What do teen-age boys want?
The editors of Inside Edge, a new magazine targeted at males ages 15 to 22, say they have what teen-age boys want -- "provocative" articles on girls, parties, cars and sports.
"We're the male version of Sassy," says Jonathan Hsu, editor in chief of Inside Edge, during a phone interview from his dorm room at Harvard University, where he is a student. "We write about issues that guys our age are concerned about in the way they talk, in their language. And we're not afraid to be provocative or bold."
The premiere issue of the magazine, published last month, has articles such as "Pump This Party" -- playing the right tunes for raging parties. The article recommends 10 top party tunes, including "Jump Around," by House of Pain. The editor likes this song because of its beat, "not to mention all the chests that'll be jumping around." An article titled "Twenty Questions" gathers "a group of the hottest women we know to tell us everything we wanted to know about sex. "How To Dump Your Girlfriend" tells readers that the best way to dump a girlfriend is "by hooking up with someone else."
But Sassy it's not. Rosie Gonzalez, 17, reads Sassy, Seventeen and YM (Young & Modern) regularly. She doesn't like Inside Edge. "It's not anything like Sassy," says Ms. Gonzalez, a senior at Sacramento (Calif.) High School. "Sassy doesn't talk about making it with guys. All this magazine does is talk about how to get girls to have sex with you."
This is not the first time publishers have tried to come up with a hip magazine to talk the language of teen-age boys, similar to how Sassy talks to teen-age girls. Ever since Sassy was launched in 1988 and revitalized the teen-girl magazine market, several magazines have targeted teen boys, including Details, Spin and Dirt (from the same publisher as Sassy).
But so far, none of the magazines has come close to the success of Sassy, which has a circulation of nearly 700,000.
The teen market is lucrative. Teen-agers spend $28 billion a year, according to Seventeen magazine research. Projections from the 1990 Census estimate that the number of teen-agers will grow 14 percent this decade, from 22.8 million in 1990 to 26 million in the year 2000.
"It's extremely difficult to launch a new magazine," says Scott Donatan, who covers the magazine industry for Advertising Age. "Especially a general interest magazine for teen-age boys. Most boys that age are into specialized magazines like Sports Illustrated, if they're into any magazines at all."
But Mr. Hsu and Alan Shapiro, the two 21-year-old Harvard students who launched Inside Edge, say that's about to change. With a barrage of publicity and a $1 million distribution contract from Warner Publisher Services, Inside Edge hit the newsstands at a cost of $2.50 each.
"This magazine is different," says Mr. Hsu. "It's the first national magazine written by students. It reflects the ideas and attitudes of guys our age. Readers can tell we're not some 30-year-old talking down to them."
Some in the magazine industry question Mr. Hsu's sincerity.
"It's nothing more than a slick marketing tool," says Deirdre Donahue, magazine columnist for USA Today. "I think it's a very cynical approach because it takes the lowest common denominator. They (the editors) have absolutely no respect for their readers. And the only way it (the magazine) is bold is in its offensiveness."