“This is what is coming.”

Many moons ago, when I started my broadcast career as a disc jockey, I heard a programmer talk about ratings. It was his practice once a year to travel to Arbitron (the dominant radio ratings company at the time) to look at diaries. He said it was always instructive, and very humbling, to see how people filled out the diaries. The hope was that listeners were dutifully carrying their books with them and accurately reporting every moment they listened, and logging every turn of the dial between stations. What he found was pages filled in with crayon, or even lipstick, and the hope that he would know every moment of their rapt attention to his programming was, of course, unrealistic. It was clear that many ratings participants quickly filled out their diaries at the last minute before the return deadline, then stuffed them in the return envelop to justify taking the two dollars that was included for participating in the survey.

The point is it is always a treat to get to see users in the wild with our products.

This came across my field of view this morning. It is part of a multi-person text thread between a handful of people (not meteorologists) planning their day with freezing rain approaching.

I’ll leave the non-looping radar comments aside since we’ve discussed it before (which way is it heading?). The interesting insight into users in the wild is this was a group making weather decisions amongst themselves. Nowhere in the thread did it say,”(insert meteorologist here) said it was going to…..”

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Life Finds A Way

I couldn’t begin to guess how many times I’ve thought of the the line, “Life finds a way,” from Jeff Goldblum in the original Jurassic Park movie. It is true.

Go read this short article from Motherboard. A bunch of good lines. I’ll wait…

My hope is that Facebook is not as important as everyone thinks, it’s just where people happen to be on the internet right now.

On WeatherBrains last week James Spann asked, “How do we get them to put down their phones and come to the newscast?” He knew the answer before I gave it. We don’t “get them” to do anything.

In Hatching Twitter, Nick Bilton reports that Facebook tried to buy Twitter in the early days. Zuckerberg is quoted as saying, “we need them to…,” because some part of Twitter was deemed helpful at that moment to his goal. It doesn’t matter what he needed us to do. It was artificial. It was in service of his need, not ours.

The Motherboard article is great. It talks about serving its readers. Zuckerberg is certain he can use algorithms and machine learning to guide and control humans. He can’t…..because life finds a way.

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A good post from Seth Godin. A reminder of this one from a few years ago, with another good read for our business.

I bought a CD yesterday.

That didn’t used to be news. I used to buy a CD every week, week after week, year after year. It adds up.

Hi-rez streaming changed that habit for me, but it took about a year before the itch (mostly) subsided.

Old habits die hard, and it’s entirely possible that your customers are on fumes, buying your old stuff now and then, down from often and on their way to rarely.

You can live on old habits for a while, but the future depends on investing in finding and building some new ones with (and for) your customers. Or your family. Or yourself.

The most powerful insight is that you can do it with intent. You can decide that you want some new habits, and then go get them.

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A New Year

Happy New Year! Thanks for reading the blog last year!!

After Christmas we were lucky enough to spend a few days away with friends. Sitting around a kitchen table one friend mentioned having gone to the station Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, wanting to see the 7 Day Forecast. His comment was that it was a frustrating experience trying to find what he wanted. My usual anti-weather-on-social-media instinct kicked in and I asked what led him to Facebook as opposed to the station website. He first response was that he actually didn’t know and we talked for a moment about my theories on how we’ve been training people to get our information. Being a thoughtful guy he came back to me a few minutes later and said he remembered how frustrating it was the last time he went to the station website. Bad UI.

So…we’re left with two bad experiences.

It has been a while since I mentioned The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. One of the great lessons in the book is a business venture started by IBM. In the founding stages it was determined that the new business would be located on the other side of the country from IBM HQ in order to keep the big, old, slow, dominant parent infrastructure from influencing the new venture. It worked. The book is some years old now but worth adding to your 2018 reading list. Christensen never once mentioned broadcasting and when I read it I kept wondering where he had been hiding while spying on us.

My hope for the new year is that we will look for experiences based on user needs, not our own. Our needs will be met if we do that. Human input into digital experiences repeatedly bears fruit.

Here we go!

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Nate Is A Benchmark

Mark the calendar. We’re going to remember this day.

NBC as made a fantastic move in choosing Nate Johnson to fill the newly created position of Director of Weather Operations for the O&O stations. Nate is uniquely qualified. Long-time sufferers of this blog will know that every now and then a good and substantive post pops up, and it was written by Nate (blog stats prove his work to be the most widely read). Nate has both on-air and management weather experience that has been needed at the corporate level for many years. He also acts as a statesman like voice on WeatherBrains and across the NWA and AMS.

Broadcasters pay attention. This is your permission to create similar positions. And move quickly…Nate has a running head start.

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Welcome Again Consultants! Still A Little Late

Another great and interesting post from Steve Schwaid. I’ve mentioned before that I always get a lot by reading the research and comment on the news industry and inserting “weather” where is says “news”. The two are similar but have very different needs.

Why not make sure the content gets on the station’s revenue platforms?

You and I have been exploring this question for a long time. Schwaid has one of the key things to remember, “Facebook is a marketing platform.” Exactly. Someone else wrote that Facebook is a “surveillance company”. It is also a promotions vehicle.

Schwaid asks some key questions at the end of his piece:

Seriously, why DO we keep making Facebook the primary “news app” users may need? Is it a station culture issue?

Yes, it is. The news folks need the traffic and Facebook drives a lot. Weather information is most often time-sensitive. If your post is old after 10 minutes, don’t put it on Facebook, or, time it out for deletion.

Is it a station ego issue showing how many likes, views and shares they have?

Yes. Great piece about one weather anchor who achieved 100,000 Likes. Only 6% are in the market.

Is it a work flow issue? Is it a publishing issue with their apps and mobile sites?

Yes. Bad UI for us to input data. Just as “the web is not TV”, “digital weather is not digital news”. Using the same website CMS is a failure.

It’s a question stations need to answer. And if it turns out to be a publishing issue then shame on us as an industry for not developing tools that compete with Facebook.

We’ve seen this movie. Local TV ignored the web until it realized it was a big thing. Then it failed to fight back with tools other than template websites that stifled innovation and, more importantly, creativity. Then we rushed into social media. This sequel is staring to end badly too.

I heard a great line yesterday. “The heart of the consulting model is to make changes on a rotating cycle every five years.” Or, we could learn the lessons from The Innovator’s Dilemma and do something new.


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I Thought…

I was in the doctor’s office this morning (really bad allergies this year) and the nurse said something interesting, “I thought it was going to rain like it did yesterday again today.” It wasn’t raining at that moment but it is as I write this. And at a level similar to yesterday.

We’ve all heard this. You know that tone that says, “I had an expectation based on (some weather source, me or otherwise) gave me and it hasn’t been met.” Often times I’ll take that opportunity to ask: where they get their weather information, when they last got some information, what their expectation was.

We’re still in a transition zone. Here is a really good read with this money quote:

“We have two houses. One is on fire and the other isn’t built yet. So our problem is that we have to fight the flames in the old house at the same time we’re trying to figure out how to build the new one.”

We’re spending a great deal of time-in-motion pumping data into social platforms that really are a poor way of disseminating our time-sensitive information and we’re not solidly building our own new houses.

The nurse shouldn’t have to wonder. Training people is actually pretty easy…when they get a good and useful reward.


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