From the New York Times
Teen Vogue, a Survivor at 10 Years
After a long day of classes, homework and college preparation, Susannah Davies, a 17-year-old high school junior, takes a break by flipping through her print copy of Teen Vogue, the fashion magazine she has subscribed to since the sixth grade.
She reads articles on topics like how to handle “crazy, poofy” hair, how to pair denim vests with leggings and leather boots, and the stress of applying to college. She enters contests to win clothes and rips out photos of models to make collages to hang in her room and post on Instagram.
“Teen Vogue really hits the spot of what teenagers are concerned about,” Ms. Davies said. “I look to be inspired.”
As Teen Vogue releases its 10th anniversary March issue just in time for Fashion Week, it is celebrating not just a milestone, but readers like Ms. Davies, who have remained loyal during a decade when other, often well-financed teenage magazines largely disappeared.
The few magazines left are trying to draw from a pool of teenage readers who grew up devouring media digitally and whose appetite for celebrity news has shifted their attention away from conventional teenage titles.
Like many magazines, Teen Vogue, published by Condé Nast, has weathered shrinking newsstand sales, which are half what they were when the magazine began. It also remains behind Seventeen, which has double the circulation, and according to the youth research firm TRU, is the most read magazine and most visited Web site for teenagers.
But Teen Vogue has established a following among fashion-conscious teenagers eager to study what brands the Obama daughters are wearing and to collect the magazine’s covers, which feature the likes of the boy band One Direction. These readers are providing the magazine solid profits in an otherwise declining magazine market.
According to fourth-quarter data from the Publisher’s Information Bureau, Teen Vogue’s advertising pages rose by 8.3 percent compared with the same period the year before. Its pages are filled with fashion advertisers as economically diverse as Louis Vuitton and Aeropostale. During the same time, Vogue’s advertising pages rose by only 0.3 percent and magazines over all saw advertising pages decline by 7.2 percent.
Over the last decade, Teen Vogue has outlasted YM, Elle Girl, Teen People, Cosmo Girl! and Teen, which all folded. While Teen Vogue’s total circulation remains down from its peak of 1.5 million in 2005, according to Alliance for Audited Media, it has hovered at slightly over one million for the last five years. Magazine industry experts say that’s notable because its editors are catering to a readership with a narrow age range that outgrows the magazine every few years.
“It’s always been such a volatile market because your audience morphs so rapidly,” said John Harrington, an industry consultant.
Teen Vogue was introduced when many magazine publishers were trying to appeal to the children of baby boomers entering their teen years.
Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue, had been inspired by her own teenage daughter’s take on fashion and asked Amy Astley, the magazine’s beauty director at the time, to design some test issues of a teenage version of Vogue.
Ms. Astley, the mother of daughters ages 10 and 13, became the editor in chief of the new magazine, and learned early on that Teen Vogue attracted what she described as “an audience of sophisticated young women who wanted to see fashion presented in a way not seen in other magazines.”
Ms. Astley said she was quickly flooded with questions on what she described as “evergreen issues” — like trying to be perfect, sibling rivalries and critical mothers. She also realized how much her readers wanted to connect with the brand and how much information they wanted about how to break into the fashion industry.
She published “The Teen Vogue Handbook: An Insider’s Guide to Careers in Fashion” in 2009, and has welcomed tour groups to the magazine’s offices to view its crammed clothing racks and fashion closet stacked to the ceiling with colorful props like sunglasses and sneakers.
Ms. Astley said that when she interviewed potential new employees, she always made sure they were prepared to mentor readers.
“You become a role model,” Ms. Astley said. “I find them so motivated, so focused. They’re networking. They’re pressing us to help them.”
On the business side, Jason Wagenheim, the magazine’s publisher, said he realized that because the magazine’s audience was raised on digital content, it was crucial to reach these readers on all the platforms they were already using, from a mobile game that let readers dress a virtual model to its e-commerce app.
Teen Vogue readers expect “us to be everywhere,” Mr. Wagenheim said.
Teen Vogue’s readers can change their loyalties as quickly as friendships. Last summer, some readers staged a protest outside of Teen Vogue’s Times Square offices, asking the magazine to print one unaltered photo shoot a month. An accompanying petition received 50,727 signatures, and Ms. Astley met with the organizers after the protest.
That protest only led to the creation of a second petition asking Tampax, Clean & Clear and Neutrogena to stop advertising in Teen Vogue until it showed more unaltered images of racially diverse women. That petition has garnered more than 12,000 signatures.
Emma Stydahar, a 17-year-old senior who helped lead the petitions against Teen Vogue and helped organize the protest last summer, said she had been reading her 14-year-old sister’s copies and hadn’t noticed that the magazine had made any changes.
“There’s this perception that fashion only looks good on a certain body type, and they perpetuate that idea,” Ms. Stydahar said.
Ms. Astley, however, said the magazine was committed to promoting diversity in its magazine and on its Web site. “Teen Vogue is a fashion magazine that aims to provide style inspiration for all of our readers, irrespective of body type,” she said.
The magazine seems to be keeping a grip on its most loyal fashion fans. Taylor Hicks, an 18-year-old Teen Vogue reader and Teen Vogue “It Girl” who participates in focus groups and events for the magazine, said she read the magazine in “old-fashioned” print, checked it online to study the blogger of the day and used its app.
Ms. Hicks said she studied what models wore in the magazine and used that for inspiration. When she saw the actress AnnaSophia Robb wear black and white Louis Vuitton in the February 2013 issue, she headed to Zara and bought more affordable black and white pieces.
“It really just hits home,” Ms. Hicks said. “I’m a teenage girl and I really want to be part of the fashion industry. I feel like the magazine really just opens you up to it.”