Why Oprah Winfrey Loves Podcasting But Grapples With Online Social Networks

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Have you noticed that Oprah Winfrey is pretty much owning the top slots in the Podcast world lately? Oprah’s Book Club chose, A New Earth – Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose, by Eckhart Tolle and is driving the message of the book home with A New Earth Web Event – a ten-week online experience that is running live off of her website (I’m actually logged into it right now for session number seven), and it is also being pushed out via Podcasts.

I’m fascinated with this on many levels.

If you hop over to Foreword Thinking – The Business and Motivational Book Review Podcast, you’ll quickly see that I have a penchant for all non-fiction types of books, and I’ve been following Tolle for the past while. Admittedly, I’m not a huge Oprah follower, but I am fascinated by her use of Media, Communications and Marketing for her personal brand… and how it connects.

While working out this morning, I was listening to the first session of her A New Earth Web Event that I grabbed via iTunes (yup, I subscribed to the Podcast). I have yet to read the book, but I was curious to see/hear how the Podcast was produced. There was some very telling moments in the first episode. You could tell that Oprah was, genuinely, blown away by the global reach and power of this event. If I’m not mistaken, she said that over 700,000 people were logged in. On several occasions, she mentioned how cool Skype is (one of the sponsors), and how wild it was to have so many people, from so many different parts of the world, live and online at the same time. It’s something people like you and I have known (and Blogged) about forever. My guess is we are starting to take these amazing connections for granted, whereas most people don’t even know/understand the capacities/opportunities.

During the Podcast, an individual asked about the power of community in gathering people to discuss the lessons in A New Earth. Both Oprah and Tolle freely admitted that through these online channels, people are connecting in ways we could have never imagined possible, and that both of them know very little about how this works.

It set me back.

Wouldn’t you expect a media mogul like Oprah to really "get" online social networks? How about one of the best-selling authors? Clearly, he must know how to leverage and connect with his fans in these online channels. I don’t negatively judge Oprah and Eckhart’s lack of familiarity with online social networks. and how to build online communities. I embraced their comments. They made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. If two media-involved people like them are grappling with how these channels connect, doesn’t it make perfect sense why we, as Marketers, continue to push, prod and provoke in these spaces as well?

There’s also an underlying truth that both Oprah and Eckhart do understand the power of Podcasting and online social networks, by the simple fact that they’re surrounding themselves with people who empowered them to use some of these Web 2.0 and Social Media channels to get their message out to the global audience beyond Oprah’s standard broadcasting group.

If all else fails, there are now millions of additional people who have tinkered with Podcasting, online social networks, Skype and other very social aspects of the World Wide Web. With that being the case, I think Oprah did much more than getting the message out about a new and powerful book. She was, as usual, able to get more and more every day people interested in online tools and the power they offer us to connect.


  1. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until she and her team adopts social media. The HARPO social network will surely suck in my mother.

  2. It does not surprise me at all that these people, however involved in broadcast media they are, are less informed about the online world. Although the majority of people in this country use the internet to some extent, most do not understand the opportunity nor take advantage of it fully.
    Those of use twittering, podcasting and blogging – and otherwise exploring the full breadth of what the internet has to offer DO take for granted that the mainstream is aware. But, they are not. Little by little – as the young internet generation ages (those who have grown up with the internet) – adoption becomes mainstream. But we are not there yet.
    I think it’s very important for internet marketers to remember this. We need to continue to advocate for “the inexperienced user” in the campaigns and creative we suggest. While it’s fun to participate in “the next cool thing”, we risk alienating a large portion of our potential audience when we don’t consider this.

  3. I think I’m more surprised that she was actually podcasting! I must say though that I’m kind of proud that she is and that with all her followers now online and hooked up to iTunes, this offers new opportunities for marketers to reach this segment of stay-at-home moms.

  4. I have mixed emotions over this. I’m not surprised that they have not quite grasp social networking yet. We do forget this from time to time. I still call podcasts “Internet Radio” when telling people about my shows.
    One side of me is thrilled that icons like Oprah are podcasting now, because it helps educate people outside of the fishbowl about new media.
    On the other side, the mainstream media podcasts get pushed to the top instantly, pushing down those of us who have been podcasting for years.
    My mixed emotions are further mixed because I *love* many of the CBC podcasts, however I realize that they are professionally produced shows too. So, naturally, those podcasts will be of higher quality most of the time.
    It’s hard to compete with professional writers, talent and producers (and budges!) when it comes to podcasting.
    All in all it’s good to see more people adopting the technology. Either way, when podcasting goes mainstream (and it will) we early adopters will be considered industry podfathers (no offense Mr. Curry).

  5. good thoughts here- it is very true, as well, for top management at companies here in Japan – generally, people are comfortable in their technoworld until peer pressure and curiosity overcome fear…
    at least that’s how it works for me;-)
    anyway, I agree with Dave’s mixed feelings, and I add another bit to the mix, that of being a new media producer in Japan. A series we produced for a client was #1 on iTunes for 7 weeks, but it doesn’t register anywhere but here…ah well, still it was fun to see it happen!

  6. As CEO of FaveQuest, I deal with traditional media all the time … since the goal of our platform is to help them connect with people in social network.
    I think their lack of truly “getting” social media is in fact due to their heritage as one way communicators. It is actually a handicap as they need to unlearn some habits that hamper you in social media, such as control, fear of what bad things people might say if you let them and many more. Old habits die hard.

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