Teen magazines were treasured objects during my formative years: Absolutely none of the sex or relationship advice was relevant, and I didn't actually buy most of the fashion or beauty picks I enthusiastically dog-eared. But savoring a print glossy from cover to cover was basically my favorite form of entertainment. Poring over teen titles certainly prompted my career path. I even bought, and obsessed over, How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter To The Greatest Teen Magazine Of All Time, even though I'd never been a Sassy reader. (It shuttered when I was in kindergarten, alas.)
When my parents finally made me clean out my childhood bedroom this summer, I found stacks and stacks of erstwhile titles like Elle Girl, YM, Teen People, and CosmoGIRL, dating back at least a decade. Nostalgia aside, I was struck by the sheer variety I had (and took for granted).
Today's teen doesn't have nearly as many options on the newsstand. Gen Z's media diet is certainly more varied than mine ever could've been — it might be purely digital and mostly mobile-driven at that, thanks to, say, Snapchat Discover and Instagram as viable news mediums. In print, Teen Vogue and Seventeen are the only titles available to the 2016 teen (or tween; magazines are aspirational, after all). A number of teen titles shuttered before or during the recession — YM ceased publication in 2004, Teen People and Elle Girl both bit the dust in 2006 (though ElleGirl.com continued on), and CosmoGIRL folded in 2008, followed by Teen's demise in 2009.
So, this change didn't just transpire. But the two enduring teen glossies have shaken up their leadership structures lately: Less than two years ago, Cosmopolitan's editor-in-chief and publisher started overseeing Seventeen as well. More recently, Teen Vogue's founding editor-in-chief, Amy Astley, decamped for another Condé Nast title, Architectural Digest, in May; she was succeeded by not one but three people who are, in effect, equally in charge. (There's been speculation over time that Teen Vogue would be folded into Vogue, or just cease print operations completely.)
So what do all these changes mean for the future of the teen title? Do teens even want or need print magazines anymore? As essential as digital content indisputably has become, I'm forever a champion of print; I certainly hope the answer is a resounding yes. Ahead, 15 experts on the topic — including teen-magazine editors past and present, creators of next-gen teen media, and magazine-journalism professors — muse on the beloved medium's past, present, and future.