How Teen Vogue Went from Acne to Activism

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Published on

October 24, 2018
Time to read: 3 minutes
Teen Vogue

Lucy is the latest addition to our growing team at Hook. For her first blog she chose to write about a brand that has transformed its image in recent years – Teen Vogue.

Three years ago, it would be unthinkable to associate a teen magazine with hard-hitting complex social and political critique.

However, Teen Vogue has become a leading light in the politicisation of young people.  As a brand it is not only educating young people (it defines its readership as genderless) but also actively working to reflect their world and identities, without patronising their audience. This delicate balance offers an insight into how brands can appeal to Gen Z through championing minority voices whilst reflecting their audiences’ real-world concerns.

Teen Vogue gets political – reflecting the mindset of Gen Z

Teen Vogue launched in 2003 as a print only magazine. Since its May 2016 edition, Teen Vogue has undergone significant re-structuring; championing inclusivity in its models, writers and points of view. Flicking through its latest edition you see articles covering everything from Kylie Jenner’s new lip kit to ‘Kanye West is what Internalised Racism and Misogyny Looks Like’ to the experiences of trans students.

This change has largely been driven by changes in digital and editorial leadership including the now ex-editor-in-chief Elaine Welterworth (the first African American editor at Conde Nast), and the incoming editor Lindsay Peoples Wagner, former The Cut Fashion Editor, whose impact remains to be seen.

Teen Vogue effortlessly combines political think pieces on topics effecting their readers with articles on how to cover up acne. They have created a world, or what they term an ‘orientation’, which reflects their readerships diverse range of interests, whilst also providing a vital voice to marginalised communities.

This stance plays well with Gen Z, who are more ethnically diverse than any other generation with increasingly socially liberal attitudes towards gender identity, same sex relationships and marijuana legalisation. This is shown in the growth of traffic their website has received since January 2017: the magazine’s website had 7.9 million US visitors compared to 2.9 million in January 2016, with politics surpassing entertainment as the site’s most read section.

Teen VogueMoving into digital: staying relevant in a changing media climate

This April, Teen Vogue also decided to go exclusively digital, once again reflecting the needs and wants of its readership. The front covers are now available via Snapchat, articles and social media. This move to digital has been fruitful with their Snapchat engagement from unique viewers increasing by 520% since March 2018 and this Snapchat traffic acts as a gateway for new readers to engage with the magazine.

Apart from being exclusively digital, the magazine is setting up physical events and meet ups, with their latest Teen Vogue Summit – headlined by Serena Williams – including over 600 young activists. It is not just passive in its activism.

In an age where the traditional magazine is ‘dying’. Teen Vogue is invigorating a new audience of readers through reflecting the diversity of their audience and their audiences’ concerns whilst actively engaging in matters of social justice and encouraging activism.

Want to read more thoughts like this? Why not take a look at our blog on Striking a Balance Between New and Proven Media! Sign up for our newsletter and follow our updates on LinkedIn and Twitter too!


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