Teen mag’s editorial focus wins support

Fuel, Chart, Teen Tribute, Verve, and What are only a few of the magazines available on Canadian newsstands aimed squarely at teens. On the surface, the last thing this country needs is another publication that reaches out to the puberty gang.

Fuel, Chart, Teen Tribute, Verve, and What are only a few of the magazines available on Canadian newsstands aimed squarely at teens. On the surface, the last thing this country needs is another publication that reaches out to the puberty gang.

However, Faze, a refreshing newcomer to a market that in the past has dealt almost exclusively with the complexities of seasonal fashions and boy bands, has carved a niche with its intelligent content.

The magazine, launched in January 2000 by husband and wife team Lorraine and Paul Zander, has been making a rather sizable impression on the Canadian market by producing a publication for the 12 to 18 demo that goes well beyond the norm. While still featuring articles about fashion and the latest from Hollywood, the quarterly tackles a broad scope of issues, such as science and technology, travel and current affairs, in an in-depth and informative way.

Distribution has been happening on three levels, in bookstores like Chapters and Indigo, in schools and movie theatres, and in prizing packages and polybagging. While citing that the magazine has had good coverage in the press, the couple note that at the start there were questions in the ad-buying community about Faze’s longevity. Those questions seem to have disappeared, and some advertisers are now coming to them rather than the other way around.

‘Wonderfully, instead of us going after ads and agencies, recently it’s been them coming to us,’ says Paul Zander. That certainly seems to be the case with L’Oreal who will be advertising heavily in the Christmas issue of Faze, and who took it upon themselves to approach the magazine.

Faze launched its first issue with a circulation of 10,000 copies. That number jumped to 50,000 within a year and now sits at over half-a-million nationwide, thanks, in large part, to some creative marketing partnerships. Those numbers, impressive for such a young publication, can be attributed to two distribution deals in particular.

The first big hit came through Pepsi, who wanted to include Faze in their ‘Pepsi Taste Challenge’ prize packages. This promo put Faze into the hands of an additional 100,000 Canadian teens, which Zander says added to the perceived value of the magazine given the prize element.

Following that, the couple brokered a deal with Toronto-based packager Samplex to have the magazine distributed in back-to-school packages throughout the country, an order for some 325,000 copies. The packages are available at retailers such as Shoppers Drug Mart, PharmaPlus and Zellers outlets.

That distribution deal represents a break-even financial proposition for the company, putting half-a-million copies of the latest issue of Faze in circulation. Zander equates the back-to-school efforts with a direct mail campaign that he hopes will allow them to ‘grow subscriptions by one to five per cent over the next year.’

Base circulation now sits at 250,000 (5,000 subscribers) but that number will go back up again next year when they repeat this year’s teen pack efforts. Likewise, they hope to be included again in next year’s Pepsi ‘Challenge’ prize packs.

Faze was initially launched as a niche magazine after Lorraine Zander had done two years of research – getting feedback from teachers, conducting focus groups made up of teens and studying the background of the publishing industry. People reacted positively to the idea of offering something more substantial for young adults.

She says that Faze, which retails for $3.50, is closer to a mix between Maclean’s and an entertainment magazine than to anything else in the Canadian market. ‘While we didn’t want to disregard things like fashion or music, which are big interests for teens, we also wanted to be informational and sensitive to the intelligence of the demo that we are trying to reach.’

That approach is starting to pay dividends. Sony Music, for example, took three pages of space in the latest issue profiling artists such as Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore. Other advertisers included Warner Music, Attack Records, Roots and Sketchers.

Amanda Dwyer, associate manager, marketing and planning at Sony Music Canada says ‘[Faze] has an editorial focus that we really like. I think a lot of teens are underestimated in terms of their interests. We recently advertised in the back-to-school issue specifically because they were inserted into teen packs, and their circulation numbers are so great. As we are building our marketing plan Faze is going to be at the top of our list.’

The current issue of Faze includes a business article ‘What is a Stock Index,’ but at the same time has four feature length articles on new bands. And unlike many magazines that gear themselves towards one gender or the other, Faze is for teenagers of both sexes who are interested in more than just regurgitated American pop culture or tips on how to keep your boyfriend happy.

Faze editors believe that by the age of 15, this generation wants to read an interview with Our Lady Peace, an edgy high-profile band popular amongst young adults, while catching up on global issues, sports injuries, and cloning experimentation – as is the case in the back-to-school installment.

‘One of the things that separates us from other teen magazines is our content. Just from research that we’ve done many are rejecting the teeny bop culture that’s found so often in magazines like Seventeen,’ says Lorraine Zander.

New youth magazines have often had a rocky reception from media buyers, but Faze seems to have come through puberty as one of the popular kids.