinkworth, Lisa - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: October 11, 2004. Page number: 17. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.