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In circ: Teen market tightens up

Two teen magazines took a fall this week: Hearst cut its Teen magazine and Web site, and Christian magazine Ignite Your Faith announced it will stop publishing in the spring.

While the economy had something to do with both closings, Ignite Your Faith cited two other reasons for giving up on print: the move of teen readers to the Internet and a desire to focus more on their college prep publication.

While I can see where they’re coming from with the Internet thing, I don’t quite buy it. Sure, the first point of contact for teens may be online, but a good magazine can really help build that emotional attachment to a brand. It’s anecdotal, I know, but most teens that I’ve talked to in the past year still like and read magazines.

The shortcomings of some teen magazines may have less to do with the audience and more to do with the content and marketplace. There are still a lot of teen titles out there: Condé Nast’s Teen Vogue, which reaches 1 million readers, and Hearst’s Seventeen, with more than 2 million, are joined by J-14, Teen Voices and niche zines like American Cheerleader.

It’s a very crowded market and, yes, teens are on the Internet and their cell phones more than they used to be, meaning competition for those young, valuable eyeballs is fierce. In addition, many of the largest-circulation titles seem to cover the same old “boys, clothes, makeup” routine. Teen girls are pretty focused on these topics, but they also have diverse interests and deserve to be shown a little more — one reason why the college prep market was a smart direction for Ignite.

Just as in every publishing category, the teen zines will see some losses, but the best and the brightest will find ways to continue. Players in this sector need to differentiate themselves from others, both in their content and in their forms of delivery.

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