In May 2013, WCCO This Morning, the 4:30–7:00 a.m. local news program, was lagging in ratings. It came in last of the four local morning shows at the 6 a.m. hour for the coveted 25- to 54-year-old demographic, and third overall. The next month, reporters/weekend anchors Jason DeRusha and Jamie Yuccas were reassigned to the program, formerly anchored by Mike Binkley and Angela Davis. (Binkley and Davis moved to Sunday evenings.)
“The business side of this is, yeah, Jamie and I together were brought on to say, ‘Let’s go after that demographic, let’s get that audience,’ ” says DeRusha, whose primary focus for the previous five of his 10 years at ’CCO was the popular “Good Question” segment on the 10 p.m. broadcast.
Having relied on viewer suggestions for “Good Question,” DeRusha continued to engage them in his new role as well. “Jason was an early adopter of social media,” says WCCO news director Mike Caputa. “It gives him a very good idea of what people are interested in, and we can translate that into content in the newscast and translate that into viewers.”
The morning anchors integrate social media users into the show using a technology called TV Interact, which pulls Facebook and Twitter posts onto the screen. In its first year, the new crew grew the morning show’s Facebook page from 7,000 to 14,000 fans.
“When you wake up, most people I think are checking their work email and checking their Facebook feed or their Twitter feed,” says DeRusha. “And so we want to be in there. We want to have something from our show that makes people say, ‘Oh, I better turn those guys on.’ ”
The most notable content addition to the program is “4 Things You Need to Know,” a segment at the end of the broadcast that quickly highlights four stories for viewers to talk about that day. The concept was, DeRusha says, “if we’re going to strategically go after growing an audience between 6 and 7, let’s give them something substantial in that time period.”
After DeRusha and Yuccas’ first year on mornings, WCCO’s 6 a.m. ratings for the 25–54 demographic had risen to second place (after KARE), and placed first in that demo at 4:30 and 5 a.m. Overall, WCCO This Morning ranked No. 1 for the 4:30, 5, and 6 a.m. day parts. Correspondingly, advertising sales have increased.
“Everything is up, up, up,” says DeRusha, “which is exciting.”
This article is reprinted in partnership with Twin Cities Business.