The magazine GirlTalk recently announced that they were ‘going feminist’, and I will admit that my initial reaction was ‘bandwagon jumping, much?!’ Several people have asked me what I thought, and whether this would affect my plans for Jump! Mag.
First, I have to say that this has no bearing on the plans for redevelopment of Jump! Mag. It will never be a print magazine, and is no longer a magazine for girls, but a gender neutral online magazine for kids. We have always been a feminist magazine, and we continue to be ‘girl-positive’. Being feminist is simply part of the site’s ethos, and we don’t have to point it out or justify our decision. We are almost ready to reveal our plans for the future, with amazing new content and a site redesign coming soon.
The reason that Jump! Mag even exists was the frustration I felt at magazines such as GirlTalk, so I wasn’t particularly convinced that their change of heart was genuine. In an article in the Telegraph and a guest blog on Mumsnet, the editor Bea Appleby went some way to changing my mind. They have taken heed of the GirlGuiding research, and run their own survey to look at the way in which young girls view themselves. They have admitted that they are part of the problem, which I think is a great step forward, and are looking at ways to change.
It is much more difficult to change an existing product, when you have to be mindful of the risk of losing readers and profits, so I do understand the necessity to go slow. I was however slightly disappointed to see that the ‘relaunch’ edition of the magazine had a free gift of nail polish. Ms Appleby defended that decision on BBC Woman’s Hour this morning by saying that the ‘covermounts’ are very important sales tools, and that the competition from other magazines is such that they need to have a great cover every single issue. I would have welcomed a slightly less ‘girly’ free gift, at least for this one edition of the magazine – something such as a magnifying glass would have been more appropriate.
I purchased the second edition of the new feminist GirlTalk magazine to have a look. The new ideas are confined to a double page spread near the back of the magazine, with the rest of the magazine looking very much like any other girls’ magazine. I asked my daughter to have a look and tell me what she thought. She is at the upper range of the target market, so perhaps slightly too old for some of the content.
‘There are a lot of celebrities and popstars’, was her first impression. She’s never been particularly interested in celebs, with the exception of Jedward! The free gifts were said to be ‘quite cool’, and she is off to school with one of the erasers. She also noticed that they were trying to sell products, even though there is very little ‘official’ advertising, via articles about shopping and sponsored content. When I pointed out the Girls are Amazing pages, she found them more interesting than the rest of the magazine, but wasn’t sure if she’d have noticed them if I hadn’t pointed them out. I asked if she thought it was a ‘feminist’ magazine, and she said, ‘These pages are, but the rest is all about celebrities and looking pretty’.
My observations were similar. I would have liked to have seen more of the feminist message spread throughout the magazine, and less pink! I understand the point made on Woman’s Hour, that they have to identify as a magazine for preteen girls on the newstand, but does it have to be so pink all the way through? Oh, and lose the patronising ‘kid talk’ such as ‘bezzies’ and ‘LOLZ’.
I hope that the changes will also include more focus on literature and reading – the only fiction in the magazine was a photo story of a group of girls in Stage School (wannabe celebs) and a weird doll photo story of Little Mix (already celebs). For years, children and young adult fiction has been the fastest growing genre in book publishing – kids are reading more, so why not give them some quality fiction to read in a magazine?
On Woman’s Hour this morning, the mother of a young girl hit the nail on the head when she said that ‘selling a magazine to kids is all about selling to the parents’. Any publication that can bridge the gap between parental expectation and what the kids want to read will be a winner. I hope that GirlTalk is the first of many magazine to take this step, to listen more closely to the concerns of parents. Changing the focus of a successful magazine can’t and won’t happen overnight. The proof, as ever, will be in the pudding. Will this be a short-lived experiment or a permanent change for the kids’ magazine market? We shall have to wait and see.