Youth culture magazine Watch goes national

Free teen publication Watch Magazine is going national this month - promising to more than double its high school penetration. The self-described youth culture magazine, which last year at this time went province-wide - delivering copies to 350 high schools across...

Free teen publication Watch Magazine is going national this month – promising to more than double its high school penetration.

The self-described youth culture magazine, which last year at this time went province-wide – delivering copies to 350 high schools across Ontario – plans to send out 125,000 copies to 800 participating high schools across Canada.

Going national only four years after its inception (the magazine started as a Toronto-only vehicle in 1993) could make national advertisers interested in reaching the elusive teen market very happy.

According to Doug Stewart, Watch publisher, the September issue of the monthly magazine sports new advertisers Roots, Aldo Group and Warner-Lambert, joining veteran Watch clients Sony Music, Columbia Sportswear, Music World and Dr. Martens.

Despite the controversy over advertising in educational facilities, Stewart says high schools are pretty eager to join the program. The reason? The magazine, which is subtitled ‘Youth Culture Unleashed,’ encourages the targeted age group – 17- and 18-year-olds – to read. ‘There’s a big difference between magazines and billboards or screen savers (in schools). Those are just silly,’ says Stewart.

As to why the target group is so age-specific, Stewart says: ‘We target (that group) with the assumption that younger kids will spiral upwards and follow those kids.’

He adds that while Watch, with its focus on music, entertainment and fashion, is most definitely not an educational vehicle, it does respect youth culture and deals with some serious topics.

‘Editorially, it’s not light at all,’ he says, and adds that more feature-length articles, such as September’s three-page spread on British rock band Oasis, can be expected in the future.

In fact, the national launch features a complete editorial overhaul, he says. Editorial will now account for at least 65% of the 48 or so pages each month, against the 50-50 ratio of editorial to advertising in past issues.

The magazine has also been redesigned in time for the cross-Canada launch.

‘We found that our name recognition was not as high as it should be,’ says Stewart, adding that an unremarkable three-dimensional logo – which doesn’t even show up on a flat surface – did not help. The logo was changed to a simple, more readable font and the cover, formerly of the same newsprint stock as used for the inside pages, will now be glossy and feature a collage of images – along with the standard fashion shot. ‘It looks more exciting,’ enthuses Stewart.

The magazine will target national brand advertisers, such as Warner-Lambert, which signed on to a full-year program for its Dentyne Ice chewing gum. The monthly ‘Dentyne Ice Date Movie Column’ will feature humorous looks at typical – and perhaps not-so-typical – date movie suggestions, according to Stewart.

Besides penetration in high schools, Watch will be displayed on metal stands at Music World stores. Stewart says the music retailer is also setting up in-store ‘Watch Racks’ which will feature musical selections covered in the magazine.

Stewart is quick to point out that the magazine, which is ultimately owned by Youth Culture, is not interested merely in selling ads. ‘We’re really careful about the advertising we accept,’ he says, adding that he isn’t interested in cheapening the magazine with coupons or fast food advertising.

‘Our goal is to build a relationship with the teen market,’ he says. ‘Even if I don’t have any advertising, I’m doing it anyway.’

That’s because Youth Culture has bigger plans. Through magazine contests, the company is building a database for future programs, including the plan to eventually launch a direct mail magazine for teenage girls. As well, the company is developing its promotional arm, hoping to arrange high school concert tours in the near future.

For now, the magazine will depend on independent distributors outside Ontario, says Stewart, but hopes to have a local salesforce in place in the future.

Because the publication is going into high schools which may have very different personalities depending on their location, Stewart says it’s important to keep a close eye on the product, ensuring the magazines are not tossed all over the school’s front lawn, and encouraging proper placement of its magazine stands.

For example, while it makes sense to place the stand in the cafeteria of a suburban school, says Stewart, it would be lost in the cafeteria of a downtown school, where most kids apparently prefer to eat out. In that situation, an entrance stand is preferable.

Stewart estimates that at least 25% of schools across Canada will now be reached by Watch.