Oprah Winfrey's brand lost much of its luster this week amid news Oprah Winfrey Network is laying off 30 full-time employees — roughly 20 percent of the total staff.
"The staff cutbacks are the latest public setback for the young channel, which is co-owned by Ms. Winfrey and Discovery Communications," the New York Times' Media Decoder blog wrote Monday. "The channel has suffered from executive turnover since its conception four years ago and from low ratings since its TV premiere 15 months ago. Last week, the channel canceled what was to have been one of its tent poles, 'The Rosie Show,' a 7 p.m. talk show by Rosie O’Donnell."
What's more, as Jordan Weissmann detailed for The Atlantic on Monday, a new National Bureau of Economic Research study suggests Winfrey's long-held reputation as a catalyst for helping the publishing industry sell more books may be unwarranted — or at the very least inflated.
"For 15 years, Oprah Winfrey ruled the publishing industry like a benevolent, daytime TV dictator," Weissmann wrote. "A recommendation on Oprah's Book Club, which ended its run last year, sent almost any book, new or old, straight to the best-seller list. (But) Oprah's endorsements may have actually hurt fiction sales overall by encouraging her fans to read novels that were longer and more complicated than their usual, less literary fare.
"In other words, Oprah made her viewers a little more high brow, and publishers a little bit poorer."