It’s been 18 months since The Oprah Winfrey Show left the air. Ms. Winfrey has kept herself busy managing a magazine, an XM radio channel, a television channel, and an online presence that includes a content channel on The Huffington Post. Despite all of this, the New York Times recently questioned whether the era of Oprah has come to an end.
The absence of daily face time with her millions of fans has impacted Winfrey’s brand in ways even she didn’t anticipate. Her magazine and website experienced a decline in revenue and sales. Her television network’s rough start is well documented.
If anyone else’s name were attached to these projects they would still be deemed a success. But high expectations are a common side effect of greatness. Lady O doesn’t seem to be checking for her critics’ opinions anymore. Instead she is setting her sights on expanding her audience to include a younger demographic.
Can Oprah Be Hip?
Oprah is influential, but she stopped being cool in the 90s. The median age for an O magazine reader is 49. But Ms. Winfrey thinks she has something to offer younger generations. At her magazine’s annual conference, she said she would like to attract women “in their 30s or perhaps their 20s, to be able to reach people when they are looking to fulfill their destiny.” She added, “By the time you’re 40, 42, you should have kind of figured it out already.”
Oprah has made it clear that she won’t stray from her message of “living your best life.” Rightfully so, it is clearly her passion and has become a primary part of her brand along with interviewing the most noteworthy names in pop culture. Oprah seems to be hitting her stride in adapting the latter to new platforms. Appearances by gossip blog favorites Evelyn Lozada and Maia Campbell on self-help guru Iyanla Vanzant’s show, Fix My Life, hint that she is working out how to use one of her trademarks to boost the popularity of the other.
Spirituality For a New Age
Oprah was originally criticized for her New Age spirituality that didn’t identify with a set religion. But the inclusive nature of her faith is the perfect fit for younger audiences. A recent study found that 72 percent of millennials, the generation between 18 and 30 years old, say they are more spiritual than religious.
Despite not identifying with a religion, or maybe because of it, young people crave spiritual direction. Holistic lifestyle topics like wellness, spirituality, and healthy living are becoming increasingly mainstream. Oprah was already covering these topics on her show. She continues to use platforms like OWN to bring spiritual advisors of all kinds to a mass audience. Now is the perfect time for Winfrey to lead this conversation for a new generation.
An Army For Oprah
At 58, Oprah can’t speak the language of millennials, but she can empower people who do. I want Oprah to be satisfied with hanging out with Tyler Perry on the weekends and leave him out of her business. His 12-hour block on TBS is more than sufficient. OWN and her bevy of multimedia channels needs to empower a new generation of spiritual ambassadors that promote her message.
An army of young, diverse men and women empowering other young people to live their best life is a powerful image. In exchange for Oprah’s stamp of approval, this band of brand ambassadors will bring a much-needed hipness to the Oprah brand and bring fresh content and followings to her other platforms. This strategy is nothing new to Oprah. She’s producing most of daytime television (Dr. Phil, Rachel Ray, and Dr. Oz) using the same formula.
Taking shots at Oprah has become a popular pastime but it’s silly to bet against her at this stage in the game. Her public journey to reshape her career shows us all how success happens. Most of the time you’re not a hit straight out the gate. Greatness requires a never-ending process of trial and error that constantly reevaluates and recalibrates your efforts.
The woman credited with getting Middle America to vote for our nation’s first Black president does not have the option of sitting around twiddling her thumbs. It would be irresponsible for her and her influence to sit at home and count coins. Dreams are easier than ever to achieve, and we need someone to remind us of this. If anyone is up for the job, it’s Ms. Winfrey.