New magazine hopes to break the mold of traditional teen-age-girl publications


Have you been wondering what to do with your bell-bottoms when they go out of fashion (again)? Do you know how to make yourself look older for those special occasions, let's say, a job interview? Do you have a love/hate thing for a supermodel?

Most important, do you want Marky Mark's smelly shoes?

These are a few questions addressed in the premiere issue of a new magazine targeted toward girls from the ages of 12 to 18, now at newsstands.

It's called tell, in fashionably lowercase letters.

The editor says it's different from traditional teen magazines.

"We try to have more fun, yet we're more sophisticated because we treat our readers with respect," says Roberta Myers, editor in chief. Ms. Myers was editor in chief of Seventeen for six years.

"Respect" to Ms. Myers means talking to teens in their language. "We're not patronizing and, unlike other magazines, we feature a number of stories written by other teen-agers," she says.

The monthly New York-based magazine is different from other magazines in another way. It is the first one launched by a magazine publisher, Hachette Filipacchi, and a media company, NBC.

"We are in the teen business," says Kelly Coogan Swanson, entertainment market manager for NBC. "We decided to get into the magazine business based on the success of our Saturday morning programming, which is all devoted to teens."

The teen girl market is one of the most competitive -- and lucrative -- in the magazine industry. Seventeen is the current leader, followed by Sassy and YM.

The Saturday morning program "Saved by the Bell" showed NBC that the teen-age-girl market is a powerful and lucrative one.

"The popularity of the show convinced our advertisers that there was a strong market out there, so the idea of a magazine that could be used as cross-promotion wasn't hard to sell," Ms. Swanson says.

Today's teens aren't so easy to peg. Unlike their baby-boom parents, teen-agers today refuse to be labeled. They've been called everything from Generation X to baby busters. Their musical tastes alone range from Ice-T to Garth Brooks.

The 120-page premiere issue costs $1.95 and has traditional features such as celebrity profiles. In this case it's Will Smith, star of "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air"; the issues also has round-table discussion called "Girls Talk: Sex," which addresses unsafe sex and AIDS; and an essay about the Holocaust Museum, written by a teen-ager.

Other features include "Noise," where the writer called various .. youth help lines and rated their responses; a profile of the alternative-rock group Smashing Pumpkins; and "Mouthing Off," where a counselor helps kids.

Advertisers include J.C. Penney, Acne Statin Kit, Columbia Records, General Motors and, of course, NBC, which has an eight-page spread plugging its programs.

"It's like we have a magazine within a magazine," Ms. Swanson says.

The advertising will not affect the editorial aspect of the magazine, Ms. Myers says. She claims the two "will be as separate as church and state."

She wants the magazine's contents to be both fun and informative.

What to do with your bell-bottoms when they go out of style is an example of this, Ms. Myers says. The editors recommend cutting the pants into shorts and using the leftover material as an apron, as a bad-hair bonnet, even as a decorative toilet rug.

Of course.

That gets us back to Marky Mark's sneakers. Only one lucky (that's what she says) person will get them. All you have to do is fill out a reader survey by answering such questions as "Who are your favorite celebrities?" and "What are your favorite bands?" The winner of the shoes will be chosen at random from the survey.

The editors expect a huge response.

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