Seventeen magazine, for teen girls, was first published in 1944. Publisher Walter Annenberg and Seventeen’s first editor Helen Valentine created a magazine that has now become the queen of the teenage magazine market stand. This service magazine for young women was the first of its kind in the United States. Since the inception of Seventeen, the magazine has been sold to the Rupert Murdoch family of businesses, to Primedia Company, and to its present owner, the Hearst Corporation.
Researchers of Seventeen have found the main emphasis of the magazine to be the importance of beauty. The magazine provides a variety of content but still focuses the majority of its effort on beauty problems. It gives information and advice about fashion and trends, celebrities, beauty, and lifestyle. There are sections on skincare, hair and makeup, health, nutrition and exercise, sex and the body, quizzes, and horoscopes. Also strewn within the covers are sections on colleges and education and an exclusive cover-to-cover issue on prom.
In the beginning stages of Seventeen, market research showed that its young female readers were between the ages of 16 and 17 and were influential in the family purchases. They had enough money to see movies and purchase sodas, makeup, and clothing, and what they could not cover they knew their middle-class parents would. As the magazine progressed, the content stayed the same, but the target market branched out to include girls between the ages of 14 and 21. Today, with an emerging tween market there have been some complaints that the once exclusively teen magazine is now attracting a prepubescent readership.
The main goal of Seventeen was to help young female consumers find the right products to purchase to be successful, popular, and most importantly beautiful. Seventeen was designed as a shopping guide; a source where young girls could reference current trends and learn where to find these products. The teenage girl was also spotlighted as having a viable economic market value and the ability to become a consumer extraordinaire, making it much easier to sell the magazine to both advertisers and young women.
Seventeen magazine faces competition from a range of publications and Web sites that often seem less dated and more suited for a generation of teens raised on Sex and the City, reality shows, and designer brand labels. Cosmo Girl and Elle Girl (now exclusively Web sites), as well as Teen Vogue and YM Magazine, offer edgy articles on topics that range from music divas to male hotties, as well as high-end fashion.
In the face of competition, Seventeen has opted out of any kind of real makeover. Instead, the magazine touts what can best be defined as a heartland aesthetic with familiar suburban mall styles and mainstream content. While Seventeen may offer articles on teen icons and advice on boys, it avoids the more titillating tabloid trends, thus making the magazine quaintly retro—hawking simple beauty and style.