Monday, September 10, 2007

Oprah Winfrey Gets Political

Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely respect Oprah as a media personality. In fact, I can safely say she is the most successful at what she does than anyone I know. Her show is now over 20 years old and it remains among the most highly rated and, I believe she is the highest paid celebrity.

There are reasons for her success, and these are just a few of them in my opinion:

* She makes sure her visual presentation is better than anyone on day time TV. Her sets are amazing and very inviting and makes watching the program very enjoyable.

* She has excellent guest selection. After years of cultivating relationships she is able to get some of the best show participants a person will find on television regardless of time of day.

* She doesn't insult the users intelligence. She is smart and her programming highlights that, making for excellent viewing. She has even made "book clubs" popular again.

* She has remained remarkably apolitical. We are all pretty sure of her political leanings in the way she throws softballs to those with a liberal bias and tries to nail conservatives. She is, however, at least willing to have conservatives on her program. I personally believe this last characteristic is one of the most important reasons. I remember being told that you don't want to talk politics or religion with friends and she has been very careful when it comes to this area.

Until now.

Just recently Oprah endorsed a candidate. Something she hadn't done to date. She has come out in support of Barack Obama who is among the most liberal of the Democratic candidates (I put him just after John Edwards). Many are suggesting that her endorsement won't matter much, since they both appeal to the well educated and more affluent constituencies rather than the broader population that John Edwards has pursued so passionately. I disagree, I think she will help Obama reach a group that Hillary Clinton thought she had in the bag -- upper middle class and well educated women.

Time will only tell whether Oprah will make that big a difference. Time will also tell whether such a move hurts her TV program. She has accumulated a lot of capital over the years, but there is no place that is quicker to lose it than in the world of media.

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