Publishers Eye Teen Market, Find Explosive Growth, Diversity, Optimism

by , Jun 21, 2004, 12:00 AM
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The teen market is exhibiting explosive growth, is more diverse, and is less pessimistic than previous generations of teens, according to a new report from the Magazine Publishers Association. This growing market of happier teens also loves magazines, says the MPA.

The MPA Monday released the latest in its series of consumer market profiles, this time exclusively focused on the 12- to-17-year-old demographic. The profile was compiled from a compendium of research, including data from MRI, Yankelovich, and Teen Research Unlimited.

While some of the report's findings are less than stunning (teens like to go to the mall, teens like clothes and candy), there are some pertinent insights for marketers, particularly given this market's size and purchasing power. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of teens ages 12 to 19 leaped by 17 percent to 32 million, far outpacing the rest of the population. That figure is expected to continue to increase--to 33.5 million in 2010.

These teens are powerful consumers, given both their own spending and their ability to influence family purchases. As a group, teens of all ages spent a projected $112.5 billion dollars in 2003, with teens ages 16 to 17 possessing nearly $4,500 in discretionary income, often used to buy their own clothing, entertainment, and music.

Parents also consult these often more tech- and marketing-savvy teens in their households for large and small purchases. Forty-seven percent of 9- to 17-year-olds were asked by their parents to go online to find out about products or services, compared to 37 percent in 2001.

Interestingly, these teens are more diverse racially than the American population in general, with one-third of them able to claim minority status (according to Interep Research); however, as a group they are less concerned with ethnic labels.

According to market research firm Cheskin, these teens are "intra-cultural"--they do not identify themselves as solely African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, or Caucasian.

In comparison to Generation X, which is often characterized by its cynicism, these teens appear to be far more optimistic, while just as media-savvy. The report says they "are realistic and optimistic with a strong sense of individualism, but not with the fierce independence of the previous generation. In terms of media, they "want and expect to have control over their media experiences." They also consider social issues as consumers, displaying a "sincere desire to purchase products from companies that have a social conscience."

"The expression 'it's all good,' sort of sums up this group's whole attitude," says Harlan Schwarz, svp of advertising and marketing, MPA. "They are so comfortable with themselves."

As for media consumption, not surprisingly, the MPA-directed study shows statistics that put magazines in a favorable light. "The big 'a-ha' that we uncovered is that teens are reading magazines," Schwarz says. The reports finds that eight out of ten teens read magazines, and that includes both teen-target titles and adult magazines.

"They read upward as well," says Schwarz. "A 14-year old boy might be reading Boys Life, and he might be reading Blender and Maxim as well."

The study also purports that teens trust magazines more than other media, although the trust numbers are fairly low for all media (29 percent of teens trust advertising in magazines versus 22 percent for radio and TV). "As they are active readers, they are active consumers," Schwarz says.

For this generation raised on media clutter, "teens are notorious multitaskers," Schwarz says. The report cites research that finds that 55 percent of teens use the Internet and TV at the same time, while only 12 percent use magazines while watching TV. "Interestingly, they are not reading magazines while doing other things," Schwarz says. "The benefit from an advertiser perspective is that you get focused, attentive readers."

Newspapers were not addressed in this report. At the recent ANA print forum, prominent newspapers addressed tactics required to attract the younger reader, who is increasingly absent from newspapers. Teens are not averse to reading the paper, according to Randy Bennett, vice president/readership integration, Newspaper Association of America. "We do believe that teens are picking up the newspaper," he says. Bennett points to research from the NAA that found that 64 percent of teens had read the newspaper over the last seven days.

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