Teen girls are hot advertising market

January 18, 1993|By New York Times News Service

They sign letters to their favorite magazines with names like Utterly Alone and Majorly Bummed. They are overwhelmed by their moods, which range from Totally Psyched to Totally Embarrassed.

And here's something they would surely describe as Totally Cool: They have sparked one of the most ferocious competitions in the magazine industry.

Teen-agers, particularly girls, have become a hot market, and the four leading magazines for teen-age girls -- Seventeen, YM, 'Teen, and Sassy -- are wooing readers.

"Suddenly, marketers have seen that teens are more influential," said Janice Grossman, publisher of Seventeen, the leader.

"Teens are doing food shopping, preparing the meals and getting more responsibility because their moms are working. They spend $28 billion a year in grocery shopping for their parents and $12 billion on clothing for themselves."

Last year, as the oldest baby boomers were anxiously planning jTC their 50th birthday parties and with the market of 18-to-34 year olds declining, the teen-age population increased for the first time in 16 years. Projections from the 1990 Census estimate that the number of teen-agers will grow 14 percent this decade, to 26 million in 2000 from 22.8 million in 1990.

"They have significantly more money to spend than they had 10 years ago," said Jay N. Cole, publisher of 'Teen. "The ad community is particularly interested because they want to establish brand awareness and brand loyalty in these young women so they can carry it on into adulthood."

Teen-age magazines are nothing new, of course. Seventeen was launched by Walter Annenberg in 1944 and edited by Enid Haupt. It has dominated the field since then, having switched publishers several times. Now published by K-III Magazines, Seventeen had a circulation of 1.9 million for the first six months

of last year and in 1992 it carried 948 advertising pages, well ahead of its competitors in both categories.

But the field is changing as rapidly as a teen-ager's mood. With the introduction in 1988 of Sassy, the brash, irreverent knock-off of Dolly, a wildly successful Australian teen-age publication, the other magazines were put on notice that they could not simply coast on past successes.

Under the editorship of Jane Pratt, who was then 24, Sassy immediately took on the kind of sexually explicit subjects that had been taboo. After pressure from conservative groups, advertisers began to back away and Sassy tamed down. Now published by Lang Communications with a circulation of 682,000, it is still the most provocative of the four.

Meanwhile, a magazine that began life in 1940 as Calling All Girls, became Polly Pigtails in 1946 and Young Miss in the 1950s, changed its name to YM in 1986. It reinvented itself again in 1989 under the editorship of Bonnie Hurowitz-Fuller. Circulation has risen 47 percent in the last five years to 1.2 million.

Petersen Publishing's 'Teen is also still a powerhouse with a circulation of 1.1 million. "Our niche is high school girls, 12 to 19 years old," said Mr. Cole. "We are carefully focused on that particular lifestyle."

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