I have a confession to make. I watch Oprah. I LIKE watching Oprah. It’s my unwind-from-a-long-day, think-about-something-completely-different, guilty pleasure. But at this moment, I’m glad, I watch Oprah.
For all you non-watchers out there, Oprah is doing something cool these days in the online media space. She is touting a new Book Club Book, called “A New Earth”, by Ekhart Tolle. I don’t usually pick up the Oprah books, but I have always been interested in spirituality and religion, so yes, I picked up the book. It hasn’t transformed my life yet but it raises some very valuable and interesting concepts that I’m willing to continue to explore.
But this post isn’t about the book. Do a Google for Ekhart Tolle and I’m sure you’ll find plenty of reviews. This post is about how she’s talking about the book. On March 3rd, she is hosting a “web event”, what is being called an “online classroom“. There, she and Tolle will discuss the book and take video, audio and text questions from the audience. The class will be running Monday nights (EST) over 10 consecutive weeks. As of yesterday, over 300,000 people had signed up.
What I find fascinating is how this is being implemented. If one wishes to sign up for the class (which is free, by the way), they go to oprah.com and sign up for an account (And it’s nice that you can opt out of all the newsletters, etc. up front). Then you just register for the class, and at 9pm EST on Monday, March 3 you tune in.
I was wondering how they were going to do this. 300,000 people (sure to AT LEAST double or even triple by next week) all logging on at the same time, can you say, crashy crashy? But today, they sent me an email prompting me to download and install the Move Networks media player onto my computer. Of course I went to check them out, and yah, these guys have pretty much got their #$*@ together. They offer superior quality (it’s spectacular) and a scaleable system that allows simultaneous streaming to millions of people at once with no crashy crashy. It also collects lots of data about the users – experiences, demographics, geography – all the juicy tidbits of information Oprah’s advertisers could dream of. They’ve got it down.
As far as interactivity goes, well, viewers can record video or audio questions, and submit text questions as well. There are discussion forums so that if you are not one of the lucky few that gets to actually talk to Winfrey and Tolle, you get to talk to each other about the class and the book.
Maybe I’m expecting too much, maybe not, but this seems to me like a pretty nifty idea. I’m sure it will be successful. 300,000 people, including celebrities like Jim Carrey and Valerie Bertinelli have signed up already. (The star factor will only make it more popular.)
This could be the beginning of a trend with mass-market broadcasting, possibly the beginning of true interactive television. And I’m so in. Maybe I’ll get a spiritual awakening, maybe I’ll just be entertained. Maybe I’ll get both. Say what you want, but if there is anyone that can move millions with online media, it’s Oprah. I’ll let you know how it goes – but then again, you’ll probably sign up too…won’t you. :-)