Column: The Buzz -- Teens and Their 'Zines

Are print magazines still relevant with teens? This seems to be the question on everyone’s mind these days. Do teens read books? Do they care about newspapers? Is everything going digital? I think, and certainly hope, not.

One of the things I love most about my job is immersing myself in teen and tween culture. Statistics tell us that teens aren’t reading newspapers, sales are down at magazines, and teens just want digital. But if you were to really chat with them — interact with them — you would see quite a different story.

“Just like IM is fun and you don’t mind virtually sending a kiss to your boyfriend, you still want to kiss him in real life,” says Amanda, a 17-year-old girl from the suburbs of New Jersey. “That’s how I feel about magazines. Checking them out online is cool, but I like flipping through it with my friends, ripping things out, carrying it around in my bag.”

Amanda’s not unique. So how do we get to a place where we embrace the digital world and the importance of print? To start, examine why girls love their magazines.

One major reason girls turn to magazines is for the up-to-date advice in every issue. Whether the issue includes a dating doctor who offers solutions for relationship problems, or tips for coping with family issues, this advice gives girls guidance during their hormonal, rocky teen years.

When they are flipping through the pages of the magazine, girls are also paying close attention to all of the shopping, fashion and beauty features. Magazine readers are the ones who want to know what’s hot at the moment. Getting the scoop on the current must-have handbag and the hottest nail colors for the season are just a few of the trends that the pages have to offer.

Yet teens know that clothes and fabulous accessories aren’t the only ways to look good; fitness is another important aspect of appearance and overall health. Magazines cater to this need by featuring exercise moves, diet tips and articles on health. For girls who enjoy more extensive reading, magazines also contain well-written articles about issues like plastic surgery, eating disorders and global travel. Such articles also inform teens about dangers, and offer advice on where to find help. But magazines aren’t always about being serious; they also tap into the fun side of life, with lighthearted quizzes and horoscopes.

While the content found in a magazine might be available from various Web sites, it very rarely exists in one compact package, as it does in a simple print issue. There are several key reasons why magazines will forever remain a necessity to teens. The tangibility of magazines should not be underestimated.

The ability to pick up and physically flip through an issue is so much more satisfying than sifting though Web site after Web site and staring at a computer screen. And not only are magazines tangible, they’re portable. Now it may be true that there are some sleek and compact laptop models out there today, but none will ever be as lightweight as a simple magazine.

You also can’t deny the credibility of a magazine like Seventeen or Teen Vogue. This is where the real celebrities are quoted and beautifully photographed. There are no “insiders” dishing on coke habits and late night partying — no shots of It Girls after hours.

Being able to toss an issue into your handbag for your morning commute, pulling it out of your beach bag for a relaxing summer read, and rolling it up and bringing it to the gym for your workout are just a few of the things you can do with a magazine that you simply can’t do with digital content.

When teens see a page they especially like, they will tear it out and save it for later, share it with their friends, or post it on their wall. Often these pages include interesting tips, items they might want to shop for and gorgeous fashion photography. How many teens download photos online and hang them up in their rooms?

In an age where YouTube and blogs have gained immense popularity, there is reason to question the future of print media. However, there’s an undeniable simplicity in the glossy pages of a magazine that effectively secures its spot in our world today. 

Tina Wells is CEO of Buzz Marketing Group. (

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