Seventeen magazine pioneered the teen magazine market when it published its first issue in the 1940s. Since then, teen magazines have grown into a successful and profitable genre of magazines. Teen magazines peaked their success in the late 1990s as new titles joined the competition, all vying for the attention of teenagers. In the last several years teen magazines have dramatically declined due to the Internet and new technologies. Social media networks, mobile phones and devices, digital publications, and niche-focused websites are alternative channels where teens prefer to glean the latest trends. Despite this decline, teenagers continue to rely on magazines for a great portion of their entertainment, fashion, technology, and celebrity gossip.
In a national survey, teenage girls in grades 7-12 acknowledged that they count on magazines as a source for expression, style trends, and beauty tips (source: Teenage Research Unlimited). Likewise, about 50% of girls, ages 12 to 15, rely on magazines for the newest trends as much as their closest friends. More than 80% of girls, ages 11-20, purchase a teen magazine at least once monthly, and 1 in 3 teen girls buy a magazine each week.
Teen mags are not just about beauty, cosmetics, people, and relationships. Teen magazines also target teenage boys who want to know the latest in online gaming, athletics, new music, motor vehicles, and other activities. The magazine market for teen boys is populated by scaled-down niche magazines with specialized interests and tastes.
Simply put, it’s not the adults who subscribe to magazines now. Even the young ones do, and they can be your captive market. Here are some hot topics that editors frequently want from freelance writers:
Hot Topic #1: Celebrities
Teens go crazy over celebrities. It’s been proven since the time of Frank Sinatra and The Beatles,
so anything about their well-loved celebrities always sell magazines like hotcakes. Besides celebrity interviews, you can also write on celebrity gossip, fun facts about teen idols, and current fashion styles.
Hot Topic #2: Latest Teen Styles
Whether there’s peer pressure or not, a good number of teen boys and girls love to be among the crowd, so they keep current with the latest styles. Teens want to emulate their favorite celebrities or read more about the latest in hair style, dresses, shoes, and skin care products, to name a few.
Hot Topic #3: Music
Music plays a huge role in a teen’s life. Many of them listen and play music to express themselves, especially to express their pent-up angst. This also explains why many go gaga over bands. Speaking of bands, you can write articles about upcoming and popular musicians or music groups, the songs they play, where they’re playing next, types of shows or concerts in which they are appearing, the story behind their success, their upcoming tours, etc.
Hot Topic #4: Reviews
You can review anything that’s related to teen life, from movies to songs, TV shows, apparel brands, and even celebrities.
Hot Topic #5: Top Ten Lists
To appeal to teens, you can call these “awards.” J-14 magazine always comes up with “Teen Icon Awards” while Seventeen magazine has its own Top 10 List called “Besties.” If you’re creative enough, you can come up with your own type of top 10 list.
Hot Topic #6: Makeovers
Celebrities inspire their fans in profound ways, including how to dress up and look great. You may write an article about how to achieve Lady Gaga’s look or where to find the apparel and accessories that Miley Cyrus wears. Another makeover feature is simple tips on how to look glam in 5 minutes or dress in less than 30 minutes.
Hot Topic #7: Love Life
Today’s teenagers don’t just have crushes. They pursue them. They even have “partners” or “love interests.” Love is always part of a teenager’s life. You can offer insightful tips on teen dating; or you can tackle more sensitive subjects such as teen pregnancy, drug addiction, and peer pressure.
Hot Topic #8: Beauty
In 2011, 75 percent of teenagers spent their money on clothing, skin care and hair care products, and cosmetics—they like to look good no matter what. You can cover the newest skincare line for teens, how to apply makeup properly, the value of going organic, how to buy the best cosmetics, and DIY beauty tips.
Hot Topic #9: College Life
Thousands go to college every year, and they need some ideas on what schools to go to, where to
stay, what to expect, what courses are in demand, how to choose the right course, or how to apply for student loans.
Hot Topic #10: Parties
Teens love to have fun, and they’re keeping tabs on whatever great parties are in town. You can write about your community’s party scene, the best places to go to (depending on demographics), how to dress for a seasonal party, and
upcoming parties and festivities.
Who’s Your Audience?
Teens as young as nine years old read these magazines. On the average, the reading audience is between 12 and 19 years old. Females are usually the preferred market of teen magazines.
A few of the top teen magazines include:
- Seventeen magazine | website: www.seventeen.com
- J-14 magazine | website: www.j-14.com
- American Cheerleader magazine | website: www.americancheerleader.com
- Girl’s Life magazine | website: www.girlslife.com
- Boys’ Life magazine | website:www.boyslife.org
- Popstar! magazine | website: www.popstaronline.com
- Teen Vogue magazine | website: www.teenvogue.com
- Twist magazine | website: www.twistmagazine.com
- Justine magazine | website: www.justinemagazine.com
- Discovery Girls magazine | website: www.discoverygirls.com
- American Girl magazine | website: www.americangirl.com
What Are Editors Looking For?
Editors need writers who understand the world of teens. You should be able to write according to the editors’ preferences and nuances (such as their manner of speaking). You must be familiar with their own vocabulary and writing style. Articles have to be fun and engaging, but they don’t have to be very long. Feature
articles typically run less than 2,000 words.
How Do You Pitch Ideas?
Simply email the editor about your idea and prove that you have the skill and talent to write for their target market. A lot of these magazines are broad, which means they pretty much cover any interesting topic about teens.
How Much Can You Earn?
Pay rates vary from magazine to magazine, depending on how many subscribers and advertisers the magazine has. You can expect a nationally-distributed magazine to pay between .40 cents to $1.00 per word. Regional magazines with statewide-distribution pay between .15 cents and .35 cents per word. Smaller, niche-focused magazines pay up to .25 cents per word.