Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 14, 2008 9:17 PM

Why Oprah Winfrey Loves Podcasting But Grapples With Online Social Networks

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.

By Mitch Joel