Susan Miller is in the business of knowing your future.
At the beginning of every month, the revered astrologer uploads thousands of words describing her predictions for the month, how the moon’s cycles will affect you, and whether certain pesky planets will turn retrograde and mess up your whole life. This is all based on the fuzzy “science” of zodiac signs, which are determined by the Sun’s exact location in the sky when you were born.
Miller’s fans wait eagerly for her readings. Upon the stroke of midnight on the first day of the month, dozens of impatient readers tweet to complain if she’s late with her predictions.
Late predictions are pretty par for the course for Miller, a trusted astrologer for more than 30 years, but her fans are loyal. Many of them have followed Miller since her website launched in the mid-’90s, when she pioneered the online horoscope industry.
Miller’s website, Twitter account, and apps (including an Apple Watch app) all point to one thing: she understands how to reach her readers where they are.
Her website, Astrology Zone, has been around since the early ages of Internet Explorer, to give you some context. At first, getting her horoscopes online was a huge struggle. She tried to work with companies like Microsoft and Disney, but they told her they weren’t sure “that the internet would even last back then,” let alone whether readers would want to click and read through Miller’s detailed explanations of the zodiac. Later, AOL and Time Warner would work with her.
“Readers will do new technology if they want the end results,” Miller tells Tech Insider. “If you wait, you’re gonna be behind everybody else. I write about the future so I should be the future.”
Beyond just being one of the first astrologers on the internet, Miller was also an early adopter of e-books. She experimented with but ultimately abandoned the idea of a message board because of concerns about trolls.
But Miller swiftly took to Twitter.
She believes the social network “makes you a better writer,” as you can actually interact with your readers. And to her, the readers are her real boss.
There are few (if any) other online astrologers who works as diligently to produce quality and detailed horoscopes. She says she painstakingly takes about seven hours to write just one monthly forecast for each zodiac sign. That’s roughly 84 hours of work each month just for her site’s loyal fans.
These days, about 6 million people visit her site annually. That figure, according to Miller, has stayed the same for a few years. Doesn’t go up, doesn’t go down. She doesn’t have the time to investigate why that might be, as she also writes horoscopes for eight publications, including Elle and Vogue Japan, in addition to what’s on her website, newsletter, and in her personalised books.
Her app, “Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone,” is the only horoscope app that’s available on the Apple Watch. She says it was on the top-selling lists of Apple apps for 11 months in a row. Recently, it was listed around 600th in Lifestyle apps according to App Annie, an analytics service. The app is also available for Android and Samsung users.
In spite of her eagerness to adopt new technology, Miller’s website has had the same design since 1995. She’s promised a redesign since September 2015. But Miller’s eagerness to stay fresh for her readers is often impeded by practical problems (like cost) and problems related to her field (like Mars entering retrograde, which tells her not to go ahead with big projects).
She’s already thinking about the potential for virtual reality once it’s more widely used. Miller is actively trying to come up with a way to bring VR to her readers, though she won’t give specifics.
“Adaptability is more important than intelligence sometimes,” she said.
One of her heroes is Apple, a company she has a lot of respect for thanks to the early help and support they gave her with her website.
She’s adopted one of Steve Jobs’s famous quotes as one of her guiding principles: “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Of course, there are moments when her readers are frustrated with more than her timing. They often get upset at the accuracy of her predictions. That’s just the nature of the beast.
Susan Miller says today is “the jewel of the month”, “a sensational five-star day.” I rarely say this, but perhaps Susan Miller is wrong
— Ana Kinsella (@anakinsella) June 22, 2015
A 1985 experiment from the UC Berkeley Department of Physics tested whether personal astrological charts could accurately predict the personalities of the subjects. Researchers had subjects select their personality traits from a detailed list. Participants then had to guess which natal chart (the astrological chart relating to the planets’ position in the sky when they were born) and corresponding personality traits best matched with their own. Next, researchers had 28 astrologers compare the charts and traits to see if they could select which test subject belonged to which chart.
The results? “[A]strology failed to perform at a level better than chance.”
A more recent study from 2006 similarly discovered that “[i]n no cases did date of birth relate to individual differences in personality or general intelligence.”
So, what could keep millions of readers returning to Miller each month? Miller’s readers are “extremely well-educated.” She said 44% of her readers earned more than a basic college degree.
“When a problem has enormous levels of complexity and choice,” people might turn to horoscopes for what they are: “a rich source of irrational advice,” wrote research scientist Jofish Kaye, Ph.D., in an essay.
Whether you believe in it or not, astrology is a big influence in many people’s lives. Some turn to it for a laugh or for reassurance about problems they might be facing. It can be a moment of comfort even for people who know that it might not add up intellectually.
Miller knows this.
“I’m really a philosopher who uses astrology to get at life’s meaning,” says Miller. She’s trying to reach her readers where they are with what they want to hear, between her site’s archaic yet familiar style and her app’s shiny newness.
If readers are her real boss, she, eventually, wins Employee of Month on a regular basis.