Posted March 5, 2008 12:28 pm by with 11 comments

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“One of the largest online single events in the history of the Internet,” turned into a news story about how it didn’t happen. Almost anything Oprah Winfrey touches is a success, except online. At least on her first try. Oprah’s first and much-hyped web debut crashed a few minutes after it started.

Her apology is in the news today, and made me wonder if it’s the first time Oprah has been mentioned in Information Week (and Marketing Pilgrim for that matter). A quick search confirms that there are two firsts.

More than 700,000 people registered for Winfrey’s 10-week Web 90 minute seminar with author Eckhart Tolle and his bestselling “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.” The book was the latest pick of Oprah’s Book Club. And once they iron out the technical issues imagine what webcasts with the book authors will do for the already strong sales of Oprah’s Book Club picks.

What happened when over 500,000 viewers went online to watch the event? The servers crashed. Oprah apologized to her fans on Fans had already gone to the site’s message boards to express their feelings. One fan called the crash “heartbreaking.” That’s another first, calling a crashed webcast heartbreaking.

There is time to get it straightened out. There are 9 more live webcasts scheduled. The show is posted now on and it’s also on iTunes. I bet it gets a lot of downloads – like the book, this is probably going to capture a much wider audience than it would’ve without the famous crash.

This brings back memories of another famous crash online. In 1999, 1.5 million people were disappointed when a Webcast of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show in New York City crashed.

Update: Lack of bandwidth or number of people online wasn’t the problem that crashed the server, it was a coding error. This week’s show should be glitch-free.

  • I’ve heard about her book club, and how powerful it is. Overheard some girls talking about it, and they were saying that a book she premiered went from selling 30,000 copies to 500,000+ after debuting on her show. (not sure about the numbers, but it was a monsterous % increase of the sort). Oprah is one powerful marketing tool herself!

    Wonder if Andy has tried getting his book in her club? haha I’m sure he’d appreciate the revenue and exposure!

  • Since I work for a webcasting company, I was intrigued to see how this event would go for Oprah. The ability to manage the sheer number of live streams is beyond what we normally see for corporate webcasts. It’ll be interesting to hear how they manage the next webcast and onslaught of viewers.

  • PS3

    700,000 registered users is phenomenal. I am not embarrassed to admit that I have no idea how you put technology in place to cope with that.

    Over here we get Jeremy Kyle. His audience peaks at around 700 – lol

  • Getting into her book club is a sureshot way to becoming more than a bestseller. Just look at the numbers here. I wonder how she chooses amongst the many requests she must be getting. She probably even takes a cut out of the sales. I’d love to know if she chooses books of her on accord or can you buy the coveted spot.

  • Those numbers are just amazing. I’d think they’d expect something like that to happen and prepare for it, maybe they tried? Oprah is extremely influential so it’s not surprising to see that she drew such a crowd and that she’s driving sales once again through her book club.

  • I’m really surprised that they weren’t able to anticipate this, but then again, it’s not like they’re good at dealing with the impact of their own influence. There are plenty of businesses whose products have been mentioned on her show with little to no notice for the company, leaving them completely unprepared for the deluge of orders.

    I realize that the rate of people following a show or publication over to the Internet isn’t always that great, but come on, this is Oprah.

  • Oprah has some amazing pull. Anything she touches turns to gold. Even despite the technical difficulties, I guarantee that even more people tune in for her next webisode.

  • Yeah, this failure will just make the next attempt more popular.

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  • Update – I just read a post on the Huffington Post that provided insight into what happened. I’m assuming that the issue was resolved for her March 10 webcast. Am I correct?

  • Janet Meiners

    Thanks for the update Cece. I’ll make note of it in the post.