Teen magazines: Fewer fashion tips, more worldly fare

A profile of the young female Palestinian suicide bomber. A first-person account by a chubby Hollywood actress who refused to lose weight for a part. An article about homeless teenagers.

Sound like articles you'd read in a teen magazine? Maybe not 10 years ago, but today, that's exactly what readers find in Seventeen, YM, and the new versions of older magazines such as Cosmo Girl and Elle Girl. With Teen Vogue's recent announcement that the magazine will reappear next spring after four test issues, another teen publication will be added to the already-crowded fray.

They all have the requisite beauty tips, fashion trends, boy advice, and celebrity sightings. But this generation of 13- to 20-year-olds – called the baby boom echo – spurred the launch of younger versions of Mom's fashion magazines. Magazines were forced to take their traditional articles and enhance content to meet the needs of readers, a demographic more sophisticated and worldly than previous generations have been.

"Thirteen- to 20-year-olds are more technologically advanced now and have a more disposable income," says Anne Marie Iverson, editor of Seventeen. "Both parents are working so [the teen girl is] making household decisions. She has a lot of independence. She's definitely far more sophisticated than a generation prior. They have so much access to information and pop culture."

The availability and use of information leads to ambition at a younger age.

"I hate to say it, but they're so much smarter than I was when I was their age," says Atoosa Rubenstein, editor of Cosmo Girl. "They have huge ambitions. These are girls who want a lot. I have 15-year-old girls asking me about internships. If we only showed them pages of clothes, I don't think that's giving them a sophisticated read."

To satisfy savvier readers, YM is adding two new sections, Your Mobile and Your Music, to focus on wireless technology and CD reviews. As for Cosmo Girl, the August issue's cover screams, "The perfect boyfriend – three ways to find him." But it also has regular pages devoted to money and career issues.

"It could be a scary thing for parents to know she's reading big Cosmo," Ms. Rubenstein says. "But [adult] Cosmopolitan came out at the verge of the sexual revolution. It was about power in the bedroom. We're about power in the boardroom. This is about girls getting to the top and girls who have grown up with the most incredible role models. Their vision for the future is different than their predecessors."

Changing attitudes are the reason teen bible YM has changed what its initials stand for twice. When it started in 1932, YM stood for Young Miss, later it was Young and Modern; it's now Your Magazine. "There has been an evolution over its lifetime and the tag has helped us stay hip and relevant," says YM's publisher, Laura McEwen. "The first was for a gentler time, and Your Magazine is bold."

Getting the attention of echo boomers, who wield big spending power, makes sense. The demographic is expected to reach 35 million by 2007. Now that's girl power.

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