Teen magazine Web sites get the 411 for, and about their readers 24/7.
Editors of teen magazines know their readers can't wait for the next issue to read about Clay Aiken's new puppy, the latest episode of The O.C. and what Pink wore at the latest awards show. But they can use the Internet's real-time polls and message boards as an outlet for teen chatter. With opinionated and Net-savvy readerships, and with multimedia technology not available on the printed page, teen magazines are using the Web to build loyal online communities, which in turn influence the print product.
Editors say that most site users have already read the magazine and are drawn to the Web for more scoop. "But it's no fun to go to a site and only get a couple repurposed stories," says Andrea Pyros, executive editor of Gruner + Jahr's YM.com. To that end, each mag's site is at least 50 percent original content.
All teen magazines solicit critical reader feedback. Polls, surveys and message boards help gauge everything from celebrity popularity to opinions on the war in Iraq. "It's a way for our readers to give their opinions, share their experiences, and contribute their ideas to print. It's one of the strongest tools our print editors have to access real girls for our stories," says Fiona Gibb, Seventeen.com editorial director. Ann Shoket, CosmoGirl! executive editor, says comments on the site contribute to more than 30 percent of the pages in the Hearst title.
For Hachette Filipacchi Media's Ellegirl, "The Web site actually launched before the magazine, as a way to get readers' opinions on what they would like in it," says online editor Karen Clark.
Online, editors can react quickly to their readers' needs. The day after the American Music Awards, Teen People's site posted event photos and news items, says Molly Aboud, the online executive editor. TP also offers video and audio clips that go behind the scenes on Britney Spears' latest music-video shoot—content impossible for the printed page. (As a Time Inc. property, the site is available only to AOL members and subscribers or newsstand buyers of the magazine.)
Condé Nast's Teen Vogue Web site has only been up since January, but it's already moving beyond the boundaries of CondéNet, to which the company's other titles' sites conform. The site is using Flash technology in quizzes, a first for a Condé Nast magazine's Web site, says teenvogue.com editor Kimball Hastings. The multimedia capabilities help carry the readers' interest through the print edition's bimonthly frequency.
The Web's interactive capabilities have spread to the ad side as well. All teen sites have offered Internet-only promos, special events and sweepstakes. "On the marketing side, we can use the online medium as a tool to enrich these integrated programs," says Teen Vogue's Jane Grenier, associate publisher, marketing. Advertisers have tested ad creative and products online via the exclusive It Girls panel, she says. Pottery Barn Teen is collaborating with YM.com through January on a link that allows readers to design their bedrooms with Pottery Barn furniture.
"This age of visitor has been interacting with different media her whole life," says Grenier. "A rich, integrated Web site is crucial—you can't live in this girl's world without it."
Aimee Deeken is assistant editor at Mediaweek.