O, The Oprah Magazine is the latest in a new crop of women’s titles espousing the less-is-more credo. But unless you’re a close personal friend of the talk show host turned editor, it’s not going to be the easiest pitch of your life.
O, The Oprah Magazine is the latest in a new crop of women’s titles
espousing the less-is-more credo. But unless you’re a close personal
friend of the talk show host turned editor, it’s not going to be the
easiest pitch of your life.
For public relations pros used to mammoth pickup from the rest of the
women’s-interest category, this ’personal growth’ magazine, given its
narrow focus, will be a serious initiative test.
O is a joint venture between Hearst Magazines and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo
Entertainment Group and follows hot on the heels of Time Inc.’s newest
lifestyle launch, Real Simple. But while Real Simple addresses the
mundane with features on better banking and quicker laundry, O offers
readers an escape via articles on pursuing your dreams and organizing a
Winfrey has said she wants to get away from the star-laden magazine
trend, although the pulling power of celebrities is not lost on this
virgin editorial director. Featured in the premiere issue are Tina
Turner, Jewel and Bill Cosby’s wife, Camille. Readers will also find
everything from Oprah’s influential book preferences to her own product
picks (Fendi sunglasses, Ralph Lauren mules) featured in The O List.
Oprah, Oprah, Oprah
Tim Jones, media writer for The Chicago Tribune, says he counted Oprah’s
picture 16 times in the first issue, compared with only two pictures of
Martha in the May issue of Martha Stewart Living. Jones thinks O is a
groundbreaking title but adds: ’It is rare to see something quite so
egocentric. When JFK Jr. launched George, it was clearly linked to his
personality, but we didn’t see him so much in the magazine.’
For anyone who hasn’t yet seen the title, Oprah graces the cover (photo
by Patrick Demarchelier), interviews Camille Cosby and offers her
favorite quotations on a pull-out-and-keep page. Even her paid help gets
to write columns. Oprah’s chef, Art Smith, cooks up a potato salad while
her personal trainer, Bob Greene, offers advice on how to start getting
fit. Oprah also gives her tips for a relaxing Sunday and writes both the
opening and inside back pages. Had enough Oprah, yet? It is likely her
O is managed in true feminist style by a triumvirate. In addition to
editorial director Oprah Winfrey, there is editor-in-chief Ellen Kunes,
previously with Cosmopolitan, and editor-at-large Gayle King, who’s the
voice of Oprah when she’s not around.
Despite reports of disagreements about various editorial issues - Oprah
ordered a re-shoot because she didn’t like colored candles - the
magazine benefits from a strong voice. The title mixes the ’you can,
too’ ethos of new economy bibles like Fast Company, the ’triumph over
adversity’-type stories of Reader’s Digest and homemaking spreads that
wouldn’t look out of place in a Martha Stewart mag. It may not be such a
coincidence that Hearst hired Susan Magrino to help launch O, because
Magrino also represents Martha Stewart.
At least one New York PR pro likes it. ’I find it so directional and
new,’ says ex-Vogue writer Maureen Lippe, who co-founded New York
fashion and beauty PR agency, Lippe Taylor. ’I am so overloaded on
celebrity and superficiality. This is a whole new sensibility.’
That new sensibility, however, is less about product pushing and more
about getting in touch with the inner you. Will that pose problems for
PR executives? Lippe says the advantage is that when you do get picked
up, the impact is all the greater. She says O is a good showcase for her
clients because the pages are not jam packed with material. ’Things will
really stand out,’ she adds. Lippe has already spoken to beauty director
Christine Fellingham, who joins from Glamour. ’My impression is they are
looking for meaningful products that are aspirational but not
ridiculous,’ Lippe says.
One way into the magazine is to pitch The Oprah Winfrey Show. Former
model turned furnishings designer Tracy Porter appeared on the TV show
and was then contacted by magazine editors to be featured in the Dream
Big section. Porter’s office had sent unsolicited press kits to the TV
show producers. Publicist Catherine Sewall says the piece has helped
raise the number of hits on the firm’s Web site, though she was unable
to give figures.
Oprah.com is a good place to turn if you are looking to suggest ideas
for either the TV show or the magazine. The site has an area that allows
users to e-mail suggestions for other regular features. ’Nice Work If
You Can Get It’ is a recurring piece about women with unusual or
exciting jobs - this month’s story is about a woman who tries on shoes
for a living.
Another section, Use Your Life, is about people who’ve found happiness
through helping others.
The magazine, which launched with a million copies on April 19, has
attracted a broad range of advertisers, from Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
to Maybelline to Microsoft. Publisher Alyce Alston told CNN’s Bizz Buzz
that the title had signed up dollars 20 million in business before the
prototype was even launched, but denied that it would be profitable from
At the moment, Oprah fanatics will have to make do with an issue every
two months, though O goes monthly in September. Magazine watchers will
be looking to future editions before jumping to any conclusions -
remembering that Tina Brown’s Talk attracted a lot of buzz before
The Chicago Tribune’s Jones wonders whether Oprah’s imprint will be
quite so obvious in future editions, given her heavy workload at the TV
studio in Chicago.
Somehow, we think it will be.
O, The Oprah Magazine
1700 Broadway 38th floor
New York, NY 10019
Tel: (212) 903 5187
Fax: (212) 977 1947
Founder and editorial director: Oprah Winfrey
Editor-in-chief: Ellen Kunes
Editor-at-large: Gayle King
Senior features editor: Michelle Burford
News editor: Betty Cortina
Features editor: Mamie Healey
Fashion director: Lisa Elwell
Contributing bookings editor: Michelle Schrobilgen
Contributing markets editors: Eve Feuer, Shari Slifer
Beauty director: Christine Fellingham.