11/13/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Teen Mags Losing Ink... and Momentum

Teens are down to two print magazine choices: Teen Vogue and Seventeen. Citing a down year in print ad sales, Hearst has decided shift to an online-only model for its teen publication CosmoGirl.

Is this the only solution when publishing brands are faced with balancing both online and print editions? Teens want their content in both of these mediums, along with others.

Despite the belief that print is dead, it's not. For one, the tangible attraction of flipping through pages and then sharing hand-to-hand with friends remains. Another place brands go wrong is thinking that teens are only interested in reading about the embarrassing exploits of their celebrity counterparts. There are plenty of glossies that cover this "news". A teen specific magazine, like CosmoGirl (at least until December), has to realize that although teens are interested in the lives of celebrities, they are infatuated with their own. And, as celebs tend to make themselves less and less relevant (the recent headlines on LiLo are just bizarre, and Paris Hilton's new MTV show is an embarrassment for all television), publications do the same by continuing to feature them.

After all, teens are oftentimes transparent about what they are looking for. Online presence alone is inadequate for the market segment that is the catalyst for changes in fashion, music and innovative creation. Instead of seeing multiple mediums as an obstacle, brands have to learn to embrace the opportunity to create dynamic content that is publishable to teens in many formats. For example, Teen Vogue has benefited from broad brand exposure due to its central role in the MTV hit series, The Hills. This is a smart, holistic approach to building the brand. Whether it's print, web, mobile, grassroots promotion or television, none of these distribution channels for content can be considered secondary. Brands are now forced to integrate them together and use them to compliment each other on an even playing field.

And, what about the content itself? It doesn't seem that teens are reluctant to buy magazines, rather that they are unsatisfied with the material. Brands have to stop telling teens who they should be (i.e. Lindsay and Paris) and start taking their feedback (which they are more than willing to give) to help create content that embraces their uniqueness. This market is thirsting for more choices, more ways to express themselves, and brands that truly represent their preferences. And, guess what? An online presence alone is not enough.

Does the current decline in print ad sales require a new strategy? Certainly. Is completely eliminating a print presence in the marketplace the answer? Certainly not. And further, removing a print edition from circulation and focusing exclusively online is sure to reduce the market share of the now orphaned online property: all a result of a short-sighted approach to narrowly delivering content to a market that yearns for more of it and is the most willing to make it more interactive and share it with others.