- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2005

They are among her most cherished possessions — magazines about celebrities, saved carefully in a box that she keeps by her bed. But they’re not Tiger Beat, J-14 or any of the other entertainment publications specifically aimed at teens and preteens.

Instead, 11-year-old Audriana Rossano is an avid reader of Us Weekly, a magazine with a core audience in its 20s and 30s that is among a number of entertainment weeklies with an increasingly young readership.

“I read every article,” said Audriana, a soon-to-be sixth-grader from Cherry Hill, N.J., who looks for stories about her favorite celebrity, Jessica Simpson. “I like her fashion, her voice,” she said, pausing. “I think she’s nice.”

As traditional teen magazines have watched warily, and sometimes lost readership, the trend of young people seeking out older publications has grown in recent years.

A report issued by Simmons Research Group found that 23 percent of teen girls surveyed last year said they had read Us Weekly in the past six months, compared with 6 percent in 2000. Meanwhile, 16 percent in 2004 said they had read Star, which recently changed to a glossy magazine format, compared with 9 percent in 2000 when it was a supermarket tabloid.

Celebrity magazines posted strong sales growth in the first six months of the year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, while newsweeklies struggled.

Us Weekly’s circulation rose 23.9 percent to 1.67 million and Star jumped 20.9 percent to 1.42 million, according to Mediaweek magazine. Meanwhile, Time magazine’s circulation remained flat at 4.05 million, and Newsweek’s circulation rose 1.8 percent to 3.2 million.

In its survey of teens, Simmons did not include In Touch Weekly, which started in late 2002, in its most recent study. But Student Monitor LLC, which tracks the habits of college students, said In Touch “showed up on our map” for the first time during readership surveys this spring.

Part of the weeklies’ appeal, experts say, is a newsstand price that is generally less than $2. But dishing out more frequent doses of gossip — weekly instead of monthly — also plays a role.

“It’s a celebrity-driven culture, but it’s a culture where you get things quickly — and these weeklies provide that,” said Tina Wells, the twentysomething CEO of Buzz Marketing Group.

It may not please some parents to know that young people are attracted to magazines that are intended for adults. But the appeal doesn’t surprise youth marketers.

“Anyone who works in teen magazines understands that teens aspire to be older and want to read up [in age],” said Anastasia Goodstein, a San Francisco writer who publishes Ypulse, a blog about Generation Y for media and marketing professionals.

While magazines such as Teen Vogue and Elle Girl are still lauded for having a hold on teen fashion, entertainment weeklies also are making their way into that arena — in large part because many girls are interested in dressing like the stars.

“A girl 11, 12, 13 will see Paris Hilton wearing something and I’m told by shop owners that they’ll bring the magazine with them and say ‘I want to wear that,’” said Ken Baker, West Coast executive editor at Us Weekly.

That has led editors at his magazine and others to include details about where readers can buy clothing and accessories — some at relatively inexpensive prices.

“Celebrity has become the most powerful marketing tool,” Mr. Baker said. “Teens identify with them and maybe aspire to look like them. The celebrities are brought down to a human level now, and it almost makes them more powerful.”

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