BBC teen publisher insists decline 'does not mean the end of the line'

The relentless circulation decline in the teen market does not spell the end of the line for the sector, according to the publisher of one of the last remaining teen titles.

In the teen entertainment sector — shrunk to three titles since the closure of both Smash Hits! and Sneak this year — market leader Top of the Pops was down 16.6 per cent in the latest ABC figures to 116,858, and It's Hot! — its BBC sister title — was down 19.5 per cent to 66,168 year on year.

BBC teen publisher Duncan Gray said: "It's about maintaining our stability and looking to develop as well. We're still selling quite a lot of magazines between us, there are still a lot of people interested. Plus the generation behind that, we serve very well with our preteen and youth magazines — we're selling 16.5 million magazines to that marketplace.

"The next generation down are loving magazines, so we're still interacting with them. I don't think it's the end of the industry. I don't think it's any cause for the older women's magazines to be panicking."

On the closure of Emap rival Sneak, Gray said: "Everyone will gain, but you're in a declining market so you gain from a continuously shrinking pot."

Emap did not release an ABC figure for Sneak, which it closed this month. Of the 15 staff on the title, Emap Elan MD Dawn Bebe, said the company was still looking to redeploy people "as and where was appropriate".

Almost all teen titles lost about a fifth of their readership in the past 12 months, as publishers looked to multimedia offerings to save the sector.

In teen lifestyle, Emap's Bliss remained on top, but down 22.7 per cent year on year to 213,466, while Hachette's rival monthly Sugar was down 29.8 per cent year on year to 200,187. Natmags' CosmoGirl! fell 13.2 per cent to 142,010.

Natmags MD Jessica Burley said that CosmoGirl!, which was the first magazine in the sector to launch on a dual platform, needed to develop its web offering into more user-generated platforms.

She said that CosmoGirl! took "some comfort" that it was "less down" than Sugar and Bliss, and insisted that the titles could remain relevant to teens.

She added: "There is still a real need for a discreet source of information and friendship for teenagers; growing up as a teenager now is more complicated than ever before. The key thing for teens is look for this information in private, not in public, and this is where magazines still hold ground."

Bebe said that the Emap Elan was looking at the future of all its youth titles in terms of how they work as multimedia brands

Bebe said: "It's a time for market correction. Some 200,000 readers still do want to read the unique content that a teen title such as Bliss provides.

"There is still a place for teen lifestyle magazines, especially good ones. [But] if you are smaller in the market it will be very challenging to see how you market your business."

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