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TEENS HAVE ONE LESS CHOICE: And then there were two: Hearst Magazines on Friday shuttered Cosmogirl magazine, the teen title it spun off from Cosmopolitan in 1999, with the December issue being the last. Many weren’t surprised to hear the news, given the title’s shrinking ad pages and flattening circulation, but were disappointed another magazine had exited from the teen market. In less than three years, Teen People, Elle Girl and Cosmogirl have folded, leaving Seventeen and Teen Vogue as the two stalwarts.
One of those disappointed was Cosmogirl’s founding editor Atoosa Rubenstein, who believed the magazine had gotten away from its roots as an alternative to its mainstream, high school sweetheart sister title Seventeen. “Cosmogirl was conceived as a magazine for edgy girls. This is a time for edgy ideas. It’s my belief that those girls will still be served, they’ll just be served in new, innovative ways other than a print publication,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the death of the girl, but the death of the magazine, and certainly the sign of the times.”
No longer involved with the magazine business after parting ways with Seventeen and having given birth two months ago to her own little girl, Angelika, “it’s like the closing of an era in my head.” Ironically, Rubenstein was said to be working on a teen-focused Internet project, Alpha Kitty, and a self-help book for teens, but shelved those projects to focus on her family.
Some media buyers attributed Cosmogirl’s closure to the shift in teen readership. “This is not about demographics anymore, it’s about behavior,” said Robin Steinberg, MediaVest senior vice president, director of print investment and activation. “The teen today is aspiring up to read the mothership or celebrity titles.” Steinberg mentioned the launch of Us Style, a quarterly fashion spin-off of Us Weekly slated to launch in April. “While targeted to a twentysomething, there is no doubt teens will be consuming this content,” she said. “Teens are not walking away from magazines, they are getting more sophisticated in title selection. They want something that speaks to them but doesn’t call them out in the title.”
Others, like Tina Wells, head of teen research firm Buzz Marketing Group, believed Hearst failed to convey what audience Cosmogirl was really serving. “Sometimes they marketed it as the tween book, the little sister to Seventeen, where I thought it was a strong pre-college, pre-Cosmopolitan magazine. If you read the book, you realized that it was for an older girl and that wasn’t translating well.” Stories in the November issue include “College Life Uncensored” and “The Art of the Co-Mance,” a story on dating a coworker — not exactly fodder for a 13 to 17 year old.
Through October, Cosmogirl had 527 ad pages, down 15.5 percent from last year. By contrast, Seventeen had 693 pages in that period, down 8.8 percent, and Teen Vogue had 919 pages, down 5.9 percent. Though its 1.4 million circulation remained relatively flat during the first half of 2008, newsstand sales fell 18 percent during that period, to an average of 302,800. In 2003, the magazine sold over 400,000 single copies a month.
Cosmogirl’s subscriber base will be folded into fellow Hearst title Seventeen. Editor in chief Susan Schulz will be “staying on at Hearst to work on special projects,” according to the company, and publisher Vicki Wellington will become the publisher of the new Food Network magazine, which appeared in the form of a test issue this month. The company declined to comment on how many other employees would be affected — the masthead lists 41 on the editorial side, two on the Web site, and about 33 on the business side — but said all would have an opportunity to interview within Hearst. — Irin Carmon and Stephanie D. Smith