Teens get a new 'zine Media: From the people who brought you 'People,' a new magazine that thinks the kids are all right and just need something to read.

January 08, 1998|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

Tomorrow, teens will be introduced to a magazine with the ability to balance acne, AIDS and Alicia Silverstone.

Teen People is brought to the 13- to 21-year-old set by Time Inc., the power behind the 38 million-circulation People magazine. With a circulation of at least 500,000 and a newsstand price of $2.99, Teen People will produce 10 issues a year.

Four million teens already read People, according to Christina Ferrari, Teen People's managing editor. Teen People is done in the People style, even featuring demographically correct versions of signature People sections such as "Star Tracks" and "Chatter."

"It's breaking new ground," says Nora McAniff, publisher of People and Teen People. "Teens today are so much more sophisticated and worldly than when I was a kid. There's so much at their disposal, they're so much wiser, and yet the magazines have not changed."

Teen People is a general interest and pop culture magazine featuring actual teens. It's upbeat and trendy, with only subtle hints of cynicism. In a photo retrospective of Cindy Crawford's high hairstyles, the magazine quips: "If this hair bubble were any bigger, she'd have floated away."

Competitors for Teen People's audience are aimed at young women. Teen, Seventeen and YM tend to be narrower in focus, zeroing in on love and appearance and only lightly addressing pop culture and celebrities.

"Dating is only part of teen-age life," says Ferrari, who used to be executive editor at YM. "There are a lot of teens out there who aren't boy-crazy."

Teen People's content is equally divided among celebrities, fashion and beauty, and real teens. But the magazine does have some trademarks of the generic teen zine. They include a health column brave enough to burst open acne myths and tackle the tough issues ("I have pimples on my butt! What's the deal?") and, of course, the painfully requisite Hanson story.

Still, this is no fanzine a la Tiger Beat or Teen Beat, listing Jonathan Taylor Thomas' favorite breakfast cereal or Joey Lawrence's pet peeves. At no point is a young male celeb referred to as "babe-a-licious."

The neo-mag also includes original features, such as "Star Flashback," which depicts adored Hollywood stars -- Brad Pitt in this issue -- in their pre-hunk, hair-helmet days.

"It's fun for teens to see how their idols looked at their age," Ferrari says. "We were all geeky at some point, and it's comforting for teen-agers to see that."

Plus, Teen People is responsible without being preachy. "Can You Spot the Virgin?" highlights attractive, well-adjusted teens who just happen to be virgins. There are reports on eating disorders and a teen AIDS activist.

"Teens want to see role models who are their own age," Ferrari says. "You can start living your life now."

These include role models for both boys and girls, although Ferrari says the magazine projects that 85 percent of its readership will be female. And while sections devoted to actress Alyssa Milano's affinity for leather wristbands and singer Fiona Apple's need for a good, long hair-washing may not appeal to male readers, Ferrari says she believes Teen People will attract more young men than its direct competitors.

"Teen People will be the one magazine they won't be embarrassed to read," Ferrari says. "When we're talking about male celebs, we're not gushing about them. They're a person more than a pinup."

There are no kitschy, lip-smacked pull-outs in Teen People. Instead, there's first-rate layout and sleek photography. Ferrari says many professionals who don't normally work on teen magazines were excited about working for Teen People, owing to People's stellar commercial reputation.

One of those pros is Jorge Ramon, the Teen People fashion editor who scouted across the country for teens in their natural fashion state to pose for Street Style.

Here you'll find the pierced and the preppy in their native street wear, not Kate Moss clones in metallic stilettos and ridiculously exotic duds.

"We're providing a face with the fashion, not some nameless model," says Ramon, who only seeks kids with no prior modeling experience. "It's important for me to find someone who's excited and has a direction."

The fashion pages aren't the only place real, raw teens are encouraged to participate. They are asked to serve the magazine in a variety of roles, from trend-spotting to reporting.

One of the main areas soliciting teen feedback and offering interactive features is the magazine's site on America Online (keyword: Teen People).

"They're not only talking about pop culture, they're generating it," says Giselle Benatar, the online editor. "We want it to be the place where they tell us what's going on."

The AOL site gives readers the chance to chat in real time with celebrities profiled in the magazine, which also has a Web site (http: // pathfinder.com/teenpeople).

Teen People treads water between the deep and shallow ends of the pop-culture pool. Readers won't drown in its complexity, ,, but they won't be wading in paparazzi and toenail polish, either.

"You can't underestimate teens. They will know if you're talking down to them or giving them a lesser product," Ferrari says. "If DTC you give them shlock, they'll read it because there's nothing else around. It doesn't mean they don't want something better."

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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