iWeather: What We Can Learn From Steve Jobs

(Editors Note:  I’m pleased to share a guest post from Shane Smith, Chief Meteorologist at WOAY-TV in Oak Hill, WV.  Shane’s post give me a chance to remind you that of one of my goals in starting this blog was to include everyone.  I’ll be creating an Author profile for Shane so he will be able to post again.  I’d love to create one for you.)

The weather tonight is calm, the forecast on cruise control as an extremely strong ridge has set up shop over the eastern half of the US and my world just was rocked.  I had arrived back at the station from my dinner break when my iPhone buzzed, a breaking news alert from CNN… Steve Jobs had passed away.  The irony of the situation didn’t escape me at all.  Steve Jobs was a modern Da Vinci, Einstein, Michelangelo, etc. We all know how he transformed technology, from the Apple II to the Macintosh, to Pixar, iPod, iPhone, iPad, I don’t have to tell you the impact he has had, instead I challenge you to think about, how can you become the Steve Jobs of meteorology?

The thing that stood out too me about Apple and their products is just how darn easy the things are to use.  It’s not complicated at all.  My father is not the most tech savvy guy in the world by a long shot, but even he was able to figure out how to use my iPad with just a few instructions.  He’s never been able to use a personal computer effectively, but he can use an iPad.  That says a whole lot to me about the quality and the thought that went into that product.  It wasn’t a product catered to tech savvy people who know how to edit registry’s and defrag their machine once a week, it’s built for everybody.  I then ask, what about our weather forecasts on TV… are they catered to everybody, or just those that are weather savvy.

I would be willing to bet that 75% of the meteorologists reading this post use a forecast format similar to this on air:
-Radar
-Temperatures
-Larger Rad/Sat
-Larger Temperatures
-Surface Map/ Models
-Forecast Pages
-7 day Forecast

It may not be exactly like that, but you get the point.  I can tune into any TV station across the country and most of the time that, or something close, is the format of the show.  I’m not saying it’s a bad format, in fact it’s probably become the industry standard for a reason.  My question is how is it serving our viewers?  Hyperlocal was the big buzz word for a while and still is, but how are we going hyperlocal in our forecasts?  Is it helping?  How much event based forecasting do you do a regular basis?  How are you serving your audience?  How are you standing out in an increasingly crowded field?  Does your forecast get lost in the noise?  These are all questions we should ask ourselves as meteorologists.

Some thoughts about Apple and their products we can learn from:
-Keep it simple
-Make it stylish
-Make it functional
-Make it robust
-Everything included has a purpose
-Brand it effectively
-Market it so people want it
-Don’t be afraid to be different

We live in a time where our industry is evolving rapidly, but our product isn’t evolving at the same rate.  We also face stiff competition from other products and other companies.  I encourage everyone reading this to do something different in their weather casts this week.  Find some way to better serve your viewers, on the air, online, and on the go.  I encourage you to find ways to deliver weather information more effectively and to build a better relationship with your viewers.  I know I’ve still got a lot to learn and a lot to do in order to improve the product I put out, how about you?  So what are you going to do to make people think of you as the Steve Jobs of broadcast weather?

About the Author:  Shane Smith is 2008 graduate from Western Kentucky University and is currently the chief meteorologist at WOAY-TV in Oak Hill, WV.  You can contact him at shane.smith.wx@gmail.com and on twitter @wxmanshane

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About Kevin Selle

Chief Meteorologist, KFDX-TV. Co-host, WeatherBrains.
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