May the Teen Journal Rise Once more?

When Casey Lewis was a teen-ager, within the early two-thousands, she would arrive dwelling from college daily keen to seek out the most recent problem of Seventeen or Teen Vogue or Elle Lady ready on the kitchen counter. It was the period of low-rise denims, ’NSync centerfolds, and unironic how-to columns dealing within the premise that there’s an accurate solution to be a teen-ager. If two points arrived in sooner or later, Lewis mentioned, “It felt like successful the lottery.” She would take the magazines as much as her room and skim them like textbooks, poring over each story, each caption. She would try to memorize the styling suggestions and clothes credit, as a result of essentially the most subtle folks her age understood not solely which manufacturers had been trending but additionally what it could talk about oneself to put on these manufacturers. All through the month, Lewis would return to the magazines, utilizing them to puzzle out interval questions and divine whether or not her newest crush favored her again, as a result of, within the pre-Google period, she trusted the editors of Seventeen greater than she trusted Jeeves.

“I simply cherished teen magazines,” she mentioned, when requested about her encyclopedic information of the previous points, “I worshipped them.” They spoke to the kind of individual Lewis wished to grow to be. At the back of her thoughts, she imagined a model of herself following the glossies’ recommendation and dwelling an ideal life. She was at an age when she nonetheless believed that adults had been aware of the secrets and techniques of the universe, and she or he recognized with the editor Atoosa Rubenstein, who based CosmoGirl, in 1998, on the age of twenty-six, and later turned the editor-in-chief of Seventeen. Rubenstein “put her awkward teen footage within the editor’s letter,” Lewis remembered, “and it felt like such a revolutionary factor.” As a school pupil, Lewis interned at Teen Vogue and returned twice to the journal earlier than turning into a senior digital editor in 2015. The following 12 months, she left to launch a teen e-newsletter known as “Clover Letter,” which was later acquired by the Gen Z media firm AwesomenessTV.

“What I actually can’t clarify is why the attraction of sweet sixteen magazines hasn’t gone away for me,” Lewis mentioned. (She now writes a youth-culture Substack known as “After Faculty.”) In 2018, she went dwelling to Palmyra, Missouri, for the vacations. Rookie had simply folded, and Seventeen and Teen Vogue had reduce their print points. Feeling nostalgic for the golden age of sweet sixteen media, Lewis began digging by a whole lot of again points that she’d saved in her childhood dwelling and found inside them plenty of fascinating artifacts, together with a photograph of the Glossier founder Emily Weiss as an authority on thrifting and superstar quotes reminiscent of “I really like that I can use my cellular phone to go on the ‘Web.’ ” She opened an Instagram account, named it @thankyouatoosa, and began posting the pages from her archives that had aged surprisingly, or appeared eerily prescient. Presenting the spreads at face worth, the account is equal components celebration and self-own.

Right this moment, a youth publication would by no means publish a weight-reduction plan tip or a headline like “He’s attractive and makes a imply veggie burger, however is he price hanging on to for all the college 12 months?” Many retailers—reminiscent of Elle Lady, CosmoGirl, Bounce, YM, and Teen Folks—have ceased to exist fully. There are now not any company teen magazines in print, other than Seventeen particular points. Manufacturers that when advised teenagers what they need to like now battle to maintain up with the teen-creator ecosystem, the place younger influencers trade suggestions with their friends free of charge, and sponsored posts have successfully changed promoting. Whereas teenagers beforehand trusted the knowledge of girls who had been 4 to twenty years older, they now flip to different teenagers on TikTok. One other shift appears to lie in what, precisely, teenagers think about to be aspirational. Most teen magazines of yore emphasised cookie-cutter perfection, however now everybody desires to be “genuine.”

However not all teen magazines had been cookie-cutter. From 1988 to 1996, the twentysomething girls behind Sassy helped teenagers grow to be their most genuine selves—protecting the riot-grrrl motion and quietly educating younger girls about feminism—amassing a cult following within the course of. Problems with the journal are routinely listed on eBay for almost 100 {dollars} every. In 2007, Faber & Faber printed a love letter to the journal, written by Kara Jesella and Marisa Meltzer, known as “How Sassy Modified My Life.” “We had been there to catch the attention of the woman who was hanging out on the mall or going by the grocery retailer checkout line together with her mother,” the journal’s founding editor, Jane Pratt, mentioned. “She would see coverlines which may have a superficial factor to them, however then, when she picked it up and began taking a look at it, she could be subversively fed a message of self-acceptance and empowerment that was not what she went in anticipating.”

Within the twenty-tens, there was one other teen journal that spoke to the need to reside authentically, reached readers who had been already annoyed with the mainstream, and may be used as a template for a teen journal at this time. Rookie, based by Tavi Gevinson, in 2011 (a 12 months after Instagram launched), printed teen and rising artists whose work aimed to “make the very best of the gorgeous ache and cringeworthy awkwardness of being an adolescent woman,” per Gevinson’s inaugural editor’s letter. Like many teen-agers, Diya Chordia, a nineteen-year-old from Rajasthan, India, described Rookie as the primary journal the place she noticed her sensibility mirrored again to her, since lots of the contributors had been teen-agers themselves who explored subjects on the intersection of femininity and ambition. “It shaped a neighborhood round itself, and proper now I really feel prefer it’s extra fragmented,” Chordia mentioned, of the present media panorama. Social media was not a serious visitors driver to Rookie, Gevinson advised me in an e-mail. The neighborhood was born out of a faithful readership, whose members visited the positioning a median of seven.7 occasions per 30 days. “Our direct visitors was 3 times the quantity of visitors by way of social media,” Gevinson mentioned. “Our viewers was actually loyal and enthusiastic about curated, edited, usually longform content material that social media simply isn’t actually constructed for.”

Rookie was based at a time when Instagram was nascent, YouTube was gaining severe momentum, and conventional teen magazines had been struggling to remain related. Gevinson understood this. “When our writer Lauren Redding and I had been fundraising for Rookie, we had been hoping to construct it out into extra of a creators’ community and neighborhood the place not every part must undergo our editors to be shared, and the place folks might pin one another’s work and concepts and construct on them,” she wrote. “With TikTok and Instagram it appears a whole lot of former Rookie readers or would-be-Rookie-users have taken this type of community into their very own arms.” Although Rookie finally didn’t grow to be a creators’ community, it was clear on the launch that the editors noticed it as a spot the place younger folks might create content material for each other. Rubenstein, the previous Seventeen editor, described Rookie as “a fantastic laboratory”—with the caveat that “a laboratory possibly can create Coca-Cola; a laboratory isn’t Coca-Cola.” In different phrases, although Rookie solely reached 600 thousand readers per 30 days (per figures supplied by Gevinson), its aesthetic and philosophical affect reverberated amongst younger creatives on-line, who’ve gone on to achieve audiences within the tens of millions. 600 thousand readers is a major readership for any journal nowadays, however in 2011 Seventeen reportedly reached 13 million per 30 days.

Rookie additionally levelled the taking part in subject when deciding on expertise and contributors. In line with Gevinson, Rookie sourced contributors by a submissions in-box and scouted them on social media. “Generally readers additionally despatched their work to our workplace or introduced it to me at reside occasions and have become freelance contributors that method,” Gevinson wrote. “When our crew was large enough, I used to be so glad our editors might take the time to work carefully with new contributors to develop their work, because it was uncommon to seek out work that was able to publish because it was, however widespread to be confronted with sturdy concepts that folks simply wanted help in shaping. (Particularly being teenagers or not having printed earlier than.)”

Although teen publications and social-media content material each compete for eyeballs within the consideration financial system, {a magazine} will probably by no means attain the circulation of a single viral TikTok. “Teen Vogue shouldn’t be actually competitors for TikTok,” Rubenstein, who now writes a first-person Substack known as “Atoosa Unedited,” mentioned. She sees youth-influencer content material as a sport of peer-to-peer phone, and worries that “established thought leaders” (a.okay.a. grownups) now not exert sufficient affect over an impressionable demographic. “You flip to your buddy, and your buddy is telling you about intercourse or your physique, and half the shit they are saying is flawed. We’re in that place once more, however way more highly effective,” she mentioned, as a result of, as a substitute of listening to misinformation from a buddy, teenagers are listening to strangers in California with tens of millions of followers (and perceived credibility) on TikTok. At such a formative age, younger folks “want some actually stable steerage, and the final place they need to get it’s their dad and mom,” she mentioned. “Who’re they turning to? For my little one, it scares the shit out of me who she’s turning to.” Throughout Rubenstein’s Seventeen years, she and the workers “wished to ensure every part within the journal was proper, that it made sense,” she mentioned. “It went by a very severe vetting course of. That’s gone. These youngsters don’t have entry to any vetting, you realize? Nobody’s vetting their TikTok movies.” (See: the nutmeg problem.)

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