Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama appeared on Oprah on October 18, 2006 and as a result, Internet searches on the Illinois senator vaulted 358% the week following his appearance. Last week, appearing on Larry King Live, Oprah announced that she was backing Obama, the first time she has ever officially endorsed a presidential candidate. If Oprah's promotional power extends beyond what she's been capable of doing for books and services, she could have a hand in the next presidential nomination and election. Given the support that Hillary Clinton expects from women, the New York senator should be concerned.
From the demographics of visitors to her site oprah.com, we can get an idea of the typical Oprah follower. For the four weeks ending May 5, 2007, 72.8% of Oprah's visitors were female, 66.4% of her visitors were 35 or older. Internet users in Obama and Oprah's home state of Illinois are more than twice as likely to visit the Oprah website than the average American Internet user. Over 35% of Oprah U.S. visitors hail from key voting states; California, Illinois, New York, Texas and Florida.
Oprah's power to persuade extends to a multitude of products and services, from the lemon drop martini she sipped in her garden episode (27th most popular term sending visits to Oprah's site), to the seemingly contradictory interest in foods like "banana pudding," and "Rachael Ray's 5 minute fudge" with dieting advice from "Dr. Bob Greene" and "Dr. Oz('s)" "You on a Diet." Search term data indicates that immediately following the appearance on the show, searches for a book, diet or personality will reach the stratosphere.
Search term data also reveals the most popular topics for Winfrey's demographic. After searches on Oprah's name, by far the most popular query sending visits to her site was the term "the secret," referring to a self-help book by February 8, 2007 guest Rhonda Byrne. The Secret, which has been on the bestseller list for 16 weeks since being featured on Oprah, argues that all you need to do to change anything in your life is to visualize that change.
While The Secret has been criticized as a collection of self-help clichés that oversimplify the path to self improvement, the juxtaposition of Oprah's promotional power with the concept that you can create your own reality by simply thinking it creates an interesting scenario: want to become the next President of the United States? Here's the prescription, simply visualize yourself as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Bill Tancer is general manager of global research at Hitwise.