Oprah's departure reinforces need for new, niche influencers

Say it isn't so, Oprah. The daytime television queen is set to announce today that her show will cease production in 2011.

Say it isn't so, Oprah. The daytime television queen is set to announce today that her show will cease production in 2011. Not only is this a blow to the millions of devoted fans who hang on her every word, following her advice on books, movies, and the rest of her “favorite things,” but perhaps more importantly to the companies that seek to influence those fans.

Despite the growth of social media and emergence of new influencers, time after time what I've heard from PR professionals is their clients' number-one goal is still “to get on Oprah.” One of the reasons has been her ability to connect with a broad audience. But with the era of Oprah set to end in less than two years, (at least on broadcast TV) it also means the end of the mass market influencer. Even as Oprah prepares to make a move to her own cable network, her reach will be far smaller.

PR professionals have long been preparing for this new reality, seeking out very specific influencers to help reinforce messages from their clients, from mommy bloggers to healthcare professionals to politicians. Yet some clients and senior executives are less than convinced; they're still more concerned with quantity over quality. Now is the time to truly reeducate those clients and executives who are stuck in a bygone era.

Given the continued media fragmentation, the number of viewers, readers, or listeners matters less and less. Today's influencers may reach thousands, not millions, but they are still effecting change. In this environment, what's most important is targeted, niche messaging that reaches the right people and inspires action.

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