Despite persistent buzz around Teen Vogue, its publisher is closing its print incarnation after a 14-year run. Industry publications have speculated that editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth (recently profiled in the New York Times Magazine) may remain at the publication in some different role, or move to a different title within the Condé stable, like Glamour or Allure. The news comes as part of a wave of layoffs at Condé Nast, with 80 jobs axed in total. Several magazines, including GQ, Glamour, Allure, Architectural Digest, Bon Appétit, W, and Condé Nast Traveler, will reduce the number of issues they publish a year. Teen Vogue had published five issues annually, and now it will publish none.
In the past couple of years, Teen Vogue has come to symbolize a new kind of media outlet that caters to young women—outlets defined by an awareness of gender, racial, and governmental politics. Rookie began that trend formally, though that publication draws upon both internet youth culture and an older history of independent media (‘zines, queer publishing, Sassy magazine). The movement has gained the kind of coherence and steam that converts into brand value, bolstered by a host of independent internet-based projects for teens mostly comprised of individual (and uncompensated) Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.
Teen Vogue’s flagship commentator is Lauren Duca, who shot to prominence in late 2016 with an op-ed titled “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America.” A string of articles in highbrow publications followed, praising Teen Vogue for its political chops and wagging fingers at others who expressed surprise that a magazine for teenagers would weigh in on such serious matters. In a December interview, the then-digital editorial director Phillip Picardi told The Atlantic that “in 2016 we found our footing and our voice as a publication in a strong way.”
The print version of Teen Vogue has not been at the forefront of its new brand identity, whose value has inflated online and therefore defined the relocation of its energies. But the publication’s best work happened there. Under Welteroth’s tenure, Teen Vogue consistently featured women of color on its cover and pages, and focused on uplifting young celebrities with interesting voices like Adwoa Aboa, Janelle Monae, and Amandla Stenberg.
It is worth considering what is lost from our media environment when print magazines are culled in favor of a digital version of the brand. When a magazine moves fully online in this way, the physical body of the publication—which existed in the world, on the rack at the grocery store, or in the airport—is sucked up into the virtual sphere like a saint translated into heaven. We do not fully inhabit the internet, however. We still live in the world of objects. The loss of print Teen Vogue means the subtraction of a type of magazine cover from the world; one fewer place for young people of color to see themselves celebrated. The full ramifications of this brand virtualization are not yet known or really predictable. Online media does not stay still for long.