It’s Raining Data: How The Weather Channel Forecasts Audience Insights

Before smartphones and high speed internet access made weather forecasts ubiquitous, there was the Weather Channel. Started in 1982, it was the first channel devoted to weather 24 hours a day and the first national network to offer customized local content.

In 1995, it launched http://www.weather.com and just 3 years later they offered their first mobile content on the Palm Pilot (remember those?).

Earlier this year, they surpassed 100 million app downloads and rank #2 all time on the list of free iPad apps, behind Angry Birds of course! As you study this company and their mobile strategy, it’s clear that they are not satisfied offering an app that only a few people download and even less will come back and use.

Instead, as was highlighted recently in the Wall Street Journal, the Weather Channel is generating significant insights from its historical climate data along with location based info. This commitment to big data and the opportunities it represents is part of the reason the company changed its name to the Weather Company last year. More significantly, the company now earns 50% of its ad revenue from digital ads.

A few years ago, the Weather Channel had 500,000 local forecasts worldwide, which have been subdivided into 3,000,000 locations. According to Paul Walsh, Weather Company’s vice president for weather analytics, “The old paradigm of business and weather was cope and avoid. With technology, the paradigm is now anticipate and exploit.”

From Advertising to Advice

The team at the Weather Company has been working with many advertisers, including the craft supply retailer Michaels to determine the best opportunities to advertise. Using conventional wisdom, the company initially believed rainy days were a great time to run ads. However, by looking at multiple data sources, the Weather Channel identified that customers started shopping for craft supplies, when the forecast called for rain 3 days in advance. This insight allowed Michaels to adjust its advertising buys in the markets they serve.

As Walsh says in the WSJ article, “It helps transform something from being an advertisement to being advice.” What a powerful opportunity that is in the best interest of both advertisers and the audience.

Patrick Vogt runs the Weather Company’s international operations. In a recent article in the Guardian, Vogt says, “It’s not about media … it’s about the data, analyzing the data and delivering relevant, engaging content to consumers.”

Radio programmers cannot afford to leave digital insights to the interactive division. DMR/Interactive integrates station data to help clients leverage technology by identifying the audience subsets that matter most and engaging them with unique and compelling content that they in turn can amplify.

As part of Groundswell, our comprehensive 360 degree strategic framework, we incorporate a variety of touch points such as digital printing with variable messaging and images, Text messaging, targeted personal phone calls, digital instant win opportunities and custom Facebook development.

None of these touch points are magic bullets, but when used strategically and in combination with strong programming, they create immediate results that are built to last. In addition, this approach generates audience insights that the sales team can further leverage with your best advertisers.

Groundswell is a powerful approach that helps stations segment and engage those who matter most to drive ratings and revenue.

To learn more about how this can benefit your specific situation, please contact Andrew Curran, COO at DMR/Interactive.

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