Leave Your Station

Every now and then I hear some version of “You can’t cover your market unless you get out in it.” My first radio program manager said, “Buy a house, look like you live here.” A TV news consultant once said, “The twenty-something producers here have no idea about the lives of their viewers. They have no kids and sit in this building all day.”

I’ve (half) joked before that the weather needs to be moved over to the promotions department. We only get three minutes of a 30 minute newscast. Our job, even while some research shows weather has fallen dramatically as the reason people watch, is to bring viewers into the tent so they can sample the rest of the wares.

Go find some people doing something and put them on TV. Live shots are good but consider the benefit of pre-production. This gives them the chance to tell the rest of their Tribe, “We’re going to be on TV!”

Every time I do a speech I pull out my phone and have the group shout, “Hello, Texoma!” I tell them specifically when they will be on TV. From there it is up to the news people to get them to stick around.

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The Death of Design

I’m certain I’ll get called on the carpet for this but here it goes anyway.

This is a television weather app. The thing that pushed me over the edge to write about it is because two days after this redesign was released I was accosted by an agitated viewer. She hates it. Sadly I agree.

Starting from the top (keeping in mind this is viewed on a phone. The logo…can’t read it. Messy. I’ve seen larger versions and the background picture is an angry shelf cloud rolling over a wheat field. When you invite someone to your home do you open the door and growl at them? Make them feel threatened and uncomfortable? Guessing not.

Moving down. There is literally no usable information on this screen. None.

The Interactive Radar is a static image, that is not current. Yes, radar is important. Does it lead the weather story every day? No.

Current Con… Again static shot, does not change. Not representative of the actual current con… as it was clear at the time of the frame grab.

Live Stream. Only during newscasts. I’d really just like to know the temperature at 10:04 AM. Does this mean I need to wait until the noon news?

Wait, there is the temperature at the bottom…well, half of it. It is covered by the ad for…what is that ad for?

Jakob Nielsen is one of the top usability researchers in the country. He tells us that the ads out there now are actually designed with a signal for us to not pay attention. How do you fix that? There is a little trick. Make the ad look like it belongs in the app. Not flashing pink which actually tells the user it is an ad.

There is a trend here. I’ve done a tiny bit of research on the companies responsible for this that caused a viewer to come after me. The goal of any company is to make money and you do that by playing to the client that is going to pay you. We’re in a little different arena. The B2B companies are marketing to the television stations not the end user. Their pitch focuses on the needs of the television station and not the person waking up and checking their phone first thing, or standing in line wondering how hot it is, or wondering if that approaching dark cloud is really growling at them like the logo.

Go read this book. It promotes a culture. One that is focused on the end user, not the middleman.

We also need a shift from the traditional television consulting model. I’ve yet to find one operational television meteorologist in a consulting roll. The traditional firms have not been in our foxhole. Another example of looking (or not looking) to the needs of the end user.

Go search WeatherBrains for episodes with Laura Myers, Kim Klockow and Gina Eosco. These social scientists are embedding themselves in the culture of weather…not television.

We’ve discussed the Yahoo weather app before. After their redesign a few years ago they saw a 150% increase in traffic in six months.

I’m off to work. Sure hope none of the viewers I will see on the way have updated the app yet.

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Hype is…

Congratulations to WSFO Norman for a very successful Integrated Warning Team (IWT) meeting last week. IWT meetings are happening at more and more Weather Service Offices and are a great opportunity for media, NWS and EMA folks to gather, get to know each other a bit and learn and share information.

Dr. Laura Myers was one of the quest speakers. Dr. Myers is on the leading edge of weather communication for our industry. Several pearls of wisdom are on my Twitter feed and under the #ouniwt hashtag.

Because Oklahoma City is in the Norman CWA the topic of severe weather hype came up more than once. During a panel discussion with broadcast media members, moderated by Gina Eosco, several of the attendees attempted to identify what types of behaviors qualified as hype. Very difficult to define, often just a personal feeling of “I know it when I see it.”

Dr. Myers offered a fantastic definition, “Are you creating awarness? Or are you creating anxiety?”  Brilliant.

Write it down. Post it in the office. Have it stitched on a throw pillow and sleep on it. Run this definition through your personal filter continuously during each event. You’ll know.

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A Noisy Haircut

I get my hair cut about once a month. A week or more before the appointment I start getting reminders. An email, a text, a phone call, an automated phone call. I get it. They don’t want me to forget, and, for that business, it is the most important thing in that moment.

We’re all marketers now. Not just us…everyone. Everyone needs you to hear their message. Yes, I know you are providing life-saving information. “People need to know this!”

Doc Searls wrote The Intention Econony. In it he describes “push” vs. “pull”. Push describes information that is forced upon you. Junk mail, telemarketer calls, automated sunset time tweets. Pull is something you request. I argue that “pull users” are much more valuable.

“But this is life-saving infor….”, I get it. But what happens when EVERYONE is pushing? It becomes noise, and in our case, I think the social science people are telling us it creates anxiety.

Go read this. Very short but very important, especially the 5th paragraph.

I’m already nervous and on edge. The phone just rang and my haircut doesn’t happen for two more days.

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There Is No Normal

I got an email from TheSocReports this morning. Now, this is not a take-down of the service. Do you homework and decide on your own. (Full-disclosure, TheSocReports was an advertiser on WeatherBrains. I have received no money from TheSocReports, or WeatherBrains for that matter.)

Here is the note:

A few days ago, we got more snow than normal in Chicago.

Not that snow in March is ever a huge surprise, but I happened to be expecting a rare visit from my nephew (who was driving from Alabama), and I got up that morning, anxious to see the latest forecast.

So I flipped on the TV to find the Weather Channel.

I went up and down the cable and tried to find it – couldn’t. Called my husband, he couldn’t. At the moment, I was really wanting one of those ‘Siri like’ remote controls.

But in the process of trying to find the road conditions between here and Kentucky, I discovered something really interesting.

One of those info-tainment shows called “Cindy Crawford’s Skin Secrets” was playing on not one – but at least five (maybe more) channels on the cable SIMULTANEOUSLY. (She sells this supermodel serum that is supposed to help you look younger.) I have to confess that I paused for awhile to watch.

I finally found TWC after consulting the cable guide as last resort, but the idea of some marketing genius deciding that Cindy Crawford’s beauty products show should run on multiple channels AT ONCE made me think.

It’s a lot like what I’m constantly preaching about social media. You need reps, you need more ‘at bats’ than the other guys to break through the noise.

Yes, the very first step to becoming a force in social media showing up actively. It’s what our clients at TheSocReports know all too well.

If you or someone you coach relies on social media, I encourage you to check out TheSocReports https://www.thesocreports.com/

We collect data on YOUR social media activity to show you how to become the Cindy Crawford of your profession.

It’s frankly not for everyone – but we offer a trial so you can find out.

When you’re ready, go here:


Carol Fowler

“At bats” doesn’t scale on a global platform where anyone and everyone is looking for your attention. I’m just about finished with The Attention MerchantsGo get it and you will be blown away at the history and and evolution of advertising and “attention harvesting”. Author Tim Wu shows that mass attention harvesting ALWAYS leads to a race to the bottom. EVERYONE wants your eyeballs.

More “reps” is going to lead to more useless posts with temperature maps and automated sunset time tweets and you will continue to teach the people who have chosen to give you their valuable attention to ignore you.

Seth Godin writes:

In fact, human behavior tells us that this is a more permanent effect than we realize. Once you overload the user, you train them not to pay attention. More clutter isn’t free. In fact, more clutter is a permanent shift, a desensitization to all the information, not just the last bit.

Every person on social media is now a marketer and they have access to the same platform as you. Facebook is not going to prioritize your post over the online shoe retailer (unless you pay them), and they are not going to prioritize your temperature map because you post it twice an hour instead of once. Facebook has the smartest data scientists in the world, they know when you are spamming.

The value proposition pitched by TheSocReport when I tested the service last year was that hiring managers are going to look at your social activity. Okay, interesting point. But does it bother you that your value is being determined by how frequently you annoy people?

Quality wins. You know that already by seeing your analytics. Yes, I know the picture of your cat does better than the Red Flag Warning graphic, there is some value in the entertainment but weather information is time-sensitive.

Final point, and I think it is an important one. Carol never indicated that she once went to social media looking for information about her nephew.


(The title of this post, There Is No Normal is a hot-button. There is no normal snow in Chicago in March. If it snowed 20 inches in 15 of the 30 year period and 10 inches in the other 15 year the “normal” would be reported at 15 inches, but it never snowed 15 inches!)

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Riding Down The Golden Escalator

Some years ago I read “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. One of the things I remember often from the book is the author’s tale of finally hitting bottom and saying, “when things get to a point where you just can’t stand them anymore, you do something.”

The American Meteorological Society has apparently hit a similar point on “social mediarology” and put out an excellent document of best practices. Authored by very smart people, including Digital Meteorologist contributor, the legendary Nate Johnson, the well thought out piece hits a fatal flaw at the very beginning of the guidelines, through no fault of its own.


Thanks to the Facebook News Feed algorithm posts are “leaked” out to users over a period of minutes, hours and days and our data is the definition of time-sensitive.

At the dawn of cable TV would stations have accepted terms that said the cable system would only distribute newscasts to 2-3% of subscribers (the percentage of page followers Facebook allows to see your post)? If weathercasts, with time-sensitive information we uploaded through a satellite provider only 6-12 hours after a broadcast, would that be a public service?

Facebook recently hired former broadcast journalist Campbell Brown to be Head of News Partnerships. Ms. Brown is excited to, “be working directly with our partners to help them understand how Facebook can expand the reach of their journalism.” Time will tell if Facebook will be “listening” or “telling”. Odds are they will be telling us how we can fit into their restrictive model. They haven’t listened so far, I’ve asked.

The parallels to politics are stunning. For all the varied reasons Donald Trump won the White House the base reason is that enough people had decided they just couldn’t stand the current system anymore. Former president Barak Obama said one of his greatest regrets looking back on eight years in the White House was that the partisan deadlock might have only gotten worse. Time will tell but it would sure be nice if he had actually gotten to the point where he couldn’t stand it anymore.

Go read the AMS document, it is worthwhile. Then consider the time-sensitive information you post on social media.

I’m mulling over a ride down the golden escalator with an announcement.


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Cold Tacos


My family ate lunch at Taco Casa on Thursday. Truth be told, this sign thermometer has a history of trouble with temperature extremes, but it is always good for a laugh on TV and social media.

An important reminder happened this time around. I posted this on Facebook as we had lunch on Thursday. Many likes and comments followed through the day and into the next. On Friday at lunch I was in a committee meeting for a local event. One of the committee members came to me, laughing heartily, and said, “Your picture of the Taco Casa from this morning was so funny!” Note the words “this morning”.

The reminder is that Facebook leaks your time sensitive weather information to friends and followers over a number of hours and days after the post. Plenty of time for those 491 degree tacos to become pretty cold.

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