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A SLIPPING OPRAH: Do people miss their daily dose of Oprah?
When her talk show went off the air six months ago, Oprah Winfrey thought her fans would turn to the next best thing, her cable TV network, OWN. But it hasn’t worked so far. The fans have spoken (well, in ratings), and they want more of the talk show queen directly speaking to her audience, much the way she did every day for 25 years on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” And it isn’t only OWN that is struggling: Oprah’s magic seems to have slipped a bit across all forms of media, including her magazine.
This story first appeared in the November 21, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The numbers tell the tale: during the first half of this year, while Winfrey was on the air, ad pages at O, The Oprah Magazine were up 4.1 percent, according to Publishers Information Bureau. It’s a different story for life at the magazine in the second half of the year. In September, ad pages fell almost 19 percent compared with the previous year, October paging fell 13 percent and ad paging declined about 8 percent for both the November and December issues, according to Media Industry Newsletter.
On the newsstand, single-copy sales fell 6.4 percent during the first half, although total circulation rose by 2 percent and subscriptions were up 4.6 percent, including print and digital. The second half has been a mixed bag so far, with about 242,000 fewer copies sold in July, compared with the previous year. August was flat and 256,000 fewer copies of the September issue were sold compared with the same issue last year. To date, O has nearly 50,000 digital edition subscribers on Zinio, the Nook and the iPad.
The Web site, oprah.com — which is jointly run by Harpo Productions and Discovery — had 18 percent fewer unique visitors than a year ago in October, according to comScore. Figures are not broken down into sub-URLs, so it’s hard to say what portion of this figure is related to the magazine versus other sections of the site.
Oprah.com’s substantial decline in uniques, coupled with the struggles at OWN and the uneven performance at the magazine, reveals a vulnerability in Winfrey as a media brand. The key, according to media observers, will be for Winfrey to increase her exposure on OWN, on oprah.com and in the pages of the magazine. Fans were used to having Winfrey in their homes every day. And there are signs Winfrey might be getting the hint: The December cover of O, The Oprah Magazine has not one, but nine glitzy pictures of a smiling Winfrey. It’s a start.