15 seconds

A week or so ago, I noticed my local NBC station has a curious way of telling its viewers their forecast in 15 seconds or less. All you hear is the station’s music and the announcer saying, “Here’s today’s severe threat tracker.”

On screen, there is the next three days, with level settings; Low, Medium, High. Underneath this “meter” is a short forecast in three or four words or less. No temperature is listed unless there’s an extreme in either direction.

Obviously, a lot more can be done with a television station in that short amount of time than a radio station, which happens to be my domain. But that reminded me of my particular situation.

I have exactly 30 seconds, most of the time, to tell my listeners about the forecast. Typically, I can get through almost 48 hours in that time. Tonight, tomorrow, tomorrow night, the day after. Sometimes I can get an extra day if it’s Sunny all the time.

In 2009, I decided to start recording a 15 second weather forecast for football games. With my open and close messages, I got tonight and tomorrow done in exactly 16 seconds. I never felt satisfied with that, because there was no explanation of anything, just what is going to happen and when. I always got the feeling that “any idiot can grab a forecast and do that.” With the end of football season, that plan was abandoned.

That is, until a month ago when my operations manager asked me what I thought of doing a 15 second forecast instead of 30. Experience wins conversations like this. I told him exactly the situation from times past. He seemed understanding of the matter, and we left it at that.

Since that day I have changed a lot of how I forecast. Yes, there is the on-air side of the table that has thankfully remained unchanged. In the process, though, our station twitter pages get a forecast from me daily, both in twitter form and “visit our website” and give the link form. The website shows a much longer forecast than can be tweeted, or even broadcast, for that matter. I like having the ability to post my forecast to the website. Eventually I’ll get it in blog form and I’ll really be rolling!

The moral of the story, at least for me, is flexibility. If there’s a way to make a twist out of what your boss wants and still make him happy, so be it. If in the process you get your forecast to your listeners in different ways, so be it!

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About Mike Cox

Meteorologist for WHCB 91.5 FM and WPWT 870am/100.7 FM in northeast Tennessee.
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One Response to 15 seconds

  1. Kevin Selle says:

    Great post, Mike. Thanks.
    I think in the old model of TV and radio we spent a lot of time getting “the” one product perfect. One of the lessons from “The Long Tail” and the digital world is there is just about always someone interested in whatever product we create. Some people want “Partly cloudy, 72”, some people want a little more detail, some people want a lot.
    During the good old days the station gathered a large group of people. In order to do that now we need to gather a bunch of smaller groups. You are doing that by putting more products on the website.
    Keep them coming! Spread the word!

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