The Sleeping Giant

There has been a lot of talk lately about social media and the National Weather Service, including a recent episode of WeatherBrains.  A lot of people are screaming “hurry up…get on Facebook, post on Twitter…what is taking so long?”

Be careful what you wish for.

Meteorologists for local media companies have a huge advantage over most other weather information sources.  We are local.  AccuWeather is in State College, The Weather Channel is in Atlanta.  I can beat their partly cloudy icons and high temperature forecast all day long.  Local flavor and local color wins.  If someone in my market is getting a forecast from a computer in another state that is my fault, not the user.  I know the local feel, the landmarks, the terrain.  We have boots on the ground, those national guys don’t.

Or do they?

Last time I checked, the staff at my WSFO was a lot bigger than any of the local stations, and they live here too.  Take a look at weather.gov.  See any ads?  Any other content or distractions other than weather?

Users want what they want, fast and easy.  Sure, the US government is slow, but what happens when it finally catches up?  #NWS could be a pretty powerful hashtag.

Poke the bear if you want.  Just make sure you are ready to run when he wakes up.

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About Kevin Selle

Chief Meteorologist, KFDX-TV. Co-host, WeatherBrains.
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11 Responses to The Sleeping Giant

  1. Daniel says:

    Have you heard about the people at Foot’s Forecast (www.footsforecast.org or just search them on Facebook)?

    They believe in local people forecasting for the region they know, not someone in DC forecasting for San Diego.

  2. Kevin Selle says:

    Local is it! Thanks, Daniel.

  3. RDale says:

    I didn’t pay much attention when you said it during the show, but when I listened later on it hit me… During severe weather days I would update a 2-4 paragraph “weather story” and mention taboo words for TV (CAPE, helicity, etc) and explain their role in the sevwx process. Same with forcing and instability in winter weather. That page would ALWAYS see hit counts 50-100x more than any other page on our website, shattering even our breaking news numbers.

    What happens when the NWS does a “weather story” updated every hour during severe weather? Or sending a tweet every 5 minutes with the location of the strongest storms? Or sending out thoughts on what the next 30 minutes will have weatherwise? Do many TV stations have the manpower to make sure someone is posting new blogs and tweeting during sevwx preps/ops? Not mine…

    I think getting warnings on twitter is one thing. But asking for the NWS to send out real-time radar interpretation, mesoanalysis information and short-term outlooks on Facebook would SERIOUSLY hurt most TV station websites. Viewers will always tune you in over NOAA Weather Radio. But why bother if they can get the same info updated every minute in via Tweetdeck on their iPhone? Especially the younger generation, which doesn’t watch TV in the first place… What will your website have to offer that the local NWS office won’t?

    Ads and clutter.

    I don’t think they’ll be missed…

  4. Kevin Selle says:

    All I can say is…bingo.

  5. jsamenow says:

    This will raise new and interesting questions about the role of NWS versus the private sector. Some of these went away due to the AccuWeather/Santorum backlash but they could re-emerge.

  6. RDale says:

    I don’t see how sending a tweet would be violating private/public boundaries… They aren’t providing a site-specific forecast for a customer, or doing something that the private sector already does (I don’t see any forecast company sending out localized social media info on a national basis?)

  7. Kevin Selle says:

    Jay Trobec mentioned that NWS was not supposed to “compete” with private weather services. It seems hard to imagine anyone getting traction with a competition angle when NWS is carrying out its mandate by providing information.

    This is a big deal. Many users are getting tired of the old model for many reasons. At the end of the day, content wins. NPR has production value, but no “flash”. Last time I checked, NPR was the only radio network gaining audience.

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