An article in the New York Times about Oprah Winfrey and the declining readership of O, The Oprah Magazine, her 12-year old publication, stopped me in my tracks. Here’s the paragraph that leapt off the page and gave me my own “Aha!” (but not in a good way) moment:
Ms. Winfrey wants that audience for the magazine, but she wants its readers to be younger. The median age for O readers is 49, according to data tracked by the audience measurement company GfK MRI. (By comparison, Vogue’s median is 35.6 and Real Simple’s is 46.3). Ms. Winfrey 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.”
I could be mistaken, but wasn’t it women over 50 (those who are over 50 now) who made Oprah rich, famous and an American icon? Weren’t we the ones happily tuning into her television show and then the shows of all her former guests who became superstars (such as Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, Suze Orman and so on)? Didn’t we rush out to buy all the books she recommended in Oprah’s Book Club (which then made those people famous, too)? Didn’t we applaud and embrace her as one of our own when she turned 50, welcoming her into the best club in the world?
And now Oprah wants to direct her message to our daughters’ generation because, in her words, “they are looking to fulfill their destiny.” Could she really believe that once you’ve hit your mid-40s, all that stuff about discovering who you are or finding your next chapter no longer applies?
I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.
Every one of us who is over 50 knows that life still holds meaning, magic and a bit of mayhem thrown in for good measure. Life at any age is filled with challenges, triumphs and change, and contrary to what Oprah said in the New York Times interview, we don’t always have it figured out already. But even if we did, can’t we change our minds and try something new with our lives? Of course we can and we do! Didn’t Oprah convince us that even in our 50s, 60s and beyond we can find our best lives ever? Perhaps Oprah thinks we don’t need her anymore. The truth is, though, we always need to hear smart ideas, a compassionate voice, encouragement, and strong role models — like Oprah — to inspire us.
Instead of sounding as though she has complete faith and trust in our abilities and maturity to forge ahead without her directions, giving her the freedom to move her attention away from us to appeal to the younger generation, why doesn’t Oprah just come out and tell the truth, which is this:
Oprah is following the lead of the vast majority of advertisers in this country who still view the 18-49-year- old market as the only group that matters (the same advertisers who support her magazine, XM Satellite radio show, and OWN television network) even though Americans over 50 are part of the largest demographic in the history of the world, are living longer than previous generations, have tremendous political power, and can afford to buy more cars, iPads, TVs, computers, skin creams, financial products, wine, boxes of cereal, laundry detergent and just about anything else that’s for sale . . . than any other demographic. Any company who isn’t specifically targeting the over-50 market is shortsighted, indeed.
It seems those of us who are over 50 have “aged out” of the land of Oprah and have outlived our usefulness. I don’t even think Martha Stewart would come out and publicly announce that people over 50 are past caring about entertaining, baking or decorating their homes and therefore her new mission in life is to focus on those who truly need her: women 18-49. Martha wants to appeal to those younger readers too, no doubt, but would she push her core constituents aside to get to them?
My question is this: am I the only one who read that article and felt let down? Let’s get this dialogue going right here and right now. Please think about this question: “Is Oprah right in wanting to move away from the “over 50″ market in favor of a younger audience?” Leave your comments below. Maybe this conversation will go viral and Oprah, along with the advertisers who support her, will perk up and listen.
That would be a real “Aha!” moment, wouldn’t it?
For more tips on living your best life after 50 (or 60, or 70…) check out “The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts’ Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More” and www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Keep me posted on how you’re doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and “tweeting” me on Twitter at @BGrufferman.