In an effort to reach new viewers, “CBS This Morning,” the morning show hosted by the trio of Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell, has added New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly as a contributor.
It may seem counter-intuitive at first blush — a TV network with multimedia storytelling tools at its fingertips turning to one of print’s oldest occupations for growth — but according to the show’s executive producer Ryan Kadro, the hire is a way to “differentiate” the show’s coverage on TV and via social media.
“It brings a visual component to stories that doesn’t exist in our space,” Kadro said. “We look at the social platforms as an extension of our brand. When we put Liza on television it’s to make people aware that we have this happening on our other platforms, to go and check out our Instagram and social feeds.”
Donnelly — who also will continue to contribute to The New Yorker — was first introduced to the gang at “CBS This Morning” during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer. The cartoonist, who was on assignment for The New Yorker, appeared on the show to publicize her illustrations of the convention. While in the greenroom, she made a quick sketch of guest Carole King, who would perform on the last night of the convention. Her ability to quickly depict a scene by sketching on an iPad drew the attention of the three hosts and crew.
What followed were a few collaborations with CBS, including a series of sketches of the anchors and crew at work during the DNC, and other behind-the-scenes moments.
“We’ve had a number of requests from people to draw them,” Kadro said, noting that the team is thinking of bringing in a printer so guests can have their own hard-copy sketches.
“She’s incredibly popular when she’s here,” offered Kevin Prince, the show’s social media producer, who said now that Donnelly is on board, they will have her document other “big events,” such as the Grammys or the Halloween Parade in New York. It’s a way for CBS to differentiate its coverage, the producers noted.
But the hire is also part of a larger strategy for the morning show, namely to expand its reach across platforms. Sound familiar? Kadro pointed to the launch of the show’s daily podcast last week and the use of Facebook Live for interviews as a way to draw more attention to the “brand.” The producer’s use of the word “brand” and not “show” belies a larger goal, which is to reach new audiences.
Kadro admitted that it’s hard to say if social media can drive eyeballs to watch the TV show, but a robust social media strategy helps “create awareness.”
“When the show relaunched in 2012, there wasn’t really a built-in audience,” he said. “All of these little initiatives are about trying to connect to other audiences…and bring them in.”
While “CBS This Morning” has delivered year-over-year audience growth for 48 consecutive months, it still trails leader ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today” show. For the week of of Sept. 26, ABC reeled in 4.42 million total viewers, as NBC nabbed 4.37 million and CBS grabbed 3.6 million. For the important 25- to 54-year-old age group, NBC drew 1.8 million, ABC had 1.5 million and CBS grabbed 1.1 million.