While many of us might feel nostalgic about Tiger Beat's collaged covers featuring teen idols of the moment, the media landscape has obviously changed in recent years, with the Internet providing instant celebrity news and gifs galore. Teen magazines in particular haven't fared well: Sassy shut down in 1994, YM in 2004, Teen People and Elle Girl in 2006, CosmoGirl in 2008 and Teen in 2009.
But Tiger Beat, which was founded in 1965, is still around, and a new group of 17 investors led by banker and entrepreneur Mark Patricof have faith that teen girls of the centennial generation — which is technically anyone born after 1997 (but for the magazine's purposes means those aged 14 to 18) — still care about the brand. And these investors aren't just deep pockets: they include basketball player Kevin Durant, rapper Nas, his manager Anthony Saleh, comedian Nick Cannon, film producer and chairman of the New York Giants Steve Tisch, music manager Troy Carter, the Daily Mail, the talent agency Paradigm and the creative marketing agency MDC Partners.
"We have a good sampling of interesting, cool people who are intimately connected on a day to day basis with trend-setting in this country," said Patricof. "The idea was to get in and leverage the people that we brought to the table to build this into a big, diversified brand for teen girls — which doesn't exist right now."
The deal closed in late June and the magazine's September issue went to print just three weeks later. Patricof said the issue is only the beginning of a new chapter for the brand. "We are going to be pretty experimental —you're going to see some really unique stuff on the covers this fall [such as] stickers and different types of print," he said. "As much as [kids] want to do everything online, they still want those posters every month. You just would not believe how many Tiger Beat posters are on teen girls' walls across the country."
Editor in Chief Leesa Coble, who has held the role since 2003, said these special print elements are a "hot commodity for the magazine." The September issue comes with cut-out fans that have, in some cases, an image of Harry Styles on one side and a moustache on the other. It can be ripped out and fixed onto a popsicle stick to make a summer-friendly fan. The August issue has back-to-school-ready locker posters and calendars, as well as cardstock notebook dividers. "It's cool, it's tangible, it's this really great extra," said Coble.
Coble's staff of about six people, which recently relocated from Glendale, Calif. to Beverly Hills, consists primarily of designers; she's currently hiring freelance writers to create the kind of short, consumable content Tiger Beat's readers want. "It's going to be packaged in a way that's relevant for the pop culture-obsessed, social media savvy, influencer-driven teen," she said. That means listicles and quizzes as well as the occasional meatier feature. Coble is even reaching out to younger writers who are closer to the target audience, as well as people who are really tapped into fan armies and have made their mark in those communities. "Who [teens are] into has widened so much — social media influencers, bloggers — there's such a larger pool of talent to draw from," she said.
That's not to say young heartthrobs, particularly those of the musical persuasion, aren't still major magazine sellers for the teen set. "When there's a big new act, when Justin Beiber is brand new, revenue in the magazine spikes," said Patricof. "There hasn't been a hot act in a while that just drives sales, but it's guaranteed to happen again. It's very cyclical."
As of the beginning of 2015, Tiger Beat's print rate base — a guaranteed minimum amount used to compute advertising rates — was 250,000. Competitors such as Popstar! and J14 have smaller audiences with print rate bases of 200,000 and 130,000, respectively. But Patricof has goals beyond print. In addition to overhauling the website, he told The New York Times that music tours, radio channels, television programs and film projects are all on the table. "The idea is to get the magazine right and build the other business around it," he said. The magazine Bop was also part of the investors' purchase, and Patricof says they are still deciding its fate.
In the meantime, the brand is investing in Tiger Beat's Snapchat account. It hired Delmondo, a social influencer marketing agency, to partner with engaged online influencers such as Cyrene Q who post celebrity facts, conduct quizzes and re-post reader responses.
But whether an older generation's nostalgic feelings about Tiger Beat mean anything to centennials, or if their desire for print material is strong enough to sustain a business, is yet to be determined. Patricof is confident that with the investors, staff and resources available now, the magazine can thrive. "It's a special little brand," said Patricof. "There's a reason why it's been around for so long. People care about it."
Homepage image: Laura Marano from Disney Channel's "Austin & Ally" with an issue of Tiger Beat. Photo: Tiger Beat