The Oprah Effect: Equal to Slashdot or Digg?

The popularity of Oprah Winfrey tested the limits of Internet streaming video in March, when the debut of Oprah’s webcast attracted 500,000 simultaneous users, causing capacity-related performance problems. It turns out Oprah is also wreaking havoc with web sites for companies mentioned on her syndicated talk show.

Phil Wainewright reports that being “Oprah’d” is a web traffic event on the equivalent of the Slashdot Effect or a TechCrunch-led blogstorm or front-page Digging. Phil says he’s heard several independent accounts of consumer web sites getting slowed or knocked offline after being mentioned on Oprah. Shaklee reports that one mention generated up to “ten months’ worth of average daily volume in one day.”

Sounds like an opportunity for someone selling scalability. From Wainewright’s ZDNet blog:

It turns out that the ability to handle the peak traffic loads that hit when a consumer brand gets Oprah’d is a big selling point for cloud computing and on-demand application providers, because they have the infrastructure in place to cope with the peaks. Rod Boothby, VP of platform evangelism for cloud computing vendor Joyent told me later in the week that one of its customers had come on board just to be ready for the expected traffic surge after an upcoming feature on CNN and in the New York Times.

For consumer product web sites, those Oprah visitors represent prospective buyers responding to an endorsement from a trusted source, a particularly high-conversion scenario. Thus, getting Oprah’d is costlier downtime than a blog getting KO’d by Slashdot.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.