Youth paper launched
Trying to engage a pre-adolescent in news or current affairs over the breakfast table is a dodgy business, as anyone who has ever tried it can testify. Between the ages of 10 and 15 or so, children can be notoriously uninterested in what we tend to think of as news. If they do display interest, it is often manifested in single issues.
Surveys and market research over the years have shown that newspapers do not offer adolescents what they want. Which all means that The Times's new 10 15 magazine, launched last week as a separate magazine inside the Saturday supplement, should be a challenge and a half.
Edited by Margot Wilson, who also edits the popular Funday Times for young Sunday Times readers, 10 15 is attempting to fill a gap in an age market that is resolutely anti-newspapers.
The full-colour, 12-page magazine is a lively, busy mix of different formats fast, punchy, nothing too heavy. It does look good and adolescent-friendly. But covering such a diverse age range the magazine is going to have to be all things to all yoof.
The dummy issue wouldn't look out of place in Just Seventeen, although it is obviously non-denominational in the gender stakes. A column called "Trip to the Top" looks at the early incarnations of people now in the public eye. While potentially an interesting concept for a column, the team at 10 15 is going to have to look for people who had more interesting childhoods than the Labour leader Tony Blair, its first subject. We're told that "he stood as a Conservative candidate in a mock election at his school something he probably likes to keep rather quiet now" but no mention of the fact that he played in a pop group. But then, maybe it's only us over 15s who give a hoot about such things.
More lively are the consumer items. And, sadly, more appropriate, since teenagers are nothing if not compulsive consumers. To bear out my lifelong belief that their favourite things are not coincidentally the most expensive, 10 15 has done a taste testing of Haagen Dazs, one of the priciest ice creams on the planet. Another slot, "Great Stuff", runs tiny reviews of suggested television programmes, records, books and computer games.
But it's not all hedonism and Haagen Dazs. A strangely sober column entitled "Great Ideas Exploded" attempts, it would appear from the title, to debunk widely-held myths. In the event, the dummy issue chose the topic of St Paul's Cathedral and was a pretty tame, indeed fact-laden description of the church devoid of the tiniest firecracker, let alone explosion.
Margot Brown is convinced that if the magazine is to succeed, it will have to be led by young people's contributions and feedback. She also wants, in her words, "to build up over the months heavier-weight issues that concern young people, like the environment and racism".