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Power Women

The Most Influential Women In Media

Kiri Blakeley, 07.14.09, 05:30 PM EDT

Thirty of the biggest names in television, print and the Internet--with a few surprises.


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Oprah Winfrey may have been bumped to No. 2 on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list, but in media, she reigns supreme. Thanks to her loyal talk show audience, social media followers and, most of all, her remarkable earning power, Winfrey tops ForbesWoman's first Most Influential Women in Media list.

While ratings have slipped over the years, Winfrey's syndicated chat fest is still considered the most important show to promote a person, book, product or idea. The "Oprah effect," could even be said to have helped Barack Obama get to the White House; it certainly didn't hurt. The list of others who owe their careers to Winfrey--Dr. Mehmet Oz, Rachael Ray, Dr. Phil, Marianne Williamson, Gayle King and Nate Berkus to name a few--is a long and impressive one. Winfrey also helms a Sirius XM ( SIRI - news - people ) satellite radio show, a successful magazine and a cable network.

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Winfrey pocketed $275 million last year, far more than any other woman on the list. Ellen DeGeneres comes in a distant second in earnings with $35 million; Tyra Banks third with $30 million.

In Pictures: The Most Influential Women In Media

But earning power alone does not determine who's on the list or her position. The Most Influential Women in Media were ranked in four categories determining their influence: audience, press mentions, earnings and social media outreach (followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook).

After Winfrey, the top five is rounded out by Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters, Ellen DeGeneres and Tyra Banks.

Sawyer, after almost four decades in front of the camera, is more influential than ever. Sawyer reaches a daily audience with her gig as co-host of Good Morning, America, but her prime-time specials are what routinely attract over 10 million viewers and keep her at the seat of power: On ABC's Primetime she interviewed President Obama extensively on his health care plan, from the White House.

Walters' influence comes in much the same form as Sawyer's. While The View reaches a comparatively small morning audience, her specials--including Most Fascinating People of 2008, Patrick Swayze: The Truth and Barack and Michelle Obama--and her 2009 Oscar special each attracted tens of millions of viewers.

Ellen DeGeneres' talk show audience is half that of Oprah's. However, her earnings and enormous social media following (more than anyone on the list) pushed her to No. 4. Tyra Banks has the advantage of two hit TV shows: her girl-talk chat show and America's Next Top Model, which continues to get pretty ratings for the CW Network. Banks, like all of those in the top five, has leveraged social media and has a large online following.

Among the surprises on the list: Blogger Heather B. Armstrong (No. 26), whose earnings were small compared with the others on the list but whose enormous social media presence (behind only Ellen, Oprah, Rachael Ray and Rachel Maddow) pushed her above more well-known names like Maria Bartiromo and Soledad O'Brien. Conversely, NBC's Andrea Mitchell's (No. 30) lack of social networking counted against her.

In Pictures: The Most Influential Women In Media

Who's Hot: The Rising Stars


The Most Influential Women in Media is based on money, fame, audience and power. Money is determined by an estimation of earnings from approximately July 2008 to July 2009. Audience is determined by average Nielsen Media Research numbers for television ratings and net traffic for the past 12 months. Fame and influence is determined by overall mentions on Factiva and by social media outreach, or the amount of followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook.

Steve Forbes