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Glenn Halbrooks

Why Lady Gaga Has Surpassed Oprah Winfrey in Media

By May 24, 2011

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Depending on your age, you may dismiss Lady Gaga as nothing but a pop singer in outlandish costumes -- the Cher or Madonna of this generation. But now that Forbes has put Lady Gaga atop its "Celebrity 100" list and bumped Oprah Winfrey to number two, it's time to reconsider the impact of all the outrageous clothes, makeup and behavior.

A photo of pop music singer Lady Gaga
Forbes says Lady Gaga is the top celebrity for her social media skills.
Photo © Getty Images
Forbes made its decision on Lady Gaga's social media prowess. She has 32 million fans on Facebook and 10 million people following her on Twitter.

These people aren't just sitting idly at their computers. They helped her "Born This Way" album set a Billboard record and leave Amazon servers breathless.

What about Winfrey? She's saying goodbye to her quarter-century old syndicated talk show, which debuted the same year Lady Gaga was born.

Winfrey is now putting her efforts into her Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) cable TV channel. Despite bearing Winfrey's name, OWN is struggling to find an audience.

Suddenly, a cable channel seems like a relic from the 1980s. It is worth noting that Winfrey has fallen from the Forbes top spot before and has reclaimed her throne. Even in second place, the magazine says Winfrey earned $290 million, so she's a long way from being yesterday's news.

But these rankings demonstrate the power of social media -- not just for fame, but fortune. In years past, Lady Gaga's persona may have scared away any corporate endorsement deals. But today, Polaroid is using her as its face for a line of electronics while Coty prepares to launch Lady Gaga's signature perfume. Both of these companies are icons in their industries, not trendy startups like you would expect to find connected to her.

Lady Gaga isn't alone in the next generation of celebrities to master social media. Jessica Simpson could earn $1 billion this year by promoting her clothing line through Twitter, 140 characters at a time.

Anyone in business should think twice before dismissing Facebook or Twitter as poor substitutes for a website or advertising campaign. If you hope to build a media brand through the internet, developing a social media strategy is now a requirement, not an afterthought.

Winfrey built her empire using traditional media -- television and O, The Oprah Magazine. Regardless of the performance of her cable channel, she will always be a powerhouse until the day she retires because she's already established.

As for Lady Gaga, the outrageousness can only last so long before the audience yawns and looks for the next big star. Cher and Madonna eventually became parodies of themselves.

But that day hasn't yet come. Whether Lady Gaga's face is used to sell magazines or she's eating paper on Late Night with David Letterman, her millions of fans and followers are awaiting her next move and are ready to spend money to be part of the act.

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June 18, 2011 at 9:26 pm
(1) TheCleanArtery says:

Your analysis on Lady Gaga is pretty accurate, but the perspective of analyzing her as an artist, there are a lot who beg to differ. Mainly, she’s a gimmick, who is just repeating the shock and awe tactics for a new generation.

Check out this article on just that:


June 21, 2011 at 12:28 am
(2) Brandon Baxter says:

Please, Lady Gaga is not a ‘gimmick’. While she may be extremely theatrical – like other great artists such as Elton John, Cher, Madonna, etc (whom no one would argue are not talented), she is without a doubt a talented person.

She was considered a prodigy as a child, is a classically trained pianist, fluent in French, and has written extremely impressive editorials on artists influence on other artists.

June 21, 2011 at 1:49 pm
(3) Merle Dayton says:

I think Lady Gaga is a power house of talent and the people who are begging to differ that fact are completely closed minded and indifferent to the progression of this society.I say all the power to any one who has the ambition and the drive to make their way in this world.As they say viva la differance.

August 24, 2011 at 6:57 pm
(4) Trevor says:

Merle Dayton is a crack head

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