What teenagers are made of

Teenage girls and boys show a broad range of interests, but the magazines they buy must be bang-up-to-the-minute to overcome the boredom factor

Mintel International’s latest report on teenage magazines looks at how the sector has long seen strong provision for girls, to the exclusion of boys.

Although publishers have previously talked of extending their portfolios to include male-friendly titles, as has happened in the adult market, Mintel has investigated whether this is becoming an increasingly unlikely prospect in the light of the strong market for computer and console games titles.

In volume terms, the teen magazine market saw remarkable shifts in sales through the Nineties. In 1990, the sector included just seven titles. As the number grew – to 15 by 1998 – there was a very rapid increase in total copy sales. In 2000, the total has reached 16. Two titles were launched in 1999 – Europa’s Fresh and Mollin’s Jump. Meanwhile, EMAP’s Big! was withdrawn.

This market is characterised by teenagers’ need to be kept up to date and their desire for immediacy. This translates into a “must-have” frame of mind, making the titles an essential for many, rather than a treat purchase, so long as they offer the right mix of up-to-date information, gossip and entertainment. Equally, teenagers become bored very quickly, so publishers need to be exceptionally innovative and responsive to maintain interest and demand.

Fashion and lifestyle magazines including Bliss, Fresh, J17, Jump, MG, More!, 19, Shout and Sugar constitute six per cent of the market by volume and 66 per cent by value. They are longer-established than entertainment and pop titles and have a recognisable parentage in women’s magazines. These titles lost about 20 per cent of volume sales between 1995 and 2000. Some of this decline is accounted for by J17’s move from fortnightly to monthly publication in 1997, but most is the result of attrition among titles whose readership also includes women in their early 20s.

The entertainment and pop segment – including Live & Kicking, Massive!, Smash Hits, Top of the Pops and TV Hits – grew in volume by 53 per cent between 1995 and 1997, partly as BBC Worldwide’s Top of the Pops became better established. But the sector showed a 30 per cent sales decline to 1999, predicted to continue throughout 2000. It seems sales for this segment were inflated in 1997 by the overwhelming popularity of the Spice Girls and Boyzone, with subsequent loss of copy sales after their eclipse.

This will remain a potential area of vulnerability for all publishers in the segment, although Top of the Pops’ revamp to cover a broader range of music – not just teen pop – may lessen that vulnerability.

The rapid growth of computer games magazines, strongly skewed to teenage boys and young men, may well have had an impact on the teenage market and is sure to affect any future plans for a more male-friendly teen title. There are 30 titles in the sector in the UK, with total copy sales of about 19 million. Mintel’s research shows these titles to be the top choice among 11- to 14-year-old males and second only to men’s magazines among 15- to 19-year-olds.

Mintel’s research among 11- to 19-year-olds finds all the divergence of interests between boys and girls that might be expected in terms of football and computers, fashion and problem pages. But there are considerable shared interests, particularly among 15- to 19-year-olds, when boys develop a greater interest in fashion. The prime area of common interest is music, and others include humour, health issues, fiction and travel.

Although girls on average indicated interest in a broader range of topics than boys (5.4 topics versus 3.9), the findings depict both as consumers with a range of interests: they are generalists, rather than specialists. Also, older male respondents showed a wider range of interests than younger ones.

Mintel’s findings confirm the trade’s view that 90 per cent of girls buy magazines and are multiple purchasers. The research found that 95 per cent of girls and 87 per cent of boys read magazines of some type. While male respondents noted an average of just under two titles or categories, female respondents noted an average of more than four.

Given sales trends since 1995, it is difficult to forecast future patterns in the market, although it seems safe to predict that sales will continue at at least the current levels estimated for 2000 and should receive some boost from population growth and the addition of two new titles.

But the next five years are very likely to see an expansion of online provision of existing and associated titles with content specific to teenagers. This is unlikely to damage copy sales. In fact, online versions and related activity could prove to be of benefit to magazines.v

Factfile is edited by Julia Day. Amanda White, Mintel analyst, contributed

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