The success of Oprah Winfrey is dependent on how much people like her

But her influence is immense.  If Winfrey says she’s going to stop eating hamburgers, cattle shares drop.

Questions:

1. Maybe it sounds strange but she is almost totally unknown in Slovakia.  If you had to describe Oprah Winfrey in three sentences to someone, who absolutely doesn’t know her, what would you write about?

2. Why is Ms. Winfrey so popular for the TV audience? What is the ,,special thing” that makes her show better than the others?

3. Is she famous because she is good TV host or mostly  because she is an excellent businesswoman?

4. In your opinion could her influence and popularity rise in the future or it is almost impossible?

Answers:

Jennifer Harris, Associate Professor, Department of English, Mount Allison University

1. Ms. Winfrey is the most influential media personality in North America. If she says “read this book” it becomes a best-seller. If she says she’s going to stop eating hamburgers, cattle shares drop. Her audience looks to her for every aspect of lifestyle advice, from clothing to setting personal and spiritual goals.

2. Winfrey makes a connection with audiences in ways that is unprecedented. Mostly, she is accessible–she shares stories not only of her own successes, but also her own failures. And she’ll make fun of her failures or herself in other ways. Most hosts don’t do that. For her it is important to make personal connections with her audience, rather than just present information to them.

3. Her success is dependent on the success of her show, which is dependent on how much people like her. While we know she is rich and influential, people tend to forget that there’s this whole business which is behind her. People say “Oprah wrote this on her website,” or “Oprah featured this in her magazine this month.” So the business aspect of it, and all the people who support that, is overshadowed by her personality. Compare that to Bill Gates–we tend to think of him now in terms of money, not in terms of inventions.

4. There are multiple ways in which Oprah’s popularity could expand further. After all, if you look back, no one would have expected her to be so influential in book or magazine publishing, but she has set records in both. She has “created” celebrities like Dr. Phil and Rachel Ray. (Both of whom have their own TV shows, while Ray has her own magazine.) Oprah has sponsored US legislation in the past–should she wish to become more of a political advocate for her causes, she could effect tremendous change. She could also expand her reach in television itself, in terms of movies of the week, producing dramas and sitcoms. In the US there was tremendous speculation about how her endorsement of Barrack Obama might influence the next election.

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