Entertainment

Political edge, higher profile can't save print edition of Teen Vogue

Despite a higher profile and increased focus on news and politics in the last two years, publishing giant Condé Nast will end the print version of Teen Vogue magazine.

End of print magazine part of larger cost-cutting measures at Condé Nast

Condé Nast is reportedly ending the print edition of Teen Vogue, shown here in 2015, as part of cost-reduction strategies. (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

Despite a higher profile and increased focus on news and politics aimed at younger readers in the last two years, publishing giant Condé Nast will end the print version of Teen Vogue magazine.

The move is part of cost-cutting efforts by Condé Nast, which will also see 80 jobs cut and publications decrease for several other of the brand's magazines, according to reports in WWD and Variety.

It hasn't been announced when the last print edition will be published. 

Condé Nast didn't respond to a CBC News request for information, but confirmed the changes to other media outlets.

The financial downturn in 2007 took a toll on Condé Nast, like other publishing companies, and over the years it has closed down magazines such as Gourmet, Modern Bride, House & Garden and Golf for Women. Earlier this year, the print edition of Teen Vogue dropped from monthly to quarterly publication.

In January 2016, Condé Nast CEO Bob Sauerberg told the New York Times the company brought in $1 billion US in revenue the year before, and that digital business was up 70 per cent.

'Sophisticated' articles boosted content

Teen Vogue, with Elaine Welteroth at the helm, has stood out from its peers by offering articles about politics, but with a younger reader in mind.

Teen Vogue's digital editorial director Phillip Picardi, shown here in September, was involved in the magazine's shift to more political content, University of Calgary researcher Jessalynn Keller says. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images/Daily Front Row)

Those changes were a conscious effort to broaden what the magazine and its website offered to readers, according to Jessalynn Keller, an assistant professor of communication, media and film at the University of Calgary.

This past summer, Keller interviewed Teen Vogue digital editorial director Phillip Picardi for a research project and said he recognized that the magazine's audience was interested in a range of subjects, including politics, LGBT issues, feminism and activism.

"He really decided this was the direction they needed to take the magazine," Keller told CBC News on Thursday.

"They really drew on a lot of breaking news and hired a lot of journalists and cultural commentators to write quite sophisticated pieces for the website."

They were actually able to grow their audience beyond the typical teen magazine reader.- Jessalynn Keller, University of Calgary

Although that shift started earlier, Keller points to Lauren Duca's December 2016 op-ed Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America — which challenged how Donald Trump won the U.S. election — as one piece that made more people aware of Teen Vogue's growth beyond offering readers simply beauty, fashion and celebrity content.

"They were actually able to grow their audience beyond the typical teen magazine reader," she said.  

For example, recent articles on the Teen Vogue website include an op-ed by Duca about resisting in Donald Trump's America, how to protest if you can't attend a rally, the experiences of teens at an immigration detention centre and crossing the border illegally into Canada.

Toronto-based writer Lincoln Anthony Blades, who contributes to CBC's The National, has also been a regular columnist for Teen Vogue, writing about Trump, politics, police brutality, race relations and more.

Teen Vogue editor in chief Elaine Welteroth influenced the magazine's diversity of coverage and in the newsroom, Keller says. (Kris Connor/Getty Images/Beautycon)

Teen Vogue's changes resulted in increased readership of its website — visits in the U.S. rose from 2.9 million in January 2016 to 7.9 million in January 2017 — but didn't translate to the print edition.

"There are new opportunities to engage their audience in a way that print really can't," Keller said.

"That engagement has really deepened within the digital realm, so it doesn't make sense to continue with print for a publication like Teen Vogue."

Even without a print edition, Keller predicts Teen Vogue will continue what it's doing: combining news and commentary with more typical teen fare.

"They've really kind of pushed back against the notion that you either have to be about fashion, celebrity, beauty and fluffy topics — or politics," she said. "There's no reason why can't they can't do both."

Regardless, the demise of the print edition quickly generated reaction online from the magazine's supporters, critics and contributors such as Duca.

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