Wondering if we’ve taught people to forget?

Feels like I’ve been repeating myself more lately. Someone will ask me a question about the forecast that was just answered. Could be me I supposed.

Yesterday we voted early, and very early in the day. The poll worker asked how long the rain would last. I paused for a moment. Certainly he would have checked the forecast before he started his day? He might have just been making conversation.

Back in the day you had to remember the forecast that you heard. The news wasn’t on at 2:00pm, and the daily newspaper had long since ended up on the bottom of the bird cage. There was more work involved.

The information is now available at the tap of a button. You see it on a screen, but does it sink in? Interesting question about human learning. And how do we answer?

Think about it while you’re in line to vote!

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It Just Got Personal

In our previous post we talked about some of the weather features in the iOS 14 preview from Apple. The new operating system dropped this week along with a new Apple Watch and Tim Cook went from a shot across our bow to a direct hit.

Less than three minutes into this week’s event video, and the first of several use cases for the Apple Watch, Tim said, “Before I go out in the morning I check the weather.”

We know of course that the native weather app on the iPhone can’t do nearly what we can do to provide weather information. Of course…..they did recently buy Dark Sky. Hmmm…

During the 10 years of this blog we’ve talked about how change often doesn’t come in big moments, but evolves in little bits and pieces over time. Feels like those pieces are getting bigger and more disruptive.

I used to think it was obvious that we would evolve in the right direction and take advantage of our unique position in the world. We’re humans (as opposed to model guidance and computers) and I thought we’d take our hyper-local focus and maximize that advantage to our users on our own platforms, and not the increasing cesspool that is social media. But we didn’t. I also used to think we had time to right the ship. Not so certain now. Back in June Craig Federighi, Apple software chief, mused about what a better weather app looks like on the MKBHD podcast.

With two guys who sit on top of the most valuable company in the world staring directly at us if feels like winning might be off the table. Partners?

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Push Pull And The Apple In Between

We’ve talked before about push vs. pull. In short, when everyone can push things at you, everyone does. Too much noise. Your messages gets lost, tuned out, or worse, turned off. Messages that are pulled are more valuable because the user asked for it.

At WWDC 2020 this week Apple gave us a leg up on figuring out the space in between push and pull. Widgets on the home screen are coming to iOS 14. Watch the Keynote here.

In the attention economy the way to, well…..attention, is through habit. Back in the dark ages when I was on the radio there was a saying, “As goes the morning, so goes the day.” If your morning show was successful, when the clock radio went off (yes, that long ago), you were more likely to build a listener habit during the day. You pick up your phone first thing in the morning, right?

Even the giant phones are limited on their screen real estate. iOS 14 is making an effort to pack as much as possible on the home screen without overwhelming, and, giving the user some customization options. Wouldn’t it be nice to be there?

We all know we can beat the automated apps on information, personality and engagement, but, the automated guys are coming for us. There are signs of Dark Sky coming in iOS 14 too.

This is a tremendous opportunity. Hopefully we’ll use it for more than regional temperatures maps too small to be read on a phone, static radar images that don’t say, “Heading for me,” and automated posts that tell users the sun has set.

BTW…..the sun is setting.

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Straight-line winds and a tornado blew through Bowie, TX the other day. Always try and visit the site of storm damage. It’s not the same as seeing it on TV.

The perspective is different…and much more powerful.

Talk to the people.

Mr. Verner, who lives right across the street from that power pole, was mad at the sirens. Said they were too loud, he wanted to “hear the weather.”

The perspective is different…and much more powerful.

You’ll hear what people did during the storm. Ask what triggered them to take action. Ms. Tipton will tell you she was watching you on TV. That is pretty powerful.

And you’ll see how communities rally. Different perspective…and much more powerful.

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Jobs To Be Done

Clayton Christensen wrote, The Innovator’s Dilemma, in 1997. The basic premise is that large established organizations have trouble dealing with disruptive change. It doesn’t mention weather or broadcasting at all but when I read it, as we began the transition to digital, I kept wondering, “Where was this guy hiding, and spying on us, while writing this book?”

Christensen died last week. You can read a really good profile of the man and his theories here.

Photo: The New Yorker

There have been a few benchmarks for me in weather communication. Most of them centered around putting yourself in the end users position. One of the benchmarks was Christensen’s idea of “Jobs To Be Done”. The basic idea is that we all “hire” some product or service to solve a problem for us. I hired that donut to give me a sugar rush and solve the problem of an empty feeling stomach.¬† I hired my lawn mower to help me cut the grass. My first lawn mower was a failure because it didn’t solve my problem. It did cut the grass but it wasn’t really designed with Texas bermuda grass in mind and the results looked sloppy. The designers of the donut succeeded because the problem was solved. The designers of the lawn mower failed because their design did not meet my need.

Years ago a consultant asked the weather staff, “What do they want from you?” We all puffed up ad gave answers like accuracy, dependability and trust. All of those were true but the real answer was, “They want you to protect them.” Wow. That answer expands beyond severe or inclement weather to be, “They want you to look out for them,” to grease the skids of their day.

With each product you produce you can ask yourself, “I’m the end user. Is this helping? Is it useful, or does it serve my hiring need of getting me in front of their eyeballs. Was it an effective solution such that they would want to hire me again? Or does the grass look sloppy?”

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Siri Is After Us

Drove from Wichita Falls to Fort Worth this morning to pick up some new suits. On the way down I asked Siri the temperature a couple times and she dutifully replied, and of course figured out where I was and looked for the closest temperature to my location. I ask Siri for the temperature pretty often. I always get a reply in the same general format…just the facts.

On the way home, just passed Decatur, TX, about an hour from Wichita Falls, I asked the temperature again.

Me: What is the current temperature in Wichita Falls, Texas?

Siri: The current temperature is about 98 degrees. (slight pause) My data comes from The Weather Channel.

We’ve known for a long time that Apple uses The Weather Channel. We talked here about some new branding not long ago.

Wonder if I could have Siri know my name and forecast?

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Trolling From Inside A Can Of Pringles

I’m still reading This is Marketing from Seth Godin from the previous post. Reading Seth’s work is usually helpful to me when I insert “weather” for whatever other product he might be talking about.

A few weeks ago a story from my market went somewhat viral. A woman had been banned from the parking lot of a local Walmart for driving around in a motorized cart while drinking wine from a Pringles can.

The ridiculousness of the story was obviously of interest. Local media reported it. Word spread, and outlets across the country reported the oddity and there was a level of uncomplimentary comment on social media, all in fun…of course.

Locally some people began to talk about capitalizing on the event, even calling for a citywide wine and Pringles festival to draw attention and visitors to the town. That idea was certainly doomed to fail because the origin story would eventually be scrutinized. The woman drinking from the Pringles can was, thankfully, never identified. Had she been we certainly would have learned of some trauma or mental illness that led her to that situation. Eventually the festival, or whatever celebration of the sad story, would have been called out for making fun of the victim.

Seth writes about the work of Roland Imhoff, who studied conspiracy theorists. In short, Imhoff’s work suggests that conspiracy theorists often times don’t believe the theories they espouse.

Now, I’m jumping around, stay with me. I think I can bring it all together.

I detect a rise in pushback against online trolls. Meteorologists going on TV or online and responding to trolls who complain about an interrupted TV show or a busted forecast… all in fun of course, or sometimes in anger. That kind of noise has always existed but has gotten louder thanks to the the ease provided by social media. The trouble I see is the de-evolution of our responses.

Standards often do not go out in a blaze of glory. They erode slowly over time, sometimes imperceptibly. Twenty years ago would that angry letter about the missed show have been read on the air? Probably not, but it surely would not have been made fun of.

Social media, for all the good things it can do, is weakening our standards of communication and decency.

Trolls are seeking attention. Don’t give it to them, particularly in the name of entertainment. Their actions may be feeding “a deep-seated need for uniqueness,” or they might have a problem that has them on the edge of opening a bottle of wine and a can of Pringles.

Be nice.

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A Quarter Inch Drill Bit

I’ve started reading This Is Marketing by Seth Godin. Much of Seth’s work in grounded in “the story you tell”. We’ve talked about “What do they want from you?”

I wanted to share this great excerpt from Seth’s book:

Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt famously said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

The lesson is that the drill bit is merely a feature, a means to an end, but what people truly want is the hole it makes.

But that doesn’t go nearly far enough. No one wants a hole.

What people want is the shelf that will go on the wall once they drill the hole.

Actually, what they want is how they’ll feel once they see how uncluttered everything is, when they put their stuff on the shelf that went on the wall now that there’s a quarter-inch hole.

But wait…

They also want the satisfaction of knowing they did it themselves.

Or perhaps the increase in status they’ll get when their spouse admires the the work.

Or the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the bedroom isn’t a mess, and that it feels safe and clean.

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want to feel safe and respected.”

Many times I’ve told the story of the consultant who asked the weather staff,
What do they want from you?” The weather staff gave good answers like: accuracy, credibility, the extended forecast. The real answer was, “They want you to protect them.”


Clayton Christensen asks, “What are they hiring you for?”

I expanded the consultant’s answer to, “They want you to look out for them. To help them grease the skids of their day.” To show up, on our own trustworthy, useful platforms…..with a quarter-inch drill bit.

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The Space In-Between

I’ve been lucky to be included in some interesting meetings and conversations about warnings and advisories lately.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

There is an empty communication space in-between the moment a storm initiates and a warning is issued. And another empty space on the other side when the warning expires and the storm dissipates. Our users still want, and need, to hear from us in those spaces.

During a media workshop at my local NWS forecast office we talked about NWSChat. There was a moment when the legendary and extremely talented NWS folks said they were afraid to put too many of their thoughts in chat during an event for fear of giving us too much information. I said, “I dare you,” and the markets in our region now benefit from more of their content.

Interestingly, we have laid the groundwork to fill the empty space with the rise of social media. Sadly, Zuck is the one benefiting from those eyeballs. We’re so close to getting them back…we just need to do it.

The space in-between exists outside of severe weather too. We need to develop the method. They’re waiting to hear from us on our own platforms

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What Do They Want From You?

Recently a friend said they could tell that the parent company had finally started to cool on social media. The impression was that they had begun to realize the effort and time-in-motion might not have been worth it. When Campbell Brown told publishers in Australia that Mark Zuckerberg didn’t care about their traffic, that should have been a good signal too.

This is a good read with an important lesson. The short version is that when Facebook went down people went looking for news on their own. The two lessons: make is easy for them, and, they had better find something worthwhile when they get there.

Years ago a consultant asked, “What do they want from you?” We gave big important answers: accuracy, credibility, yadda, yadda, yadda. The answer was, “They want you to protect them.” Wow. Think about that…..every day. Expand the definition beyond severe weather and you get, “They want you to look out for them.” That plays on all days. “How does it feel outside.” “What happens over the next couple of hours.” “Help me grease the skids and get through my day.” And don’t waste my time with bad looking current temperature maps not designed for the phone and automated notifications that the sun has set.

We have something that no other weather provider has (with the exception of the National Weather Service). Local boots on the ground that can take care of them, but we’re not providing the user experience that makes them choose us first. I guess that is okay. Maybe Facebook will go down for 45 minutes again sometime next year.


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