Today is the launch date for O, the Oprah Magazine. We're not well-connected enough to get an advance copy, but we've been able to glean quite a few things about Oprah Winfrey's latest media venture.

April 17, 2000|By LAURA LIPPMAN | LAURA LIPPMAN,SUN STAFF

1) This unavoidable pun has already cropped up in print at least once, but we just can't resist a cheap joke.

2) With a cover price of $2.95, O is going for a slightly different market than the traditional women's magazine -- and it looks like it's going to find it. It had announced a printing of 850,000 for its first issue and has since revised that number upward to 1 million. It has sold 166 pages of ads for the first issue alone, and has commitments for 600 ad pages -- totaling $20 million -- for the first year. The rate for a color page is $32,500.

To put those numbers in context, the much-ballyhooed Talk magazine -- which, like O, is produced in a partnership between Hearst and an outside company -- claimed 442 ad pages and $18 million for its first four issues. George magazine, perhaps the last publication to enjoy the strange phenomenon of having a founder who's a popular figure in the tabloid press, started out with 175 ad pages in its first issue in 1995. O, which will appear bimonthly at first, will be available on newsstands exclusively for its first two issues.

3) A spokeswoman for Hearst Magazines said she hadn't heard the report that the first few covers of O will feature its eponymous founder, but they could do worse, much worse. After all, Oprah has been selling other magazines for years. According to the New York Times, her appearance on the November 1998 issue of In Style was that magazine's best-selling ever. Her Vogue cover the same year was that magazine's No. 1 seller for 1998 (810,000 newsstand copies), as was her Good Housekeeping appearance in December (1.4 million newsstand copies).

Oprah-style confession: The author of this piece is incapable of not buying a tabloid that features a cover story about Oprah.

4) Gayle King, one of Oprah's oldest friends, has been appointed the editorial "liaison" between the Chicago-based Oprah and the New York-based O. She brings no magazine experience to the job, but then neither does Oprah, who was said to be so hands-on that she asked for photo reshoots and rewrites and insisted that the table of contents go on page 2, not 18. She later took the staff to Miami's Fisher Island (on her private jet), where they were encouraged to be candid about the frustrations of getting out the first issue.

Oprah told the New York Times: "And the problem is that [editor in chief] Ellen Kunes does not really know me. She is trying to get to know me. That is part of the reason I had the retreat, to say to them, `Look, I know that to you guys the Oprah name is a brand. But for me, it is my life, it's the way I live my life, and everything I stand for.'"

5) The Appellate Court of Illinois recently ruled that a confidentiality agreement signed by employees of Harpo Inc. (Oprah's company) is "reasonable and enforceable." Elizabeth Coady, a senior associate producer on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," was going to write a book about her experiences after leaving the show in 1998. But she was reminded that she had signed an agreement "to keep confidential, during her employment and thereafter, all information about the Company, Ms. Winfrey, her private life and Harpo's business activities."

6) Single best rumor about O to date, reported by Cecilia McGee of the New York Daily News: Oprah ordered a photo reshoot because she doesn't like colored candles.

7) Because every successful woman's magazine has a cover article devoted to the Big O. Only, in this case, it's Oprah!

8) O, according to Oprah's Web site, will feature many of the contributors already familiar to those who watch her television show. Suze Orman will give financial advice. Bob Greene is on hand for "get fit inspiration."

Says the Web site: "O offers compelling stories and empowering ideas stamped with Oprah's unique vision of everything from health and fitness, careers, relationships and self-discovery issues to beauty, fashion, home design, books and food."

Even money there's a Maya Angelou poem in the first issue.

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