Friday, November 20, 2009

How Will Pop Culture Fill In The "Oprah" Void?

Women, lifestyle fanatics, and aspiring media moguls will be scrambling to find a new guru to follow religiously once media queen Oprah Winfrey retires her world-famous talk show in 2011.

As one of the world's most influential women, Oprah uses her talk show platform as a lifestyle brand to encourage her faithful viewers to improve their quality of life. Health issues, fashion ideas, financial tips, family structure and psychological healing are recurring themes on the long-running "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Through her messages of self-improvement and fulfillment, Oprah's influence has made many small business entrepreneurs and lifestyle experts wealthy almost overnight as her loyal fans buy into the products, books and ideas that Oprah celebrates on her show. The most known successes are then little-known authors whose books are featured in "Oprah's Book Club." The highly-coveted book club made the likes of Toni Morrison, James Frey and Kaye Gibbons into high-grossing authors.

The number of entrepreneurs whose fortunes skyrocketed through the roof due to Oprah's magic are plenty. In 2000, Oprah chose Spanx shape wear as one of her "Favorite Things." The Atlanta-based clothing company quickly sold $50 thousand products in just three months. The company has helped millions of women feel a size smaller and made $350 million in retail sales along the way. In 2002 and 2005, Oprah selected Garrett Popcorn as one of her favorite things. The Chicago based company had a hunch there would be a rise in sales – but not to the extent that occurred. The afternoon of the broadcast in 2002, the company had 100,000 web hits and the sales for the month of December increased by 100 percent. Garrett Popcorn went from making popcorn eight hours a day to 24 hours a day. The mention of Lori Karmel’s struggling "We Take the Cake" bakery shop on The Oprah Winfrey show in 2004 pulled her company back to life and out of bankruptcy. Today, the company’s sales are more than $1 million a year. The ultimate icing on the cake is Lori and her team now bakes high-end wedding cakes for posh hotels that sell for $5,000 to $20,000 each. Lisa Price has loved fragrances ever since she was a child. Her mother encouraged her to make and sell her own fragrances at a flea market more than 15 years ago. An appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show took the small business to the world stage. Today Carol’s Daughter is a multi-million dollar company.

In addition to her lifestyle topics, Oprah's public influence and star power made her the elite interviewer whom celebrities flock to promote mainstream projects, raise awareness on society issues or confess exclusively to a shocking revelation. In 1993, legendary entertainer Michael Jackson gave Oprah's show its biggest viewership ever as she was the only journalist Jackson would meet to address the public scrutiny about his sexual abuse allegations and his skin disorder. After years of falling from grace, superstar R&B diva Whitney Houston granted Oprah the official first interview in September 2009 as she made her musical comeback after a seven-year absence. Even the often-private silver screen icon Tom Cruise made headlines for his infamous couch-jumping antics while professing his love for now-wife actress Katie Holmes. Affectionately called "Oprah's couch," A-List celebrities and fame risers find solace on that infamous hot seat where being interviewed by Ms. Winfrey feels like conversing with a best friend or a big sister.

Celebrities are not the only people who find Oprah's daytime show the most coveted spot for successful launches. Winfrey built mini-empires around lifestyle professionals whom she recruited to serves as frequent guests on her show. As a result, Dr. Phil McGraw, Rachael Ray, Gayle King, Dr. Robin Smith and Dr. Mehmet Oz garnered their own radio and TV talk shows. Each of them has brought in high ratings especially "Dr. Phil," whose show hold the #2 slot in the most-viewed daytime show behind "Oprah."

With two years until the retirement of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," viewers, loyalists and critics wonder what will replace the phenomenon the media titan built. Budding entrepreneurs will have to rely on their own marketing and branding skills without the hope of Oprah sharing her love of their products to the world. Celebrities will have to find another celebrity whose star power and media clout will make them run to confess all or promote a new project. Authors will place their hopes on word-of-mouth and grass roots marketing to push their novels. No media darlings will branch off into their own successful spin-offs as overnight successes from Ms. Winfrey's franchise. Even the networks who broadcast her will have to find alternative to match the lucrative opportunity the show has brought in.

If any other television entity could be a possible replacement of the Oprah effect, rival TV talk show star Ellen DeGeneres may be the next worldly, influential media titan. DeGeneres' popularity has quickly ascended as A-list celebrities stop by her show in droves and the opportunities in TV outside of her talk show are growing rapidly for the one-time comedic actress whose career suffered a major setback in the late 1990s after coming out publicly as a lesbian.

Regardless of the replacements for "The Oprah Winfrey Show," the influence, achievements and integrity the program has amassed will never be matched for decades to come. The media empire that Oprah built took many years to draw in the millions of loyal fans worldwide to follow her proverbial word in self-improvement. Thus, the show has seen all of her competition come and go over the past 20-plus years with short stints.

Ms. Winfrey's most watched interview with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson in 1993.

Oprah gives away free items to her studio in "Oprah's Favorite Things 2008" episode.

Carol's Daughter gets featured on the CNBC show "The Oprah Effect."


thegayte-keeper said...

How indeed?

Zolra Caston said...

I am very very saddened about the whole situation. Oprah was one of the biggest reasons why i got into Journalism. I am really going to miss this show. I gotta catch up with the book club.




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