Author Topic: Oprah at a Crossroads  (Read 6343 times)

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Oprah at a Crossroads
« on: November 26, 2012, 02:19:29 am »
NEW YORK TIMES:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

November 25, 2012
Oprah at a Crossroads
By CHRISTINE HAUGHNEY
LOS ANGELES — It’s not easy to find a fresh way to photograph Oprah Winfrey.

That’s why the editors of O, The Oprah Magazine, recently tried to create a shot that recalled the glory days of Ms. Winfrey’s syndicated talk show. They arranged to photograph her for its April 2013 issue as she stepped onstage to speak to 5,000 attendees at the magazine’s annual conference, a New Age slumber party of sorts for women held at the convention center here last month. When Ms. Winfrey confidently strode out dressed in a sea foam green V-neck dress and a pair of perilously tall ruby red stilettos, the audience collectively leapt to its feet and shrieked at the sight of her.

“I love you, Oprah,” some women shouted, while other fans brushed away tears. “I love you back,” she responded in her signature commanding voice. “It’s no small thing to get the dough to come here.”

Ms. Winfrey, who used to receive this kind of applause from fans five days a week, has had fewer such receptions since the talk show she hosted for 25 years ended 18 months ago. The cable network OWN, which she started with Discovery Communications, is emerging from low ratings and management shake-ups. And without a regular presence on daytime network television, she cannot steer traffic to her other products as easily as in the past. Her magazine, in particular, has experienced a decline in advertising revenue and newsstand sales since the talk show finished.

“She’s still Oprah. But she’s still struggling,” said Janice Peck, an associate professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Colorado who wrote the 2008 book “The Age of Oprah.” “I think she’s scared, even though she’s very, very rich and she’s always going to be very, very rich. The possibility of failure, it’s quite scary.”

Ms. Winfrey, 58, has shown some signs of strain. She arrived at the conference with faint shadows under her eyes and announced to her best friend, Gayle King, and the audience simultaneously that she had a breast cancer scare the week before. (It was ultimately a false alarm.) When Ms. King grew visibly upset, one woman chided Ms. Winfrey for not telling her friend ahead of time and ordered her to apologize to Ms. King — all before an audience. Ms. Winfrey also did not hide her dissatisfaction with the criticism she had faced. She told the audience, “the press tried to cut me off at the knees” in its coverage of OWN, and bristled at questions about the challenges her magazine confronted.

“I don’t care what the form is,” Ms. Winfrey said with the conviction of a preacher. “I care about what the message is.”

With signs of progress at OWN, Ms. Winfrey now has more time to devote to other media platforms — her magazine, her radio channel on XM Satellite Radio, her Facebook page, which has 7.8 million subscribers, her Twitter account, which has nearly 15 million followers, and her latest content channel on The Huffington Post.

“It’s all an opportunity to speak to people,” Ms. Winfrey said as she sat for an interview during the conference, a pair of glittery gold stilettos slung in her hand and a couple of handlers in the corner quietly tapping away at smartphones. She pushed aside a bottle of sparkling water, a glass with a silver straw and a delicate orchid placed before her and spoke frankly about her plans.

“Ultimately, you have to make money because you are a business. I let other people worry about that. I worry about the message. I am always, always, always about holding true to the vision and the message, and when you are true to that, then people respond.”

When it comes to the magazine, Ms. Winfrey said her staff prepared her to expect a 25 percent decline in newsstand sales after the talk show ended. (It has been closer to 22 percent.) And while she acknowledged that she enjoyed “holding the magazine in my hand,” she was pragmatic about print’s future and said she would stop publishing a print magazine if it were not profitable.

“Obviously, the show was helping in ways that you know I hadn’t accounted for,” Ms. Winfrey said. “I’m not interested, you know, in bleeding money.”

Ms. Winfrey, who spoke in a conference room over the roars of an expectant crowd in the convention space below, said she knew that her brand’s strength stemmed from how she resonated with a breadth of viewers.

“A little instinct that I had when I started the Oprah show in Chicago, I always knew it and it wasn’t cockiness. It was just a knowingness that people are the same in Chicago as they are in Alabama as they are in Rhode Island as they are in Seattle,” Ms. Winfrey said. “I knew that. I could feel that because I’m with the audience every day.”

Ms. Winfrey wants that audience for the magazine, but she wants its readers to be younger. The median age for an O reader is 49, according to data tracked by the audience measurement company GfK MRI. (By comparison, Vogue’s median is 35.6 and Real Simple’s is 46.3.) Ms. Winfrey said she would like to attract women “in their 30s or perhaps their 20s, to be able to reach people when they are looking to fulfill their destiny.” She added, “By the time you’re 40, 42, you should have kind of figured it out already.”

That may be a tougher climb. While articles in women’s magazines like Glamour or Cosmopolitan often focus on new sex positions to try and embarrassing dates, O’s coverage tends to appeal to an older crowd. Recent articles discussed how tea helps lower blood pressure and offered advice on how to talk to a doctor about medical history. Beth Babyak, a 40-year-old Oprah fan who was attending her second conference, said she did not subscribe to the magazine.

“I find it still skews older,” Ms. Babyak said. When she does read it, she added, “I skip through sections.”

Ms. Winfrey has been reaching some younger women through former talk show guests turned magazine contributors. Heather Hooke, 27, and her sister, Summer Swindell, 32, both subscribers, attended the conference because they like certain speakers who used to appear on Ms. Winfrey’s show, like Martha Beck, a life coach who recently wrote columns about managing anxiety and being more decisive. Ms. Swindell also follows the sex columnist Dr. Laura Berman, who appears on Ms. Winfrey’s radio network. Both Ms. Hooke and Ms. Swindell seemed to view Ms. Winfrey as a maternal figure who shepherds this self-help flock.

“She’s like the mother of every mother,” Ms. Swindell said.

When Ms. Winfrey started the magazine a dozen years ago, it broadened her audience to include more affluent and educated readers than viewers of her TV program. (An issue costs $4.50 on newsstands.) And that initially paid off. Ms. Peck said the magazine’s debut in April 2000 was one of the most financially successful in the industry’s history. Readers devoured musings from Ms. Winfrey and columns written by talk show guests like Dr. Phil McGraw and Suze Orman. Ms. Orman called contributing to the magazine and attending the conference vital to her work because of the exposure she gets to her fans.

“I’ve written for Oprah’s magazine since Day 1,” Ms. Orman said after taking refuge from the hordes of fans who followed her from a book signing at the conference at a Jenny Craig booth, which was waiting for another guest, Valerie Bertinelli. “I wrote for the magazine so it would bring people into my life.”

While its circulation and advertising clearly benefited from the talk show’s popularity, Ms. King, the magazine’s editor at large, said that Ms. Winfrey never let the magazine depend too heavily on the program to drive sales.

“We always thought there was something in the magazine that could be promoted on the show, at least once a month. But Oprah didn’t feel that way,” Ms. King said. “That’s just not how she rolls, as the kids say.”

Hearst executives were also prepared for sales to take a hit once the show ended. Susan Casey, the magazine’s editor in chief since 2010, said that some readers thought when the talk show ended, the magazine was folding as well. But that confusion seems to have passed, and the magazine is attracting attention to itself by collaborating with other parts of Ms. Winfrey’s empire. It coordinated with OWN to produce “Oprah’s Favorite Things” episode that was broadcast on Nov. 18 and featured items appearing in O’s December issue, which included high-end items like a $1,440 electric bike. The July issue highlighted Ms. Winfrey’s pick for her revived book club.

Ms. Winfrey is confident she will draw more younger fans because people want “what we have to say in this magazine about fulfilling your destiny, who you’re meant to be, living your best life.” That’s the kind of product Ms. Winfrey predicts people, regardless of age, will continue to pay for.

“You’re never going to run out of people who are looking for a more joyful life,” she said. Some of the answers to Ms. Winfrey’s quest for a younger audience may simply be bridged by her original fans. Lynne Shewan, 56, a retired special education teacher from East Setauket, N.Y., attended the conference to get the advice from Ms. Winfrey she has been missing since the show ended. She said that she kept her magazine subscription and liked the columnists and updates about Ms. Winfrey. She watches Ms. Winfrey’s “Lifeclass” show on OWN for her television fix.

“The magazine certainly isn’t a replacement for the show,” Ms. Shewan said.

Ms. Shewan noted that the conference gave Ms. Winfrey one new convert. Ms. Shewan invited her 24-year-old daughter, Briana, who initially laughed at the offer, calling the gathering “the Oprah convention.”

But throughout the day, Briana Shewan’s opinions changed.

“I was more into it than I thought I would be,” Ms. Shewan said.

The question for Hearst and Ms. Winfrey is whether there are enough of those younger readers waiting to embrace O’s message.

“For sure Hearst wants to make some money,” Ms. Winfrey said. “You know, every time I get a check from it, it’s like ‘Wow, this is amazing. I get paid for doing this.’ ”



Offline sherelled

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #1 on: November 26, 2012, 07:59:37 am »
I hate to say this, and this was my opinion before I read this article. I really think Oprah needs to take a time out from all of it. She has her brand out there. Let go of some of it. People would appreciate her more if she would come out every now and then with some wisdom, a movie, a play, a show. But I for one am "Oprah'd " out.  The young people are the You Tube generation. Reading a magazine? No. Watching a show more then 30 minutes? No. She and Tyler Perry need to take a minute go do some philanthropy work which they do, and stay out of the public eye for a moment. That's just my opinion. Not knocking either of them for their craft. It's just a saturated market let it go for a minute. 8)

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2012, 01:25:55 am »
first-thing, OW needs to stop supporting the "corrupt feminist agenda." i'm all for sisterhood & celebrating women. i understand her target market/audience are women... but she could be considered an extreme-feminist. she opened a school for girls in (south)Africa & not for boys-- as well. who are these young girls going to grow-up & marry? maybe by OW not being married or having children of her own she can indoctrinate those girls into the "independent black women" philosophy. a philosophy partially responsible for destroying the black community & family.

African culture (historically/ traditionally) has always viewed males & females as equals. it wasn't until slavery & colonization that many-many africans adopted a gender hierarchy. she has taken her view of the world into africa... just like every other non-african settler.

she is a one-woman neo-Liberian... for those who know the history of Liberia. why raise half a nation- then expect balance?

there is a saying in africa,"knowledge is an collective effort."
the word "aparthied" means-- status of being apart. OW's school is gender-aparthied. the school is called "leadership academy"... -__-

i've visited spellman & morehouse... no real comment-- jus wanted to mention the two colleges.

 her media outlets numb-me. why so serious, oprah? they need to add some humor to the network. today, there are so many single working mothers-- the network should also consider programming for toddlers & kids. girl toddlers (sarcasm)
 i do enjoy Ayala vanzant.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2012, 01:28:21 am by APEXABYSS »

Offline Hypestyle

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2012, 07:55:12 am »
...Unless they have some internal Enron goings-on, I don't see Hearst folding; also, they'd be short-sighted to just bail on the Oprah brand, as another publisher is bound to try for some co-venture with her (Ebony/Johnson?).  I can't say I read O magazine-- or Cosmo, or Redbook, Glamour, etc., so I'm not sure what all the differences are in content.  Hopefully there are multicultural contributors that can speak to audiences beyond the WASP-y competitor magazines (e.g., do the hair-care articles exclusively reflect the dominant culture, or...?)

But who knows.. if the circulation drop gets "drastic", maybe the mag can eventually be bi-monthly, with online supplements.  I'll have to look on the website to see what all jobs they offer. An ongoing trend for some publishers is to deal with freelance associates wherever possible, keeping a minimum of salaried staff. 

http://www.oprah.com/omagazine.html
http://tinyurl.com/cuwxhv3
Be Kind to Someone Today.

Offline sherelled

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2012, 08:29:33 am »
@ hyperstyle I always love seeing something through another's eyes. Great perspective. :)

Offline sherelled

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2012, 08:31:19 am »
oops! Hypestyle! ;D sorry!

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2012, 11:50:32 am »
geez, i have too much of an innocent-crush on oprah to go at her that hard. i'm humble enough to recognize my error. who could down-play her achievements? certainly not i & not today. my admiration for black-women in particular is too great. we all should give her the benefit of any doubt, for her unquestioned commitment to serving others. her wealth was built on the practice of ownership & a doctrine of the strength of humanitarianism. that's the thing about oprah, a person can't really front-on her. criticism does not mean anti.
 
comments i made about africa were real. the term i was addressing is called, "uhbutu."-- the basic principles of community consciousness. the african-workers do not want to be managed in a system of hierarchy, were one is required to take orders from a boss. they want to practice uhbutu at the work-place & state-wide, were each individual works as a collective.
 
i remember when russell simmons started "phatfarm" mens-clothing-line. i thought, why doesn't he make clothes for females too? then came "babyphat" & i had to swallow my words. i spit them back-out because i was right-- my argument predates the launch of babyphat.
 
anyway, commenting on oprah opening-up an all girls school- as extreme feminism & gender aparthied. i do believe corrupt feminism has taken advantage of oprah. blackwomen can't be feminist. feminism was created out of the (white) women's stances for equal rights. remember, there was a "women's rights movement" before there was a "civil rights movement." remember, it was white women's' (suffrage movement) supporting "the underground railroad" & abolitionists. they could relate to the black struggle of inequality. that inequality created feminism.

historically, black-men did not treat black-women as second-class citizens. most cases of abuse (were and still) are domestic, not institutional. the girls in africa are least likely to go to school compared to the boys. i'm sure oprah just wanted to help the most-in-need & at that point- it was the girls. africa has been assimilated into the western belief of gender hierarchy, which is really another way to say misogynous. that is not african-tradition uhbutu.
babyphat made most people forget about phatfarm. maybe, how something starts doesn't always determine how it's going to end.

"numb-me"-- sounds like medicine for the elderly!lol ...speaking of russell simmons, his "def" comedy & poetry will leave a legacy of classic black television. b.e.t. "prime-timed" stand-up-comedy programs for years. i still think the own net needs to add humor. for real

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2012, 12:05:37 pm »
Whenever I hear someone speak of African tradition as though it were monolithic, my skepticism shields power up to high. For instance, there are 11 official languages in South Africa alone.
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
"Be hard on systems, but soft on people."

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2012, 02:01:12 pm »
Race aside, there are real arguments for girls only school.  I have to face it myself in a few years.  One of the best schools in LA is girls' only.  I don't like segregation...I like all races, creeds and genders in the mix.  But there's an argument that it may be what's best for my child. 

I would be that Oprah, before she spent her 350 million dollars, did the research and decided that was the best way not only to help those girls, but the continent of Africa.  It's her money and she is definitely making a difference.  We won't fully feel the effects for a generation. 

Instead of criticizing her, why not ask why the rich black men in America don't open a school in Africa for boys?

Offline sherelled

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2012, 11:00:06 pm »
Alrighty then. ;D The argument supporting an all girls school as opposed to an all boys school is debatable. In this day and age the less distraction from the opposite sex, the better the concentration on academics, citizenship, teaching young ladies how to be young ladies and boys to earn the right of passage into manhood without destroying themselves with all the outside influence of everything other then the skills needed to get through this world is all well and good.  I am for that however, society is not segregated like that. So learning to work well with others should be a learned requirement as well. Don't they have a Principle or Headmaster of an all boys school in NY or Chicago that is an adviser for MSNBC? He was featured in that movie about children & schools in America. Anyway what Oprah has done in Africa is great. And what any philanthropist especially African American does is great. We still have a whole helluva lot of work to do. Just get  parents to a meeting is a challenge. Getting children to stop being so mean, male or female is a challenge. I know, I work with this everyday. If we could get an Oprah to just get our Gym painted or replace the 1951 gopher ridden football field and muddy track that would be a miracle. If our teachers could get a decent wage and teach passionately that would be Awesome. So yeah an all girls school in Africa is all good for them, no doubt. But America needs some revamping too. :-\

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2012, 09:53:02 am »
Regarding all girls schools, here's a resource I found interesting and insightful:
National Coalition of Girls' Schools

That page speaks to the case for all girls schools.

I think it's about finding a good fit for your child. My daughter wasn't interested. She says maybe the boys need some sheltering from us. But then she's an academic beast.
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
"Be hard on systems, but soft on people."

Offline Vic Vega

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2012, 12:10:45 pm »
Didn't Oprah look into the possiblity of opening a girl's school in America and then drop the idea for whatever reason?

Just the idea of having to deal with the local Board of Ed and God knows what else might have turned her off.

Knowing what I know, I couldn't blame her.

P.S.: I'm wrong.

According to a recent Forbes article(The Education of Oprah Winfrey , dated 9/8/12) is considering building a school in the U.S.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2012, 12:17:51 pm by Vic Vega »

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2013, 05:13:54 pm »
I spoke to her several years ago and she said when she looked into doing a school here first, but ran into mad red tape and indifference.  But in South Africa, everybody was grateful and happy to help.

I've heard versions of this from folks who work with other black celebs. They will arrange for a bunch of computers to be sent to a ghetto school, and they sit there in the boxes, unopened. 

Offline jefferson L.O.B. sergeant

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2013, 05:59:45 pm »
I spoke to her several years ago and she said when she looked into doing a school here first, but ran into mad red tape and indifference.  But in South Africa, everybody was grateful and happy to help.

I've heard versions of this from folks who work with other black celebs. They will arrange for a bunch of computers to be sent to a ghetto school, and they sit there in the boxes, unopened.

Set the computers to be picked up the same way as the newest pair of Jordans.

Offline jefferson L.O.B. sergeant

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Re: Oprah at a Crossroads
« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2013, 06:11:47 pm »
IIRC Oprah stated that the reason she didn't open a school in America was that " All kids here are concerned about are Ipods and Sneakers". When Black people who were smart enough not to fall for the self-hate balked at her idiocy, then suddenly other issues were at hand.

Paul Mooney's classic set on Oprah says all that needs to be said about the issue.