NEW YORK, United States — After 20 years, the monthly print edition of O: The Oprah Magazine will end after the December 2020 issue. The staff of the publication, a joint venture between Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Inc. and Hearst Magazines, was informed on Friday.
The decision to rethink Winfrey’s relationship with Hearst predates the exit of the magazine’s division President Troy Young, who resigned on Thursday after a New York Times article described a history of inappropriate behaviour. O: The Oprah Magazine’s publisher since 2014, Jayne Jamison, exited the publication in May.
“We are discussing with Hearst the evolution of O Magazine including digital opportunities,” a representative for Winfrey told BoF. “We have no plans to end the relationship.”
“I’m proud of this team and what we have delivered to our readers over the past 20 years,” said Oprah Winfrey in a statement. “I look forward to the next step in our evolution.”
A representative for Hearst said while the details of the strategy in 2021 are still in the works, “we’ll be reinventing how we deliver Oprah’s unique perspective on issues that are more important than ever, including health and well-being, climate change and social justice.” Hearst said OprahMag.com has an online audience of 8 million. “We will continue to invest in the growth of this platform as the brand becomes more digitally-centric.”
Editor-at-Large Gayle King, the CBS journalist known for her friendship with Winfrey, did not respond to a request for comment.
The news comes at a challenging time for Hearst Magazines division, the publisher of Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Health and Good Housekeeping, among many others. Employees described a “toxic environment” in a recent article published by the New York Times that also detailed a history of lewd and sexist remarks by Young.
“The allegations are disturbing to hear,” said the Winfrey spokesperson, in a statement after the Times story published. “We expect that Hearst will do the appropriate due diligence regarding this matter.”
On Thursday, at Hearst Chief Executive Officer Steve Swartz’s urging, Young resigned. Hearst Magazines Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Debi Chirichella will fill the role on an interim basis.
The public airing of grievances is part of an industry-wide reckoning with a lack of diversity and discrimination in the workplace, especially in the highest levels of media. This disruption has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, which caused advertisers to drastically cut budgets, putting further pressure on a shrinking print advertising market weakened by budgets and readers moving online. Now, even luxury brands have cut spending by 30 percent to 80 percent, according to a report from digital-marketing agency Digital Luxury Group.
With a circulation of 2.3 million, O: The Oprah Magazine is still one of the most popular women’s print titles by audience in the US, and offered Hearst not only access to a more diverse readership in print than many of its other titles, but also the sheen of working with Winfrey. The media mogul, a household name from 25 years hosting The Oprah Winfrey Show, appears on the cover of each magazine — usually on her own and occasionally with notable friends, including King and First Lady Michelle Obama.
But Winfrey, a producer, actor, host and philanthropist with multiple projects, has focused in recent years on her relationship with Apple. In June 2018, Winfrey signed a multi-year content deal with the tech giant as part of its $1 billion investment in original programming. So far, the tie-up has resulted in a streaming interview series, “Oprah Talks COVID-19,” and future plans to develop a series on mental health with Prince Harry, among other projects.
Last year, Winfrey also relaunched Oprah’s Book Club, which previously lived primarily in the pages of O: The Oprah Magazine, with Apple as an author interview series on its streaming TV platform, Apple TV+, and a dedicated section in the Apple Books app.
O: The Oprah Magazine’s first issue arrived in April 2000, and was the product of a joint venture partnership between Winfrey’s production company and Hearst Magazines. The magazine aimed to serve as ”a personal growth guide” for women, Winfrey told the Times at launch. It covers style, food, culture and health with the mantra, “Live Your Best Life.” A spin-off, O at Home, was published from 2004 to 2008. Its annual holiday gift guide, Oprah’s Favorite Things, is typically the biggest issue of the year.
O: The Oprah Magazine‘s print and digital teams operate independently, a remnant of the system set up by Young when he established the publisher’s digital media division before his promotion in 2018. (The structure only remains in place at O and Elle.) OprahMag.com only launched in 2018 after previously existing under Oprah.com, still a separate website for her OWN Network channel.
“As we embark on this next chapter, we will lean into moments that are central to the brand’s DNA and deepen the connection with our loyal readers,” Editor-in-Chief Lucy Kaylin said in a statement.