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Phil Picardi is at the forefront of a new era for Teen Vogue—one that tackles the importance of masturbation, the personal stories of Native American women and the implications of congressional elections, as well as what Kendall Jenner just wore while out in L.A.

Picardi, the publication’s 25-year-old digital editorial director is part of a three-person editorial leadership team that Condé Nast put in place in August after editor-in-chief Amy Astley departed. In lieu of one replacement, Teen Vogue gave Picardi, Teen Vogue print editor Elaine Welteroth and creative director Marie Suter equal billing at the top of the publication’s masthead.

That repositioning was followed by news at the beginning of November that Teen Vogue would transition from nine to four annual print issues. From an outside perspective, the title seems to be struggling alongside the rest of the print media landscape that has seen major titles shutter (Lucky, Details), scale back or cut print publications (Self, as well as Teen Vogue), and realign and restructure print and digital teams (Allure, Glamour).

But Picardi is determined that a fresh, evolving take on the type of content teens like to read, and the right packaging, will keep Teen Vogue relevant. Since his hire in April, Picardi increased the number of articles published each day by a team of eight full time staffers to between 50 and 70 and pushed the monthly unique visitor count from 2 to 9 million. The site, he said, doesn’t have to decide between quantity and quality.

On this week’s Glossy Podcast, Picardi discussed how magazines have changed, the misjudgment of today’s teens and how to steer clear of clickbait. Edited highlights below.

Being “in the trenches” helped shape how he saw the future of Teen Vogue.
Picardi started at Teen Vogue at age 18 as an intern working for the print side. After time as the beauty editor at Refinery29, Picardi returned to lead the digital site.

“I got to see the brand from the print and digital sides, so I had a 360-degree view,” he said. “I had a clear picture of what I wanted to do, since I was in the trenches.”

That involved increasing the number of posts per day, as well as the range of topics. Today, the site includes a series called “Love Your Lady Parts,” election coverage and stories on HIV.

Media should be saying something of substance to teen readers.
Ten years ago, Teen Vogue couldn’t be running the type of content that it is today, Picardi said. Many teen publications that failed did so because they resisted changing their tones to match their changing readership—they focused on self-improvement and what readers need to change about themselves, rather than celebrate them.

“Magazines and media meant a different thing back then,” he said. “Right now, if you don’t mean something substantial to someone’s life, why do you exist? So, we want to be more of a resource for our readers.”

Why teenagers are unfairly judged
Teen Vogue aims to be relatable to its readers, rather than patronizing, and that means covering a wide array of topics and reaching readers where they are — which is, surprisingly, still on Facebook. Picardi doesn’t think that Teen Vogue is missing out by not being on Snapchat Discover. What’s more, he says that the “selfie generation” is misunderstood.

“Teenagers are the first generation to grow up with technology and information at their fingertips, so they’ve had access in an unbridled and unparalleled way,” he said. “You can contain multitudes, and read the New York Times and watch the Kardashians. Don’t underestimate young women.”