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Teen People Magazine

SHOWREEL

Magazine
A free, preview issue of Teen People is available from the website

Organization

Time Inc.

Contact details

Teen People
1250 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10021, USA
Tel: +1 212 522 1212
Website: www.teenpeople.com
Email: via the website

Project partners

None

Location

USA, urban

Background

Teen People was launched in 1998 to fill a gap in the magazine marketplace. While there were many existing magazines aimed at teens, most of them dealt with superficial topics, such as beauty and dating, and were addressed solely at girls.

Teen People is a for-profit, consumer magazine that is published 10 times per year. It currently reaches 10 million teenagers per month.

Aims and objectives

Teen People aims to give teenagers a sense of their role and responsibilities in the world. It speaks to them like adults and covers a wide range of topics including international affairs and current events as well as serious topics relating to teens' lives, such as alcohol and drug abuse, sexuality and health, and peer and family relationships.

It aims to entertain as well as educate, something that is crucial to attracting the celebrities. It also aims to help teenagers feel good about themselves at a critical time in their lives.

It strives to present stories about the achievements of ordinary as well as extraordinary teens in order to provide inspirational, attainable role models for young readers. It also makes a point of addressing the concerns of and giving voice to previously marginalized groups, such as gay teens, bi-racial or minority teens and financially disadvantaged teens.

Participants

Professional journalists and teenagers.

Target audience

Boys and girls aged 12-21. Approximately 20 per cent of readers are male and 80 per cent female. This is a significant number of males since most teen magazines are written for, and read exclusively by, girls. Teen People is the only magazine that attempts to reach both sexes through choice of subject matter, tone and overall approach.

Wider beneficiaries

The direct beneficiaries are young people.

Involvement of children

Teenagers are involved in many significant ways. The magazine has a news team made up of high school and college journalists, who report and write stories every month. The 35 members of the news team are chosen every year from more than 1,000 applicants.

Teen People also has 10,000 'trendspotters' across the country. These teenagers are self-designated, in-the-know and on top of trends relating to fashion, music and social issues. They contribute their ideas and comments to each issue as well as appearing regularly in feature stories and photo features.

The magazine frequently surveys teenagers on current events and publishes the results, making sure that they have a voice and a presence in the cultural conversation.

Summary of project

The main activity is producing a monthly magazine and a website.

Cost

Annual budget: approximately US$8 million.

Strengths of project

The greatest strengths of Teen People is its ability to reach millions of teenagers every month and make them feel like important members of society. We're proud of the fact that we take teenagers seriously, we don't shy away from difficult or serious subjects, and we give them the tools they need to make important decisions about their own lives. Because we involve teenagers directly, the magazine is more reflective of their real lives than most other publications for this age group, which are produced with little or no input from teenagers themselves.

Challenges

There have occasionally been difficulties relating to some of the content. The magazine has at times been criticized by parents or other adults, and even some teens, for addressing topics such as teen sexuality, homosexuality or drug use. However, these complaints represent a minute percentage of the reactions to the magazine.

Evaluation

The impact of the magazine has been significant, judging from the mail and email received from readers. Many readers claim that the magazine has 'changed their lives' through one of its articles. Teen People was also one of the fastest growing new magazines in publishing history, a sure indicator that it filled an important need for its target audience.

The magazine has also received numerous awards for its content, including its coverage of teen sexuality and health, teen homosexuality and teen philanthropic efforts. In 2000 it received the National Magazine Award for General Excellence, the magazine industry's highest honour.

Lessons learned

The most important lesson is that teenagers themselves are a vital, important force and that the higher our expectations of them, the more they will deliver. When we started Teen People there were many naysayers who believed that teenagers wouldn't read about serious subjects or that teenagers wouldn't be useful journalistic collaborators or be able to meet deadlines. All of these doubts proved wrong. In fact, the one thing we would do differently would be to involve teenagers even more, from the very beginning of the project.

Our advice for similar projects would be to seek out teenagers who are truly passionate about journalism and give them a very real, significant role to play from the outset. Don't pay lip service to the idea that teenagers are involved by inviting them to come in once in a while for a pizza party. Give them meaningful responsibilities, involve them in the day-to-day production of the project, and listen to them closely. When teenagers feel their opinions are truly being listened to and respected, they open up in surprising ways. If you want to know what a teen thinks about something, just ask!

Sustainability

We hope very much that Teen People has not only helped teenagers to see themselves differently, but that society at large will also take a different view. So often the headlines are filled with negative stories about teens, while the many wonderful achievements of this age group go unrecognized. We wanted to call the world's attention to the abilities of teenagers and to their contribution to society. After all, they are our future leaders.

If you give teenagers positive examples to follow, it becomes easier for them to cast themselves in similar roles.

We also hope that our coverage helps young people to be more tolerant of their differences. Rather than being judgemental about someone's sexuality or belief system, teenagers who have been exposed to such differences through our articles may be more likely to express understanding and acceptance.

Anecdote

In one issue we published a story about a tragic rash of suicides in a small, Midwestern American town. Included in the article were tips for recognizing suicidal feelings in a friend and advice on what to do about it. Shortly after the article ran, we received a letter from a teenage girl who told us that she had followed our advice and, as a result, had saved the life of a friend who was contemplating suicide.

Good ideas

• Involve teenagers from the beginning by asking their advice about design and content and incorporating it whenever possible.

• Give them concrete ways to get involved and publicize the results. For example, we invited teenagers to submit designs for public service advertisements relating to teen pregnancy prevention. The winning designs were produced and published in magazines nationwide.

• Give them a voice, whether through surveys or writing articles or just being quoted in the magazine. It makes them feel ownership of the finished product.

• Recognize teen achievements. We created a programme called 'The 20 Teenagers Who Will Change the World'. Each year we recognize teenagers in a variety of endeavours, including sport, politics, public service, community activism, entrepreneurship and creative arts. We run their stories in the magazine and hold an awards luncheon for them.

• Give teenagers a road map. For instance, instead of just telling them that drinking is bad for them and they should 'just say no', give examples of other teenagers who have successfully resisted the pressure to drink. Detail their strategies and ask other teenagers for ideas. Teenagers often want to do the right thing, but are not sure how to get there.

• Resist the temptation to preach to teens. It's okay to have a message, such as 'teenagers should not have unsafe sex'. The best way to communicate such messages is through concrete examples of the negative effects, rather than scare tactics or lectures.

• Use the power of teen celebrities such as singers and athletes. Their examples can help 'normalize' certain behaviours and make them cool. We ran an article on a young pop star who had made a pledge to remain a virgin until she married. The article received more mail than any other that year. Readers were impressed that a celebrity would have such strong feelings about a subject and be willing to share them. The article empowered many female readers to decide they weren't ready for sex, either.

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