Assignment 2: Teen Magazine Review
Part I: Print Magazines
Magazines targeted toward teenaged audiences have a unique opportunity to reach and influence this age group. It has been observed that teenage girls read teen magazines for information about their lives. Since this medium targeted specifically toward them is immensely popular, it has been suggested that it meets one or more needs of adolescent females (Peirce 1990, 66).
Two magazines popular with teenage girls are Seventeen and Teen. The circulation for each of these magazines surpasses a million each (Peirce1993, 59). Seventeen, first published in 1944, is targeted for the 13-24 age range (Evans 1991, 102). It's circulation is estimated at 2.3 million, according to the 1996 Audit Bureau of Circulations, (Durham 1998, 376). Teen claims that is "devoured" by 5.7 million girls between the ages of 12 and 19, according to an advertisement in Advertising Age, 1 November 1982, p. 67 (McCracken 1993, 316). These are slick, glossy publications. A cursory look at Seventeen, May 1999 and Teen, May 1999 reveals an emphasis on white females and an abundance of fashion and beauty products particularly represented by advertisements.
In order to objectively disclose the content of articles, advertisements, and photographs in these magazines each category was considered according to the percentage of space allowed per publication, similar to a study performed in 1991 by Evans, et. al.
In the area of article content Seventeen placed a greater emphasis on fashion, health, and feature articles while Teen's emphasis was largely on beauty and entertainment or celebrity. Figure 1 portrays the portion of general category and feature articles from each magazine in relation to total number of articles.
Fig. 1. Article Content Distribution of Seventeen and Teen Magazine
Seventeen Teen Beauty 7% 11% Entertainment & Celebrity 3% 15% Fashion 11% 4% Health 15% 3% Recurring Columns 5% 3% Relationships 2% 7% Feature Articles 14% 9%
The feature articles were examined for content as well. Noticeably, there were no feature articles on education and career in either magazine. Feature articles on relationships and celebrities comprised the main focus in these two magazines. Figure 2 shows the content distribution of feature articles for both magazines.
Fig. 2 Feature Article Content Distribution of Seventeen and Teen
Seventeen Teen Education and Career 0 0 Relationships 3 1 Ideology (morality, politics, religions) 0 3 Self esteem 0 0 Celebrity 2 0 Special Problems 0 0 Other 2 1
Examples of feature article titles, organized by category, in these magazines are presented in Table 1.
Illustrative Feature Article Titles From Seventeen and Teen Magazines by Identity and Theme Category
Relationships "My Dad Had an Affair" (Seventeen, May 1999) "You Say No He Hears Yes" (Seventeen, May 1999) "Make Peace with Your Parents" (Teen, May 1999) Ideology "Morality Matters" (Teen, May 1999) "Mind Matters: The Magic of Meditation" (Teen, May 1999) Celebrity "So Cool Jewell" (Seventeen, May 1999) Other "Am I Going to Be Safe" (Seventeen, May 1999) "Your Room" (Seventeen, May 1999)
Recent studies of magazine content speak to the importance and strength of the impact of this media on this age group. Because of the large, young audiences targeted, these magazines can be powerful reinforcers of the traditional ideology of womanhood (Peirce 1990, 499). There is a substantial body of research from empirical investigations and popular literature which indicates the power of mass mediated messages to influence the behaviors, world views, and self image of readers and viewers (Duffy 1996, 33). A study by Peirce suggested that the emphasis on beauty and relationships tell the teenaged girl that her job is to look good, find a boyfriend, and take care of home and hearth. She said, further, that this does not teach young girls to become new women (Peirce 1993, 66). Evans pointed out that teen magazines are ostensibly governed by the theme of self-improvement but it is approached largely through fashion dressing and physical beautification. This reinforces an underlying value that the road to happiness is in attracting males for a successful life by way of physical beautification. She said, further, that ample evidence exists to document the concerns of adolescent females about their appearance and acceptance to males (Evans 1991, 110). In a study of YM, it was suggested that women are taught that their access to power is through the purchase of clothing, cosmetics, or by implementing manipulative strategies (Duffy 1993, 59).
The first look at these magazines that suggested that a large amount of space was devoted to advertisements turned out to be true. The amount of space devoted to advertising compared to the total magazine space revealed that 50% of Seventeen's space was advertising and 40% of Teen's was advertising as shown if Figure 3.
Fig. 3 Advertisement Space Allotment in Seventeen and Teen Magazine
Magazine Percentage ads to total magazine space Seventeen 50% Teen 40%
With so much space devoted to advertising, the content of the advertisement becomes important. Therefore the content distribution for categories of beauty, fashion, feminine hygiene, food, education and career, entertainment, and weight loss camps was considered. Beauty products lead all categories in both magazines as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Advertisement Content Distribution of Seventeen and Teen
Seventeen Teen Beauty 35% 29% Fashion 17% 21% Feminine Hygiene or Health .6% 18% Food .4% .2% Education & Career (includes poetry and art contests and modeling agency ads) 19% 17% Music & Entertainment 12% 17% Weight Loss Camps .4% .8%
In consideration of the impact of advertising on this age group, one study suggested that exposure to advertisements lowered female's perceptions of their own attractiveness and that dissatisfaction with physical imperfections negatively impact educational priorities (Duffy 1996, 33)
Although beauty products are a primary focus of advertisements in these magazines, it should be noted that the individuals portrayed in the advertisements had a refreshing quality of wholesomeness. The women in these magazines appear to be healthy, happy, and clean - albeit thin. They are also predominately white.
The first look suggested a domination of white females in these magazines. A careful analysis of the photographic content of each magazine again proved this to be true. Photographic content in all articles and advertisements was coded for subject color (White/non-White) and gender (Female/Male). The results presented in Figure 5 attest to the emphasis of white females represented in these magazines.
Fig. 5. Human Photographic Content by Gender and Color in Two Teen
Seventeen Teen White, Female 55% 65% Non-White, Female 4% 2% White, Male 17% 31% Non-White, Male 2% .9%
One study of teen magazines pointed out that "teenagers in the United States are awash in a sea of mediated texts that play a strong symbolic role in constituting their sujectivities and identities" (Durham 1998, 369). Young women compare themselves to the models in articles and advertisements and studies show that long term exposure to advertising's stereotypical role portrayals may encourage women to internalize values and ideals. (Duffy 1996, 33).
It can possibly be argued that the main audience for these magazines is comprised of white, female teens. But what of those who don't fit that description? What about the slightly overweight or fat girls, the African-Americans, and the not so pretty girls? What values and ideals will they internalize?
A study of YM showed that only a certain type of femininity is idealized. Very few African-Americans, Asian-Americans, or Hispanic-Americans are pictured while gay and lesbian couples are never portrayed. Thus, the magazine cultivates the perception that to be popular, powerful, and happy one needs to be Caucasian, heterosexual, and sexually active. In this symbolic world, the only power which women attain is the power over men gained through tools of attraction. In this setting of attraction and desire, young men are objectified and exist not as subjective individuals, but as totems of success. Nowhere in the magazine does it suggest the possibility of a woman's personal achievement through education, public service, meaningful friendships, or long-lasting relationships. (Duffy 1996, 44). The fact that there were no feature articles on education and career or self-esteem in these issues of Seventeen and Teen would certainly validate this.
A purely qualitative approach to the content of these magazines reveals some differences not revealed empirically. Seventeen uses the word "sex" more often and alludes to it more often in columns and articles. This was not true of the ads, there did not appear to be more references or allusions to sex in the ads in Seventeen than in Teen. Examples of article and columns in Seventeen that make reference to sex include a celebrity column where "Seth Green brings massive sex appeal to…." (p.60); a column titled, "Hard Questions" (p.82) in which a girl writing to the magazine describes being touched against her will by her boyfriend's friend; a column titled "sex + body" (p.100); and a feature article titled "No! 12 ways to make that little word heard" which includes four pages of text and photographs on the topic of letting a boy know when you mean no toward sex (p.154-7).
Aside from the sexual references, Seventeen's article content did seem more meaningful and worldly. An example is entitled "Am I Going to be Safe?" which describes teen refugees who survived wars at home and rebuilt their lives in the U.S. (Seventeen 1999, 164).
In both magazines there seemed to be a crossover between advertising and
copy. Fashion and beauty products are collected and reviewed but the
price, phone number, and store where they can be purchased are part of the
write up. Titles of such articles include "Shore Thing: Make a splash in
summer's hottest swimsuits" which includes eight pages of photographs of
models in bathing suits and includes all buying information (Seventeen
1999, 134). Another is "Total Skin Guide" which suggests particular skin
products for certain skin types (Teen 1999, 108). This has been referred
to as covert advertising and is described as:
a system of mutually sustaining techniques and themes that links the editorial material to purchased advertising. While varying in degree of concealment, covert advertisements always attempt in some way to mislabel or disguise themselves as non-advertising material. Because of their quantity and the variety of forms in which they appear, they interact almost continuously with the purchased advertising in the magazine (McCracken 1993, 63).
Part II: On-line "Zines
Two on-line magazines written by teens considered for this paper are teenzine (June 1999) available from http://members.visualcities.com/teenzine/ and Teens-Online (accessed 14 June, 1999) available from http://www.teens-online.com/ezine/ .
teenzine is the most like its print counterparts in that it has a cover page featuring article titles found inside and the date of the issue. It proudly calls itself ad-free but the search box on the bottom of the welcome page is provided by Amazon.com. That is, however, the only place it is located and no other ads were found on any pages.
Teens-Online also opens with a welcome page that indexes all the articles inside. This magazine is updated "constantly" so no date of issue is provided. This magazine would fall into an arts and entertainment type magazine where the others, both print and online, are concerned with issues of every day living of interest to teens. Ads are included in this 'zine as a banner at the top of every page. It would by my guess that this is done by the server that hosts this 'zine. The ads are not particularly targeted to this age group, at least it seems unlikely that teens would be interested in teak garden furniture.
The article content is disclosed in Figure 6 for the on-line 'zines.
Figure 6. Article Content Distribution of teenzine and Teens-Online
Teenzine Teens-Online Education and Career 0 0 Relationships 5 0 Ideology (Morality, politics, religion) 7 1 Identity 3 0 Celebrity 4 0 Music Review 6 12 TV Review 7 1 Health 1 0 On-line (cyber) 2 0 Short stories 0 1 Poetry 0 3 Other 2 0
Examples of article titles in these magazines, organized by category, are presented in Table 2.
Table 2. Examples of Article Titles
Relationships "the rules of being wanted" teenzine June 1999 "hidden you" teenzine June 1999 Identity "cloudy horizon" teenzine June 1999 Celebrity "the spears file" teenzine June 1999 Other "cold" teenzine June 1999 Ideology (morality) "Teens Online Poll Teens-Online 6/14/99 "impeached" teenzine June 1999
Clearly a large portion of these magazines fall into the entertainment category, particularly music. Teens-Online, being more arts oriented, devoted the largest amount of space to these categories.
Part III: Conclusion
Content distribution in teenzine was most similar to the print magazines with a larger number of articles about morality, identity, and relationships. Neither magazine acknowledged the subjects of fashion and beauty. It is interesting that magazines created by teens for teens are devoid of fashion and beauty articles. One has to wonder if the negative advertising space in teenzine and the small amount of advertising space in Teens-Online impacts that. The other possibility is that fashion and beauty is not what kids are truly interested in. One other possibility is that these 'zines are produced mainly by males, but of course that is difficult to determine.
Without the large space allotted to photographs and advertising the 'zines have to be content oriented. Reading 'zines created by teens affords a unique look into what interests them truly rather than what advertisers push them to be interested in. The articles had high levels of morality with concerns related to President Clinton's amoral behavior to the violence created by lack of gun control to outrage at the Columbine shootings. A most interesting comment in the Columbine article indicative of the insight exhibited in these young authors was, "we can't force parents to be parents." Clearly, the opportunity to express themselves is important to teens. It seems a fortunate thing that the Internet provides a way for them to have an outlet for their expression in a non-advertisement driven medium. It is also one free of adult constraints. What I read was healthy, positive, and forward-looking. Compared to the inward looking, fashion/beauty driven content of the print magazine, this was indeed a welcome change.
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Peirce, Kate. 1990. A Feminist Theoretical Perspective on the Socialization of Teenage Girls Through Seventeen Magazine. Sex Roles 23, no. 9/10: 491-500.
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Seventeen. 1999. (May).
Teen. 1999. (May).
Teens-Online 1999; available from http://www.teens-online.com/ezine/ ; Internet; accessed 14 June 1999.
Teenzine. 1999; available from http://members.visualcities.com/teenzine/ ; Internet; accessed 14 June 1999.