Oprah's Midas touch enriched those in her golden spotlight
Oprah Winfrey's impact on your finances won't end with her show. During its 25 years on the air, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" held enormous sway over how its audience chose to spend and save.
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Oprah Winfrey's impact on your finances won't end with her show.
During its 25 years on the air, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" held enormous sway over how its audience chose to spend and save. Most notably, it regularly counseled viewers on their household finances. But the program also influenced decisions in more indirect ways.
When Winfrey featured a charity on her show, viewers reached for their wallets. On the spending front, her stamp of approval could turn a little-known product into an instant craze. Her power over book sales is legendary.
"Nobody else has that kind of influence," says Susan Harrow, a media coach and author of a guide on how to land an appearance on the "Oprah" show. A mere mention could turn a small-business owner into a millionaire overnight, Harrow notes.
That impact won't stop Wednesday when the final episode airs. Winfrey will continue connecting with audiences through her 5-month-old cable channel, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.
Although OWN's ratings have faltered, Winfrey plans to focus on the fledgling network after her syndicated program wraps. "O, The Oprah Magazine" remains a top seller with a monthly circulation of more than 2 million.
Here are four ways Winfrey and her show impacted finances, and will continue to do so:
The episodes that made the biggest headlines — think Tom Cruise jumping on a couch, or author James Frey squirming in the hot seat — aren't what made Oprah fans so loyal.
Regular viewers tuned in for guidance on the major issues they struggle with daily, says Suze Orman, the financial guru whose fame can be traced to the show.
"They are watching 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' not to be entertained, but to be transformed."
And money and health are the topics that resonate most with viewers, which is why Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil and Orman star in "Oprah's All Stars" on OWN.
Orman's own success speaks to Oprah's influence on household finances. The show gave Orman a platform to talk frankly about money issues that clearly struck a chord with women.
Before her first appearance, Orman's book "The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom" sold about 300,000 copies. It sold an additional 3 million after the episode aired.
"To put it mildly, it put me on the stage," Orman says.
Helping others was a recurring theme on the "Oprah" show. Winfrey's public charity, Oprah's Angel Network, evolved from an episode in 1997 where she called on viewers to use their lives to give back. The charity went on to raise in excess of $80 million.
The show also helped launch numerous projects.
Take the Pajama Program, a New York City charity that provides new pajamas and books to children in need. Before a taping in April 2007, members of the studio audience were asked to collect donations as a surprise for the group's founder.
The audience drummed up 33,000 pairs of pajamas.
"The website went crazy; we started getting all these emails with donations," says Genevieve Piturro, the group's founder. "It was like in Las Vegas when the sevens come up.
"She not only gave us a bump," Piturro says, "but she gave us legs."
When Winfrey crows over a product, her audience takes note. That's obvious in the boost in sales businesses enjoy after receiving a favorable mention.
"In the best-case scenario, it can put people on the map," says Harrow, author of "The Ultimate Guide to Getting Booked on Oprah."
Spanx is one of the better known examples. The body-slimming undergarments became a household name after they were featured on "Oprah's Favorite Things" list in 2000.
The company, which operated out of the owner's apartment at the time, sold more than 50,000 products in three months after the episode aired.
"To be able to say you were on Oprah is the gold standard for retail," Harrow notes.
Since the debut of Oprah's Book Club in 1996, Winfrey has become a reliable hit maker in publishing.
Nielsen BookScan said last week that Winfrey's choice of Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" in 2008 topped the list of biggest sellers among her book-club selections in the past decade, with around 3.4 million copies.
Over the years, there were 65 selections. Nielsen only collected data on special Winfrey book-club editions starting in 2001. Those 27 titles alone accounted for more than 22 million books sold.
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