Last week, our “Cover Story” began with a report that industry experts estimate we currently have only six seconds to engage a consumer with media content. This week, we report on a form of content that runs 90 minutes and is engaging more consumers than ever before -- “CBS Sunday Morning,” hosted by Charles Osgood. At a time when media attention spans seem to be growing increasingly shorter -- from six-second Vine videos to five-second Snapchats to whatever comes next -- Osgood and his team of “Sunday Morning” producers take a decidedly laid-back approach to storytelling that is attracting new viewers and winning higher Nielsen ratings.
Osgood, who is also host of the popular syndicated radio show “The Osgood File,” recently launched a new media venture intended to engage consumers a lot longer than 90 minutes. The venture -- Big Top Press -- publishes books. Its first project, “Follow That Car: A Cabbie’s Guide To Conquering Fears, Achieving Dreams, And Finding A Public Restroom,” will be published in April. It is written by Jimmy Failla, a taxi driver by day and stand-up comic by night,
Osgood, who has written half a dozen books himself, says he simply feels more comfortable working with the printed word than the tweeted one. Although friends and advisers keep telling him to get on the social media bandwagon, he tells us he prefers telling long-form stories, whether they are in print or on broadcast. Speaking of time, Osgood gave us some at the end of last week to discuss what it means to be a weekend medium.
MediaPost Weekend: At one of our conferences recently, an industry expert estimated we now have only six seconds to engage a consumer with media.
Charles Osgood: That’s why we always call them sound bites.
MediaPost: But isn’t your approach the exact opposite of that?
Osgood: It’s true on Sunday morning, because we have an hour-and-a-half, so we have a little more time than most broadcasts. But on radio, we do try to keep the sound bites short, because people are moving around when they’re listening to the radio. A lot of them are in their car, so we don’t have the attention the way we do on Sunday morning.
MediaPost: We launched a weekend edition because we think people reflect on media differently on weekends. We top each edition off with a “cover story,” and that’s where this interview will be featured, because I can’t think of anybody better to talk about “weekend media” than you. So let me ask you -- is there such as thing as a “weekend media experience,” and how is that different than how we experience media at other times?
Osgood: I think so, but I think it’s because most of us work Monday through Friday, so you have that nasty old distraction of having to go to work. But on Sunday morning, people go to church or sleep in. We’re on at 9:00 in the morning, and some people are just starting to stir at 9:00 on a Sunday morning. And we suspect that in many cases, they’re still in their pajamas or their bathrobe, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper. It’s kind of a nice time for them -- a quiet time -- so it’s a perfect time to have a broadcast like ours.
MediaPost: I imagine a lot of your viewers look at it as a special time and a kind of an appointment viewing experience. I mean, how many shows are even 90 minutes long anymore?
Osgood: There used to be discussions about whether we should give that extra half hour or ours to “Face The Nation,” so they could discuss more of the politics going on in Washington. But our ratings have been exceptionally good and getting better, which is unusual on television these days. We have a growing audience who, in some cases, got used to watching it when they were at home with their parents. So we have a new generation of viewers that are coming to us.
MediaPost: That’s fascinating, but not surprising. Do you think it could be because younger people are looking for a counterpoint to the six-second engagement phenomenon?
Osgood: I think that’s true. I mean, think about six seconds? It takes me six seconds just to think about how I’m going to answer that question.
MediaPost: And you’re a trained on-air personality.
Speaking of time, I don’t know if you know how long your average segment is, but I timed some of them last week, and you had a five-minute segment on “Bowlers Journal” magazine, which is a phenomenal amount of network TV programming time to devote to a subject that most people have probably never heard of. Yet it was incredibly poignant. And you devote about a minute at the end of each one of your shows effectively to just a moment of nature -- just sound and video -- with no dialogue.
Osgood: That was woven into the very first show 35 years ago. And it’s marked mostly by the fact that there is such a temptation when you’re showing nature scenes to play music in the background or have narration, but we just want people to watch what is happening, and hear it.
MediaPost: How do you think of time when you produce the show? Do you intentionally produce it as a counterpoint to the rapid way people experience other media in their lives?
Osgood: We don’t make pieces long just for the sake of making them longer. Our producers have a story to tell. They take the time they need to tell it, but in the end, when it’s time to put the show on the air, we usually end up asking them to cut out two-and-a-half-minutes or so.