The Demise of Teen Magazines. Is it a Question of Sex?

miss vogue cara delevingne

This month, British Vogue launched Miss Vogue, a new title aimed at its younger readers. Editor Alexandra Shulman said of the new publication: ‘targeted at younger readers specifically, its remit is the same: to inspire even if you’re a bit short on cash.’  This is certainly true- whilst Vogue is a high-end, aspirational magazine aimed at the mature, moneyed woman, my friends and I started buying it in our mid teens. As my old, and very glamorous ballet teacher once told me, ‘Vogue is the only magazine you will ever need to read. It taught me everything I know about fashion.’

But, Miss Vogue has emerged at a time when teen magazines are dropping like flies. Just two weeks ago, it was announced that after twenty-five years, more! magazine was to close. Famed for its candid approach to sex and ‘position of the week’ (or fortnight depending on when you read it), more covered the tables in my six form common room. Our free periods were always accompanied by a cup of Tetley and a cheeky flick through to pick up any sex tips.

A few years ago, Cosmopolitan launched Cosmo Girl, with the idea of sucking in younger readers to introduce them to the main magazine. Similarly, Elle launched Elle Girl. Both magazines were, in my teen opinion, brilliant. They spoke to my teenage self in a way that was mature, unassuming and intelligent. They handled fashion and beauty in an interesting way, and had proper features rather than just mindless celebrity gossip. Their lifestyle advice was interesting, rather than repetitive. But, both magazines have since closed. Is the launch of Miss Vogue, therefore a stroke of genius or madness?

Other teenage magazines which were the pillars of youth for so many women have closed in recent years. Sugar, a lunchtime treat for me and my friends in the fields at school, closed in 2011 after fifteen years. Magazines like J17, 19 and Smash Hits, which enjoyed huge success in the 90s, have also disappeared. Now, the only real teen magazine in existence is Bliss.

For many, the demise of teen magazines lies in the rise of the internet. Sugar has migrated online, and now takes shape in the form of Sugarscape- an interactive area for teen girls. But, even this seems a little forced and mumsy for 2013.

Across the pond, the one teen magazine that has gone from strength to strength, is Teen Vogue. Obviously the base model for the UK’s own Miss Vogue, Teen Vogue is intelligent, preppy, thoughtful and has a fabulous sense of style. Back in my 15-year-old days, I would simultaneously buy Vogue and Teen Vogue. Despite the dollar signs and US spellings, it was key reading on the school bus. Teen Vogue, crucially, has a strictly no-sex policy. It’s all about fashion, beauty and well-thought out feature articles.

So, why is it that in this instance it seems that sex just won’t sell?

To be blunt, 2013’s teens don’t need to wait for a magazine to advise them. With the internet, smartphones and iPads of this generation, all they could ever want or need to know is at their fingertips. I don’t just mean porn- although this is obviously a factor. What I really mean, is that with the internet, everything is available instantly. Rather than patiently biding time until next month’s issue is released, teens can look up all they need to know about sex on their smartphones at breaktime.

Miss Vogue is, as predicted, almost completely devoid of sexual content. There is one interview where four teen girls are interviewed about life, and sex is one small component. But that’s it. In a sense, it is very tastefully done: Miss Vogue has recognised the huge importance of sex in a teenage girl’s life, but maintained its dignity by doing just that- recognising it but not actually advising. 

Above all, teenage spending habits have changed radically over the last fifteen years. Whereas twenty years ago girls would spend their allowances in the newsagent, cashing in on their weekly dose of editorial, magazine habits have changed. It’s no longer ok for a  magazine to just be a magazine- they’ve got to constantly up their game and push harder than the competitors. On a basic level, this means an ever-updating website and a persistent social media presence. But, the more adventurous, the better. The Vogue Festival was hotly anticipated this year and, from a PR perspective, a real success. The Company Fashion Forum and Cosmo on Campus are just a couple more examples. The bottom line is, multi-media is coming to get you.

The future of print journalism is, as we all know, under threat. Will we still be reading newspapers on the tube in the morning? Or will we all be sat there with our tablets lapping up the daily gossip from a miniature computer screen? I’m not sure, but one thing I am sure of is that the 2010s will be a difficult time for teen magazines.

Miss Vogue is, no doubt, a very smart move from the giants at Vogue House. Will it last? I’ll be reading with interest…


3 Responses to “The Demise of Teen Magazines. Is it a Question of Sex?”
  1. Gosh I loved J17 as a girl…. but I would of deff read Miss Vogue too.

  2. whileimyoungandskinny says:

    Teen mags are where I learned how to be a girl! Some of the stuff has always stayed with me, it’s a shame they’re becoming outdated.

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