OPINION: MILLS ON ... MAKING MAGAZINES OUT OF TV

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.

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

Monday.



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

identify.



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

interest.



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,

Delia.



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.



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