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Please Resurrect Teen Magazines

It’s 2006, and I’m rushing from school to the nearest grocery store to buy my favorite teen magazine, Capricho, a Brazilian publication that is no longer in print. After an excruciating day sitting behind a desk, it’s exactly what I need to unwind and distract myself from repeating it all again in the morning. After all, when it comes to magazines, it’s all about the experience. When you return home with your publication of choice, you intend to spend the next several hours devouring it alongside a massive box of cookies. You know exactly which section you’re going to read first, and what you’ll save for last. Her Campus Associate Editor Tianna, 26, agrees. “I remember going to Barnes and Noble, ordering hot cocoa with my friends, and sitting on the floor reading magazines for hours — especially Cosmo, which was #scandalous at the time,” she tells Her Campus. The intentionality that comes with settling in with a printed edition is something else you’ll be hard pressed to find on the internet. 

If you were a child or a teenager during the 2000s, you can probably relate. Magazines were our go-to entertainment, from crush compatibility quizzes to the celebrity posters. But today, classics like Elle Girl and CosmoGirl are long out of print — In 2017, Teen Vogue cut out print editions, followed by Tiger Beat and Seventeen in 2018, with the latter forming a “digital-first strategy.” A lack of subscribers in the age of increasing popularity of digital content, which led to overwhelming costs, all played their part in the demise. The era of the teen magazine – at least as we knew it – is over, much to my chagrin. But I refuse to let it be forgotten. I firmly believe that Gen Z would fall in love with the intentionality of printed magazines. Sure, as obsessors over Y2K, we’d love the vintage look that a print magazine can add to any room, but my generation would also appreciate the experience of reading a print magazine for hours (picture a series of pages in a magazine with Emma Chamberlain’s best looks? A dream!). It’s timeless.

There was just something about flipping through your favorite magazine for hours that can never be matched by scrolling through your feed — and teenagers today will never know it. Feeling the glossy paper between your fingers can give the content a sense of permanence that a social share never will, even beyond its physical manifestation. In fact, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Maryland, there are neurological differences in the comprehension of print and digital texts, with print outperforming digital when it comes to reading comprehension, recall, and emotional impact. 

Beyond the physical differences, teen magazines can play a huge part in the formation of adolescent identity. Teen magazines helped Tianna to figure out the kind of person she wanted to be. “I used to read about Seventeen’s Editor-In-Chief at the time, Ann Shoket, and imagine what it’d be like to have her job someday,” she says. “Now I’m an editor, so I guess all those years of sifting through print magazines and dreaming paid off.” As a writer, I’ve had the opportunity to have my work published in print a couple of times, and seeing my name in the byline produces such a special feeling. Suddenly, your grandmother is handing out copies of your work to every neighbor, and your heart honestly can’t take it. Being able to hold what you’ve created feels incredible, but that feeling translates to readers, too. Passing the magazine between friends gives the story you want to share a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants kind of importance that a link texted to the group chat can’t accomplish. 

Not that there’s anything wrong with digital platforms — they’re fast-paced and ever-changing, and allow for quick pivots when new information arises, not to mention immediate access to those updates. In this day and age, I can’t imagine delivering the news via printed copies only (though that may also be because I never existed in a print-only world). But that doesn’t take away the nostalgia factor. I still miss reading about the next season of Hannah Montana or Zac Efron’s new hairstyle in print. That information wasn’t instantaneous. It was like a build up, waiting for each new issue.  I remember pouring over Miley Cyrus and Nick Jonas’ relationship timeline in Capricho for hours. I took it to school the next day and showed it to all of my friends (I obviously had to share the gossip with substantiation, and they just had to experience the beautiful designs in person to get the full effect). Sure, now I can just send my friends a link or gather around my iPhone, but we can’t really doodle hearts around Nick’s face. 

“While I absolutely love (and work in!) digital media, there’s something about print that’s wildly special to me,” Tianna says. “Holding a brand new print magazine in my hands reminds me of what life was like before we were all glued to our phone and laptop screens.” Print feels timeless, highly-curated, and tangible. When you jump into your copy of Seventeen, you have an expectation of exactly what you’ll get thanks to the cover design and the table of contents. When you spend your day scrolling through social media, you’re bombarded with a variety of information you didn’t ask for. “I love both digital and print,” Tianna says. “But print just hits different.”

In fact, print magazines – as well as print photos and books – give me a great sense of disconnecting from social media (which we already know isn’t the best for our mental health). Gen Z’s so used to receiving so much information every second that we don’t even want to watch videos longer than 15 seconds, but moments to slow down are so important. I loved spending the entire afternoon in the company of my favorite magazine, and that’s an experience I don’t have anymore. I’m used to reading articles every day on my phone, moving on quickly from every piece as soon as I’ve read it. Back in the day, I’d read every single article carefully, and savor the moment. I took the quizzes to find out which High School Musical character I was, and I hung the posters on my bedroom wall. Tianna collected every magazine she ever read. “I truly don’t think I’ve ever gotten rid of a single print magazine I own, unless it was to make a mood board,” she says. 

Maeve, 21, loved the back to school issues especially, and remembers trying every beauty product they featured. “Printed teen magazines were a staple of my childhood,” she says. “I remember how excited I’d be to get Teen Vogue in the mail.” What a time! 

Now that I’m a journalist, I’d love to have someone read one of my pieces, and appreciate it like I used to care for my beloved teen magazines. While digital editions bring the same quality as the content did in print, it’s distinctly lacking the experience of reading in print. Imagine eagerly awaiting the arrival of an issue today that discloses everything you need to know about Taylor Swift’s next project. I’d write down her lyrics in the pages, then show it to my friends, or maybe even to my future kids when they ask me what I was doing when I was their age. A print magazine is something you can keep forever. (I still have my overwhelming amount of magazines with One Direction on the cover). 

Whether you’re on #TeamDigital or #TeamPrint, I think we can all agree that our lives could use a little more intentionality, and being glued to our screens isn’t providing it. So I’ll be here, manifesting the comeback of print teen magazines. And until that’s a reality, we can all think of other ways to slow down our lives and make each moment special. That’s what it’s all about. 

Studies Referenced:
Lauren M. Singer and Patricia A. Alexander. Reading Across Mediums: Effects of Reading Digital and Print Texts on Comprehension and Calibration. University of Maryland, The Journal of Experimental Education. 2016.

Carolina Grassmann is an Editorial Intern at HerCampus.com, and the Editor-In-Chief and Events Director of Her Campus Cásper Líbero. She's majoring in journalism, and has been involved with HC since her first year of college, as a writer and reporter. When she's not writing, she's most likely listening to Taylor Swift's songs over and over again.
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