You are the quintessential icon for women of our time. You’ve got
the highest-rating TV show of its type by far, you have dabbled in film
production and you’ve launched a hugely successful book club. What next?
Why, you launch your own magazine.
No, we’re not talking Charlie Dimmock here but Oprah Winfrey, whose
latest venture, a magazine called O, hits the newsstands next
By all accounts, the magazine, a joint venture with Hearst, is likely to
be a runaway success. The print run has already been upped from 850,000
to one million, the first issue contains 166 pages of advertising and
advance page bookings total dollars 20 million.
Not that the idea is original. Oprah follows in the footsteps of Martha
Stewart, a cross between Delia Smith and Miss Goody Two Shoes. Martha,
for those who don’t know, is a one-woman brand bandwagon with an
eponymous magazine (circulation 2.36 million), a TV show, her own
wallpaper brand, paint and even compilation CDs for playing at dinner
parties (no, really).
I confess, after having read her magazine diary column a few years ago,
that Martha is not for me. Her diary went something like this: ’April
8th, morning - prepare Easter bunny baskets; afternoon - topiary class;
April 9th - to Tibet to collect flora and fauna.’ It was at this point
that I realised she was beyond parody. But her success just proves how
advertisers are crying out for such vehicles.
The same goes for Oprah who, in marketing language, has brand values and
awareness to die for. It’s worth noting, however, that both Martha and
Oprah epitomise a quality increasingly rare in this day and age:
mass-market appeal. We may live in an era of media fragmentation
(nowhere more so than in the US) but the pair show how it’s still
possible to transcend boundaries both media and cultural and reach out
to the broad mass of the population.
Moreover, for all the talk of ’me media’ and consumer individuality,
their success shows how we still crave figures with whom we can all
So could it work here? Well, there’s undoubtedly a need for it. The UK
women’s magazine market has been pretty lacklustre of late. An idea that
breaks the mould would inevitably generate reader and advertiser
Not least, it might focus attention away from masthead publishing.
In fact it is a nice irony that while UK publishers have been faffing
around getting nowhere with masthead publishing by trying to put
magazines on to TV, the Americans have got on with implementing the same
idea in reverse.
But who exactly? There’s Posh Spice and, from the other extreme,
But one’s got expensive (and dubious) taste and the other’s got a mouth
like a cat’s bottom. Vanessa’s too up and down (in every sense) and
Judy’s a bit of a frump. There’s the Carols (Smillie and Vorderman) but
the magazine would sound like Bunty’s older sister. So how about Lulu?
She’s getting on but, if nothing else, it’s a great name for a magazine.
Come to that, so’s Charlie.