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Lesson #3: Take Advantage of New Technologies
“I don’t care about being bigger, because I’m already bigger than I ever expected to be,” Oprah says. “My constant focus is on being better. Should I be doing multimedia video production? Or seminars on the Internet? How can I do what I’m already doing in a more forceful way?” Oprah’s ability to consistently take advantage of new media and technology is one of the distinguishing features of her massive success. Harpo Studios, Oprah’s brainchild, has successfully grown from a one-show production to a multi-billion dollar media powerhouse thanks to its expansion into different media.
In 2005, Forbes ranked Oprah Winfrey as the World’s Most Powerful Celebrity. Among other factors, this ranking took into account celebrities’ Internet presence.
Since Oprah.com was launched in 1998, Oprah has seen her Internet presence and popularity steadfastly rise. An extension of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah.com also hosts exclusive content, show follow-ups and interactive message boards for viewers.
In May 2005, Oprah’s site received 102 million page views, an increase of 37% over the site’s previous high set in February 2005. Unique visitors for that month totaled almost 5 million, an increase of 155% from the previous year. This dramatic rise in numbers is partly due to Oprah’s mentioning of the URL throughout her show. The high volume of traffic has also attracted hundreds of leading companies to advertise on Oprah.com, which was in fact ranked the top Entertainment Personality website in the US in 2005.
The Oprah Book Club, which was made popular on her television show and which boosted the endorsed books’ sales by millions of dollars, was also brought online. This was a project particularly close to Oprah’s heart considering her lifelong love of literature and her ability to now encourage a whole new generation of youth to read.
Harpo COO Jeff Jacobs told Fortune that the company’s strategy is to “multipurpose our content” in various media. In addition to venturing online, Oprah harnessed the power of multimedia to fulfill another one of her passions - teaching. In 2003, she launched an interactive multimedia course called Live Your Best Life, which featured live content from her national speaking tour about her personal life stories and life lessons. Once again, Oprah was able to convert content from one medium into another format, which would be able to both reach a wider audience and boost profits.
Adapting to new technologies can make it easier to do business with fewer costs and, as in Oprah’s case, can result in much higher profits. By embracing technology and thinking creatively, you can increase your customer base as well as create new ways to interact with your customers. Today, Oprah.com receives close to 15,000 emails per week. Many of these emails also contain advice about how to improve the Oprah.com user experience, which is an excellent way of enhancing your customer service without having to seek out costly consulting advice.
Oprah has long since recognized the benefits of using new technologies in her business, constantly re-inventing herself to not only boost profits, but also broaden her appeal to a younger, more technology-savvy audience. She now says that she is “at a crossroads. Not a crisis, but a juncture,” in searching for new ways and means to communicate her message.
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