Mags: Seventeen magazine editor Ann Shoket talks shop with Media Bistro

Glossy Talk: Is "Seventeen everywhere" a good thing for girls?

Recently Seventeen magazine editor-in-chief Anna Shoket (pictured) appeared on Media Bistro's Media Beat show, giving some great insights into the magazine's brand strategy.

Formerly the executive editor of the now-defunct CosmoGirl (another Atoosa project), Shoket succeeded Atoosa Rubenstein in 2007, but her main beat has been online – and, more particularly, online innovation. In 2007 she told The Huffington Post that by the time they were three years old her readers had the internet, making a "deeply and profoundly interactive" online presence essential. She also spoke of young girls' "designer lust" for shiny new things, being "dialed to the realities of teen life" and channelling her inner sixteen-year-old. She described the editorial ethos of Seventeen as thus:

"[T]here are the days when you want to call up your most fun friend, and get in the car and go to the mall and drink caramel frappuccinos and meet boys and have a little retail therapy, go shopping and have that kind of crazy fun afternoon. That to me is Seventeen...we have such a fun hyper great energy. My take is that I want to be her best friend. I want to be her most fun friend. We're such a strong fashion and beauty magazine, and that's where the fun comes in. Shopping is fun. Beauty is fun."

She also talked of her responsibility to her readers: "I feel a tremendous responsibility to help these girls grow up to be smart, amazing, self-actualized, fulfilled women. And you know that responsibility is, like, every day. What do these girls need now, so they can walk into any situation and feel confident?"

And then she recalled how Seventeen had "told me I'm the kind of girl that could go out with two guys at once", which set her up for a major social faux pas. Ergo: magazines are flawed. But, while magazines were influential back then, the major difference between the Seventeen (and Dolly, Girlfriend, CosmoGirl...) women like Shoket and myself read way back when and the Seventeen of today is its absolute and deliberate omnipresence in girls' lives. Take a look at a clip...

The context: So, we know Shoket is talking shop with Media Beat and that she does care for her readers. But is the idea of the pretty, perfect, fashion-and-beauty-obsessed Seventeen magazine being "everywhere" in teen girls' lives a good thing? Or just good for sales (obviously a top concern for Shoket)?

The quotes: "I have a philosophy - "Seventeen everywhere". How do we go and create content wherever and whenever our girls are? And so, the web is our partner; we are so deeply integrated as a magazine, as a brand, that we are the number one teen magazine, we are the number one teen magazine website. But not only on the places that we own – and Seventeen magazine - but we have a huge Facebook presence (that's where our girls are), MySpace, Twitter, YouTube... Teenage girls are the biggest growing demographic of iPhone and iPod Touch users, so we launched an iPhone app. But all of this is everyone swimming together; all the pieces are working in a fantastic, seamless circle to drive readership to the magazine, to the brand, to keep the brand vital."

And... "TV is obviously a fantastic partner for magazines – we're a great partner for America's Next Top Model and they are a really great partner for us. It's really fun, it's a new way to reinforce the brand in a place that our girls - our girls love, so its the perfect place for our brand to be... There's no doubt that it's good for magazines to be part of a good show or to be part of a show that their readers are, like, obsessed with."

The GWAS comment: With all this techno-crowding, I can't imagine girls have a lot of spare time on their hands to just sit and be themselves. I, for one, was overly influenced by the presence of teen glossies that told me I would be happier if I just blasted my pimples, tightened my abs and made a move on the boy I liked. Always the late bloomer, I only got in tune with my "real identity" in my late 20s. And that was without being attached intravenous-like to my iPod/iPhone.

Girls with more solid home lives, and a strong sense of self-worth and familial identity, might be able to better cope with the constant stream of media messages via their techno gadgets without subsuming their values, interests and self-esteem, but I really feel that in this new-media environment – coupled with the increasing pressures on girls and the consequent rise in mental health disorders like anxiety and depression – magazines like Seventeen should be thinking more about the messages they're sending ("Perfect Hair!"; "Look Pretty!"; "Best Butt") than the medium. With growing influence, there simply has to be more social responsibility.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


dillpickle said...

Hear, hear, Erica! It would be really refreshing for teen mags in particular to openly acknowledge their power to influence, and accept some social responsibility in that! I came from a quite stable home life as a teenager, and I was still incredibly gullible and non-critical of the 'truth' that was spoken by the mags I bought every month.

HotCaviar said...

I agree, teens need more positive reinforcement on how to develop their spiritual needs, I never lived up to their expectations, still don't, but when you're an influential teen wanting to be accepted, it's all you ever think about... I am glad I am through all of those anxieties now, but certainly the teen glossies need to be accountable and start providing some form of inner health remedies that help the outer shell shine!