Tuesday, November 3, 2009

80s and 90s Children's Magazines



Toward the end of the 20th century, business proprietors were looking at children through an entirely new perspective. Children in the 80s and 90s had far more pocket money than their predecessors and were thus capable of constituting their own demographic, meaning greedy adults could now push their wares on an entirely new consumer group. Direct marketing at children was a wise move, of course. It's way easier to convince a 7-year old that they want something than it is to do the same to an adult. They served it up and we consumed it, no questions asked. If their advertising claimed I would love it, I was wholly certain this was the case. Why would my TV lie to me? It's a respected member of my family.

Back in a time when print journalism was more than just a vintage throwback, children's magazines were all the rage. Our parents liked them because they taught us the valuable life skill of sitting still in one place for more than five minutes at a time. We liked them because they spoke to us personally, whether through adorable animal pictures or video game tips. Whatever your fancy, there was a magazine producer out there trying to capitalize on it.



Nickelodeon Magazine



The creation of Nickelodeon Magazine was by no means a big leap. Kids loved Nickelodeon on TV, so the logical next step would be to deliver it directly to their doorsteps and further mesmerize them with Nickelodeon characters, shows, and merchandise. The original concept had been a cross-promotion with Pizza Hut restaurants, offering a free Nickelodeon Magazine with purchase. Kids like pizza, kids like Nickelodeon, everyone wins. The mag soon expanded to a regular circulation, offering kids a Nickelodeon-tinted view of the world all while selling us Gak and giving us interviews with our favorite fictional Nicktoon characters. As someone who was very curious about Oblina from Aaah! Real Monsters' life outside the set, I'd like to say thank you.



Sports Illustrated Kids




Adults are always thinking up sneaky ways to infuse educational practices into our everyday pastimes. Sports Illustrated Kids was no exception, giving us the sports we love at the price of reading for enjoyment. It was a trade-off many kids were willing to make and parents were more than pleased to shell out for monthly. The magazine actually won the Distinguished Achievement for Excellence in Educational Publishing Award* eleven times, proving that sports and education can go hand-in-hand. All the while, we were thinking we were just reading an exciting interview with Magic Johnson and they secretly had us learning. Go figure.



American Girl Magazine



I don't know how your childhoods shaped up, but mine was largely driven by the force of my desire to immerse myself in all things American Girl. I never received my oft-coveted overpriced doll (another handily educational tie-in to the American Girl book series) but I did lust monthly after the human-sized clothing options the American Girl catalog modeled after Kirsten the pioneering Swede. Imagine my delight to find the franchise created a magazine, further extending the reach of American Girl's extensive empire. The magazine featured craft ideas, advice columns, contests, and all sorts of other material certain to ignite a desire to own all the American Girl merchandise ever manufactured. Now if only they'd had the in-store with-doll tea parties in my day.



Zoobooks



It's a scientifically proven fact that children love cute animals. It's also a fact that parents are seeking educational opportunities at every unsuspecting turn. Hence we got tricked into learning zoologically significant information all the while we thought we were just flipping through a photo series on otters and puffins. The commercials for these babies were so exciting and convincing, it was enough to make us overlook the fact that we were essentially doing voluntary extracurricular science homework.




Nintendo Power



Can it be true? A publication that offers us tricks, tips, and hints on our favorite Nintendo games? Nintendo Power was a legitimate revelation to many joystick-gripping youths, giving them the inside information they so desperately craved. The marketing strategy was genius: the over 3 million members of the Nintendo Fun Club received the first issue free, after which a million or so took the plunge to subscribe. The magazine knew its audience well and delivered pages of Nintendo-themed guides, some of which featured the oft-coveted cheats. Any magazine that can teach me to cheat at a video game is okay in my book. That's enjoying reading at its finest.




Fox Kids Club "Totally Kids"




Yes, a few hours of children's programming on Saturday morning is totally deserving of its own magazine. Hey, whatever works. The magazine had a pretty wide circulation and even pulled some big name celebrity interviews, so judging by results I'd say Fox Kids made out pretty well on the magazine front. This pamphlet of a publication was filled with comics starring our favorite Fox Kids characters, promotions for Fox Kids shows, and of course some games and puzzles thrown in for good measure. Let me just say, I rocked those wordfinds. Just try to diagonal/backwards Babs Bunny on me. I'll find it. Just try me.


Bop/Tiger Beat


I know this pic isn't of Tiger Beat or Bop per se, but I just couldn't resist. I mean, look at that selection!


These flimsy fan mags were filled with cheesy foldout pinups of our favorite teen heartthrobs, their lack of content compensated for with glossy grinning celebrities. I've lumped the two magazines together because not only were they published by the same company, they often featured the exact same pictures and interviews. Why exactly they needed two separate magazine for this is beyond me, but as long as they keep giving me two page mini-mag spreads of JTT, I'll be happy.



These may not have been the most substantial sources of literary content, but they did play a major role in getting kids to enjoy reading. Yes, much of the content involved marketing toward us and trying to sell us useless crap while promoting their parent company, but as kids we were more than willing to go along with it. The magazines allowed kids to be kids, speaking to us at our level while discussing the topics that interested us. If we ended up begging our parents for Samantha dolls or Moon Shoes somewhere along the way, well then so be it.




Honorable Mention Classic Non 80s/90s-Specific Favorites: Highlights, MAD, Ranger Rick Magazine



*This award later went on to win the longest award name award

24 comments:

Badass Geek said...

I hated the Nickelodeon Magazine commercials. Everyone looked so smug with their copies.

Scientific Housewife said...

I totally used to get the SI for kids and some other ones I can't remember the names to. They were fun!

Cee said...

The best thing about American Girl magazine was that in every issue there was a "real girl" paper doll. It was the coolest thing ever!


Nickelodeon magazine was kinda lame.

Jenn said...

love this - my bedroom wall was practically wallpapered with pictures from Bop magazine! Definitely Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Devon Sawa, Ryder Strong & Jonathan Brandis (RIP).

Marci Darling said...

Ok I was ALL ABOUT some american girl magazine..getting those in the mail was the highlight o my month.

and BOP and Zoobooks...just a distant memory now.

Melissa said...

I completely forgot about Nickelodeon Magazine! The first one I ever bought was because Hanson was on the cover!

Ali said...

Oh, I remember Zoobooks! That was like the Us Weekly for kids, haha!

Jennifer Fabulous said...

Great post. Didn't Disney Magazine start up in the 90s? I vaguely remember being excited about that. Lol. Oh, and Teen People came out in '99 I think. Gosh, the 80s and 90s really were a boom for the kid/teen magazine industry...

Meg said...

I have memories of Zoobooks, Tiger Beat, and American Girl. (And I totally had/have a doll which I have no idea what to do with now.)

Tracy-Girl said...

I grew up obsessed with American Girl and Nikelodeon! I am definitely the product of a ninetys child! :)

Randi Troxell said...

oh i TOTALLY did american girl!!

Tamela said...

I was all over some ZooBooks. I loved looking at them. I got a few Nickelodeon mags, but never was really into them. Never did get the American Girl one.

Melanie's Randomness said...

I had ZooBooks & the Nick Magazines. I think I parts of them left too. These were seriously my world back then, who needs the Newsweek when you have Nick Magazine!!

Courtney said...

As much as I loved Bop, with my closet covering assortment of JTT pinups, my heart belonged to Disney Adventures. I still remember my first issue, a fall TV preview which gave a semi-negative review to a brand new show called Boy Meets World.

Laura said...

I always wanted Nickelodeon magazine, but never got it :(

I was a big fan of Disney Adventures, though, even if it's not mentioned here.

Opanga-Tay said...

I loved Bop, BB and Tiger Beat! I never really noticed that they had the same articles, though. I guess I was distracted by all the cute boys on the cover or something. :)

Chocolate Lover said...

What a great post! I forgot about most of these! Nice trip down memory lane!

Kristine said...

I definatly loved the free American Girl catalog...I stared at everything I wanted, but never did receive. Years later (actually, last year), I did an Advertising research project on the compnay and told my mom I always wanted one...she offered to buy me one now...um, a little too late. That company was so good with Advertising!

MissNeira said...

I definitely still get Zooanimals for my niece to this day, its such a fun magazine for kids! Highlights was my fav when I was in school

Sadako said...

I also used to read one called D.A....Disney Adventures or something. Well, my brother got it and I would thumb through in case there was something on Boy Meets World or whatnot. :D

I do have to admit to reading American Girl. It's so wholesome it could never exist today. Most kids start on Seventeen well before they are seventeen. And I bet there's going to be a Thirteen for the preteen set.

bibberly said...

I loved Muppet Magazine, Barbie Magazine and Cabbage Patch Kids Magazine in the 80's, all of which were written as if they were actually by those characters. Muppet was by far the best of those three. But my all-time fave kid/tween magazine was Stickers N' Stuff (originally simply titled Stickers). You wouldn't think they could write whole issues about stickers, but they really marketed the sticker collecting craze as a lifestyle, and I totally ate it up.

Hannah said...

I know this is old, but what about Highlights? And one I loved that I can't find reference to online - Kid City.

Amanda Rose said...

Yes, Highlights! surprised this wasn't on the list. I loved that magazine, would check out all the little issues my heart desired at the local library and read them while watching nickelodeon (and nick at nite.) I believe I remember Zoobooks, and I definitely remember American Girl and their catalogs. I wanted the Samantha doll. American Girl was too expensive for me to subscribe to but I did by a couple of the books they released (The Care and Keeping of You, and the Help books. I think I even had one on proper manners LOL)

Amanda Rose said...
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