Oprah: Heartfelt Storyteller or Paid Shill?

Oprah is a good storyteller who’s even better at facilitating a story.

More than any single element, Oprah has turned tapping into the emotional reservoir of her viewing audience into an art form.

That’s why when Oprah came forward on Friday and proclaimed Amazon’s Kindle (e-reader) as life-changing people paid attention.

In fact, Oprah’s revelation created more noise in the blogosphere than any activity orchestrated by Amazon’s marketing department over the past three months.

Yet, this was hardly a heartfelt moment. Amazon paid for the product placement on Oprah’s show. It’s really no different than BMW cutting a check for one of its cars to appear in a chase scene in a 007 movie, only in this case Amazon got two for the price of one (Kindle + Bezos show appearance).

Last month I addressed whether a good story by definition needs to be authentic, making the observation that you need to be who you say you are (Stephen Hawking I’m not). Oprah certainly passes this test. That was definitely Oprah touting the Kindle.

Giving Oprah the benefit of the doubt, the story starts out authentic and heartfelt. She received a Kindle as a gift and it changed her life. Wonderful. Everyone should be so lucky as to have their lives changed by an e-reader in these economic times.

But why is it that Oprah didn’t go public with her revelation until Oct. 24?

In a word, money – nicely timed to build momentum into the holiday buying season.

Does the fact that Amazon put a few dollars - OK, more than few – into Oprah’s wallet lessen the power of the story?

If the tears from the audience when they got word that the grab bag would be a Kindle are any indication, the answer is no. 

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2 comments

2 Comments so far

  1. No fan of Oprah November 4th, 2008 10:57 am

    When will her fans wake up and smell the coffee?? Oprah’s endorsements, heartfelt or not, are just that…ENDORSEMENTS…most of them paid for. Are the sheep ever going to stop following? This woman is no different than any other entertainer – she’s found the right niche for herself and she’s taking full advantage of it(you)!

  2. Lou Hoffman November 4th, 2008 11:34 am

    The concept of celebrity endorsement has been around for some time. When you see Gwen Stefani touting HP printers there’s a recognition that HP paid Stefani to jump on the bandwagen. But when a celebrity uses the media as a platform (like a Oprah’s show) it muddies the recognition factor.

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