The Big O Brand Shifts to Print

Will the end of Oprah Winfrey's talk show dynasty hurt or help 'O, the Oprah Mag'?

O, the Oprah Magazine June cover

Oprah ended the 25-year run of her talk show last week, and her magazine has taken full advantage. The June issue of O, the Oprah Magazine is a tribute to the show, including a look back at its high points and a walk down memory lane with Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King.

But what about life for the magazine post-The Oprah Winfrey Show? The 2.5-million circulation magazine, a partnership of Hearst and Oprah’s company Harpo, is hugely profitable—one of Hearst’s best performers. The show, naturally, has been a bountiful source of readers and a promotional tool. About 20 percent of the daytime show’s 6 million viewers read the magazine, which has featured loads of content built off the show, including longer versions of interviews with guests and deeper looks at Winfrey’s book and product picks.

The magazine remains a circulation and newsstand juggernaut. But single-copy sales have fallen 32 percent since 2006, to 595,835. That decline has been replaced by subscriptions, which have risen to 1.9 million from 1.5 million, but those subs aren’t as lucrative as they once were. An annual sub runs an average of just over $16, down from nearly $22 in 2006. (Ad page growth has fared better, up 4 percent in the first half of the year to 671.)

The magazine is hoping that it will actually see a lift in subscriptions from the show’s end, as a place fans can get their Oprah fix. “The magazine continues to be the purest platform for her mission,” vp, publisher Jill Seelig said. “[Oprah] will continue to be on the cover as she’s always been.” Seelig adds that the title might also heavy up its newsstand promotions.

Media buyers have also wondered about its future. Brenda White, svp, Starcom USA, agrees that the show’s end could boost newsstand sales. “These people are interested in having Oprah continue to appear in their lives, and that’s one way to do that,” she said.

But Adam Hanft, CEO of brand strategy firm Hanft Projects, sees a different opportunity. “It’s been slow on the digital side to adapt and create mobile apps, based on Oprah’s power,” he said of the magazine. “Maybe they thought that the audience was slower to adapt.”

An enhanced app? Another way to keep Oprah on the screen, albeit a smaller one.