The three major network morning news shows—Today, Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning—are all stepping up their digital game, but their strategies differ. While all the shows post their top headlines each morning, they seem to favor different ways of promoting online content versus television content, and vice versa, to varying levels of success.
NBC’s Today leads the TV ratings and is arguably the most forward thinking in the digital realm, yet it’s also the program that seems to mention its digital presence the least on air each morning. Today’s website offers plenty of content in a modern format (as well as multiple themed blogs), and has the only site that features a share button (Facebook) on each story from the homepage. Today also leads the way on Facebook with over 830,000 likes and is the only program of the three that’s using the new Facebook Timeline format.
Today is also active on Twitter, with over 1 million followers, but posts less frequently than the other two and also seems to value Google+ the least, with less frequent updates still and by far the lowest engagement of the three shows on G+. However, Today is also the only show with an active Tumblr account (GMA has a blank Tumblr page that doesn’t appear to be active). And Today seems to have a knack for Tumblr and internet memes as well, adding more than just self-promotion, with reblogged posts from trend-setting blogs like The Daily What, posts about “food porn,” and, most webby of all, cats in ties:
Good Morning America
ABC’s Good Morning America is second in the ratings, but focuses heavily on social media during the actual program—especially Twitter, which may account for GMA topping Today in Twitter followers, with 1.7 million followers. In addition to often incorporating Twitter feuds into the daily news (see today’s episode regarding the Twitter activity of the Growing Pains cast), GMA also features a regular feature called “Pop News Heat Index,” which mirrors E! News stories and usually references a few celebrity tweets. GMA also regularly features anchor Twitter handles both on its website and during the program.
GMA is active on Facebook as well, with 558,000-plus likes and updates every couple of hours, though interaction with followers does not seem to be as high a priority as it is for the other two programs. Interestingly, GMA is the only program of the three that has a major presence on Google+, with over 227,000 following GMA’s posts. GMA also tends to use its Google+ page to post about non-headline content.
CBS This Morning
CBS This Morning pulls up the rear in ratings and online presence, though it is active nonetheless. CBS This Morning seems to be the most up for being playful with digital, though its low numbers in followers (12,800 Facebook likes, 35,600 Twitter followers, 56,000 G+ followers) don’t exactly speak to any huge digital success strategy as of yet. But CBS This Morning is probably the most interactive with followers on Twitter of the three, is the most active on G+, and often posts behind-the-scenes pictures of show guests to keep things interesting.
The low numbers may be due to the show’s television ratings, but its homepage doesn’t help much either. Not only is there limited content viewable without scrolling down and no share buttons available on the homepage stories, but CBS This Morning anchor Twitter handles are oddly promoted above the actual CBS This Morning feed, which could easily lead to confusion on which feed to follow should a user not want to follow all the feeds available. GMA also promotes its team’s Twitter handles, but does so secondary to its main feed, which is always promoted foremost both digitally and on the program itself. If CBS This Morning could get a bit more organization in place digitally, it may see a big difference in the long run.
It’s all about knowing your audience and finding a good balance. Today seems to have the right idea, letting the internet be the internet and keeping the morning news more traditional, and its digital engagement appears to prove that these clear definitions work for its demographics—for the moment, at least.
Good Morning America has a young and energetic feel and is winning the Twitter war in follower numbers, and its constant promotion of the Twitterverse on air may be contributing to its year-over-year growth in ratings—up 6% overall and 16% in viewers aged 25-54 as of late February according to TVNewser (Today’s numbers in the same categories are +3% for both, and CBS This Morning is +2% overall and -5% in the demographic).
Today rewards its online audience with interesting feeds, a great Tumblr site, and maintains a huge Facebook following while staying on top of web trends more readily than the other three programs, but it doesn’t promote its online presence much on air. With a bit more on air promotion, Today may see the kind of growth GMA is currently experiencing.
CBS This Morning, unfortunately, hasn’t gotten it all down yet, and its somewhat scattered digital presence mirrors its spot in the ratings. But hey, the show actively tries to engage with its base digitally and you can’t discredit that—A for effort, CBS.
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