Oprah Winfrey's Advice to the Magazine Business

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NEW YORK ( -- Holding her hands aloft like a cleric invoking higher spirits, Oprah Winfrey looked out
Photo: Doug Goodman
What it's all about: 'connection.'

across the packed Sheraton ballroom and shared her vision of what life was all about now: "connection."

The magazine world's newest star told the standing-room-only audience at the second day of the American Magazine Conference that people are searching for solace and guidance, and that magazine editors and publishers "have an opportunity" to assist them in defining their lives.

"We don't sell magazines," Ms. Winfrey told the crowd of editors and publishers from across the U.S., "we sell connections to words, ideas, fun and fantasy."

She said that when her own heart was "overwhelmed," she wanted to be led "to the rock that is higher that any other." She suggested that editors should likewise strive to lead their readers to the highest point.

Ms. Winfrey said the business side of magazines was

still a learning curve to her. She recounted that when she sat in on the first business meeting for O, The Oprah Magazine, Hearst President Kathleen Black told her the first issue had a 95% sell-through, which prompted her to ask, "Why not 100%? I don't think 95% is very good."

"Now," Ms. Winfrey said, "I'll take 95% any day!" The sell-through for a typical new magazine is below 50%.

Ms. Winfrey also said that when Hearst's Ms. Black and Ellen Levine came to her about the magazine's concept, nobody told her about the working of advertisers and advertising.

"I would sit in meetings and tell them this is what we want to do, and they would say, 'But we don't have adjacencies.'" Ms. Winfrey would respond: "Just put another page in there, we can put another page in."

She said she now understands that advertisers do have

Photo: Doug Goodman
Oprah: born poor but done all right.

their roles to play every month, working out what magazines have to say and the number of pages editors have to say it in.

She also recounted her first experiences with magazines as a teenager, with Ingenue, a now-defunct title once edited by Ladies' Home Journal editor Myrna Blyth for which she paid 35 cents each month looking "for a respite from my own world that showed me possibilities better than myself."

In an aside to the audience, which brought down the house, she noted that she was born a "poor Negro but it has worked out for me since then."

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