Sunday Morning With Charles Osgood

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.

7 comments about "Sunday Morning With Charles Osgood".
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  1. Kam (Dr.YKK) Yew from Mindbloom Consulting, February 8, 2014 at 10:15 p.m.

    Innovation is the ability to stand out from the trend. That's what Charles Osgood does best.

    In a world of 6 secs sound bytes, his show which lasts about 90 minutes proves that it is not the length of time but the level of engagement with the audience that matters.

    If you have a good story to tell, people will stay up to listen.

    Chief Mind Unzipper

  2. Gregg Deselms from The DesElms Consultancy, February 9, 2014 at 5:03 a.m.

    Because my comment about this article exceeds the 3,000-character limit of these comments, here, I've posted it as a "note" on my Facebook page.

    SEE |

  3. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., February 9, 2014 at 11:04 a.m.

    Mr. DesElms: Wow, quite a post. A couple of quick reactions. First, apologies for the character limit on MediaPost’s comments field, but thank you for finding a workaround (note to other readers, you should check out his Facebook note -- all 8,000 characters of it). Secondly, I agree with everything you said, but want to share personal anecdote related to one thing you said, because I think it sums the whole thing up. (Here’s the part I’m referring to: “Our Sunday morning routine, now, includes my being up at 5:40 AM to make coffee (why I don't just use the timer in the coffee maker, I do not know... other than, perhaps, I think I just like the task to get my bones up and moving around, and my brain awake and ready…”) Here’s my personal anecdote: I love making coffee in the morning for the same reason, and some years ago, I found myself starting what looked to be an especially hectic, fast-paced day by filling my kettle with water (I use the oldschool drip method for brewing java), and was doing everything I could to speed the flow of water from the tap into it. I had the water turned up full, but was trying to add manual pressure to the cold water valve to speed it up, as if I could somehow turn it to “11” by forcing it physically. It was at that moment that I had a personal revelation: That making coffee was one of the most important parts of my day, and was NOT something to be rushed through. It was one of those moments (like watching “CBS Sunday Morning”) that should be savored as a moment in time that is important to us. It is those moments, I believe, that give time meaning. And I believe it is the way we think about time that gives everything else we do meaning. So I relaxed my grip on the cold water valve, let gravitational forces do their job, spent the time it took for the water to come to a boil to savor the anticipation of it hitting the coffee grinds, releasing the aromatics that waft in the steam that rises from the filter. I bent over that filter and inhaled the aroma as if smelling coffee for the first time. And I have done it that way every day since. There clearly are some things that are meant to be rushed through in our lives. But there are also things meant to savored and allow their time to run its course. I believe the difference between them is what defines our lives. The lives we spend consuming media, drinking coffee, or responding to comments on a post. (This comment = 2,457 characters.)

  4. Charley Brough from Self Employed, February 10, 2014 at 8:10 p.m.

    While I still think this is one of the better programs on network television, there has been one trend that appears to be raising its ugly head more frequently and that is the repeat of stories. As a usual weekly viewer of CBS Sunday Morning, I enjoy most of the show and often learn things I didn't know.

    However, what I don't enjoy is the increasing habit of repeating stories from the same newscast from two or three months earlier to the more recent phenomenon of repeating stories from the CBS Evening News. It was especially bad during the summertime when I guess much of their staff was on vacation but there were several weeks where three or four of the stories were repeats from earlier CBS Sunday Morning telecasts.

    While I understand the need to occasionally air a repeat, putting that many repeats in the same newscast was disappointing to say the least. I don't think viewers would settle for CBS to repeat stories during their weekday newscast (maybe they do and I just haven't noticed), therefore we should expect no less on CBS Sunday Morning.

    Maybe a complaint to Jeff Fager and Rand Morrison is in order.

  5. Gregg Deselms from The DesElms Consultancy, February 11, 2014 at 7:34 p.m.

    JOE MANDESE WROTE: ...apologies for the character limit on MediaPost’s comments field, but thank you for finding a workaround (note to other readers, you should check out his Facebook note -- all 8,000 characters of it).
    MY RESPONSE: Actually, with Facebook "notes," the limit is something like 60,000 characters... which I think is what it is, now, too, with original (as in on one's own timeline) postings. It is the comments beneath postings that are limited to 8,000 characters. In the case of my actual comment, though, yes: it was, in fact, 8,632 characters long (1,483 words)... and I'm proud of every last one of 'em! (I unashamedly and unabashedly struggle, not, with brevity.) [grin]
    NOTE: I'm using the "pipe" symbol (|), three of them, in fact, to separate parts or paragraphis of this posting because from your posting to which I'm now responding, it appears, from the paragraphless block of text, that this text field, in addition to being limited to 3,000 characters, doesn't respect carriage-returns/line-feeds... yet another thing, if true, that your webmaster needs to fix. If true, then my triple pipes will help to paragraph; and if not, then they'll just look stupid... which, of course, could be fixed if there could be edits... yet a third thing for your webmaster to contemplate. (Hint:
    To your anecdote: Oh, my... it almost brought tears to my eyes. I love the message of it, and the beauty with which you presented it. Thank you!
    I can only add that I appreciate every last bit of what you described; PLUS -- and I can't explain why I like this -- I love how my particular coffee maker (not qute, but nearly the same as this one | ) gurgles if I open the top with the cofeemaker while still on after the coffee's done, as it burns-off the last of the water in the feed tank (during which I dump the grounds). I then turn off the coffee maker because I don't like how keeping it turned on tends to evaporate just enough water from the coffee that it gets too strong. So I just nuke subsequently cooled-off cups from the pot; but, hey... that's just me.
    To your hurrying-up the water thing: Ha! That makes me think of how I have drilled-out the little plastic water restrictor thingies inside all my faucets -- and especially the shower heads (see episode 16 of the 7th season of Seinfeld | ) -- so that more than the now-national-standard 2.5 gallons per minute will flow through them; which, of course, makes me counter to every water-rationing California thing, but I don't care. I conserve in every way I can, including turning-off the shower while lathering, but I will bygod have my water pressure! [grin]
    Thanks, so much, Mr. Mandese for your wonderful follow-up posting... and for all your good work!
    Gregg L. DesElms | Napa, California USA | gregg at greggdeselms dot com
    (This posting: 2,920 characters)

  6. Gregg Deselms from The DesElms Consultancy, February 11, 2014 at 7:38 p.m.

    IN RESPONSE TO "Prasant Roy from FlowersBangalore": Your post is spam.
    And so, webmaster, here, there's yet a fourth reason for this website to consider using Disqus for comments instead of this awful system: users can flag/mark spam such as that of "Prasant Roy from FlowersBangalore," here.
    Gregg L. DesElms | Napa, California USA | gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  7. Gregg Deselms from The DesElms Consultancy, February 11, 2014 at 7:48 p.m.

    TO "Charley Brough from Meridian Chiles": Yes! Indeed, the repeat problem is worsening. CBS Sunday Morning used to only repeat during the summer off-season; and even then only some of the stories... only a small minority of them. CBS 60 minutes, later that night, would tend to only repeat, even during the summer, one -- at the most, two -- of its typically three-in-the-hour stories. ||| Neither show, ever, would repeat, though, an entire show from any past day. Even now, even if they repeat nearly everything used in any given day's show, it's all cherry-picked from different past shows; and so if one must endure repeats, at least they're all mixed-up. ||| However, your points are well-taken. It's vexing, to say the least. ||| Gregg L. DesElms | Napa, California USA | gregg at greggdeselms dot com

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