Friday, February 3, 2012

Rebranding CBS This Morning

The media world is full of talk about brand repositioning but rarely do we see this play out on such a large canvas we are seeing at CBS. This rebranding is most obvious with CBS This Morning and the experiment with Charlie Rose and Gayle King. But the effort started earlier at CBS Interactive with an attempt to rebrand and harness its diverse content sites under one umbrella, with a muscular white label assist from App Carousel, a Canadian startup that in effect creates "carousels" for branded apps that are typically lost in the mainline app stores. This move makes sense as the future of in-app purchasing looks rosy indeed.

The WSJ has reported that, in a similar vein, CBS Sports is opening up its website to outside developers in an attempt to garner a piece of the $1 billion fantasy sports business. As the Journal notes this is an attempt to emulate efforts by Facebook that has created a breeding ground for products, music and games. The plan would be to offer outside developers tools that can help launch startups, with perhaps Zynga one of the best examples. CBS is looking for other revenue streams in addition to advertising.

In the long run these modest changes might have profound effects on the CBS balance sheet but it is the changes at the morning show that will have much to say about the public face of the corporate soul.  Frankly, I wasn't sure how these two notables would fare in the bubbly early hour where ABC and NBC move like clockwork from breaking news, politics, missing babies and pretty blonde white women missing, the requisite attorney and ex-FBI agent,; then, after a half-a-dozen commercials, the menu, the music, and celebrity segment in no particuular order.

Over the years I've appeared on all these morning shows and, even with some format changes, I recognize the rhythm: be in the green room by 5 am and if your specialty is health and fitness, as mine was, expect to be on in the 8 o'clock hour, unless some disaster trumps. The most significant change in the morning scene has been the addition of celebrity news, with ABC the unabashed leader, along with the integration of social media.

I haven't see any ratings that measure this experiment to date. I would be surprised if there was a significant shift in demographic given the hard news emphasis. Still, I have been pleasantly surprised after watching the show from a media perspecitive on-and-off for a month at the hosts ability to deal with meaty subjects early in the morning in a relaxed manner.

This morning Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Erica Hill discussed with a scientist recent findings about how proteins that become "tangled" in areas of the brain might contribute to Alhzeimer's disease.  The discussion was brisk, congenial, and without the customary slipping into bathos so common on the morning sets. The program returns to the health theme often and this seems a wise editorial decision.

One segment about Garden and Gun magazine caught my fancy because Jeff Glor, the reporter, seemed to capture the essence of the magazine, both as history and business. And he understood that the magazine was about neither gardens nor guns per se; these are metaphors for the Southern soul. Garden and Guns, we learned, is a "gutsy title launched at a gut-wrenching time, just as the great recession hit in 2007." Indeed, I recall the launch news being received somewhat incredulously by the publishing powers that be--or were.

It was great to hear that historical insight and corrective during the 7 o'clock news show, told in an easy, almost-unhurried narrative style, acknowledging that the South has a sense of time, place, and pace. 

If had were alive and awake, William Faulner might have cheered.

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