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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Welcome consultants! You’re too late.

This crossed my field of view this morning. Short, take a minute to read it.

The Facebook weather information is not new to most of us, or this blog. The general points of the post are correct, with some key problems.

In the early days of the web our industry ceded responsibility of digital development to a few template companies. It wrongly assumed it could port the television product to digital and we would keep our positions in the marketplace. We underestimated the competition and fell behind. The template nature of the digital products restricted experimentation, and worse, creativity. Who knew, right? It was (and is) the wild west out there.

Next we ran full steam into social media. It kind of makes sense. Meteorologists love technology, we weren’t getting to share our information through the template distribution sources we were given, naturally we moved to a place where we could and there was a huge audience. One of the problems is that weather information is by nature time sensitive. With Facebook leaking our products out to users over a period of hours and days that is in direct conflict with our information. And then Facebook gave us our own pages but restricted distribution to only 2-3% of our users. Causing further problems we taught our users that social media was a good place for weather information, giving rise to the crushing “social mediarologist” cacophony of misinformation we deal with today. And, we conflated news with weather. The news folks need social media, it drives a lot of traffic. Weather is different.

The blog post (hoping you read it) suggests we can take some steps to right the ship but it falls dramatically short. Local meteorologists still have value but time is running out.

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Frozen Peas

Okay. I’ve had it.

In this promotional material from The Weather Company the second sentence negates the entire premise.

“The content you have is more time-sensitive…”

If Facebook (and to some degree Twitter) is going to trickle your content to 2-3% of your followers over a period of 2-3 days…how is that helping the time-sensitive nature of your content?!?!

In the immortal words of Orson Wells in Frozen Peas:

“Come on, fellas, you’re losing your heads!”

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Pirate Ships

A few years ago I read a great book called Creative Confidence. The author was an early Apple designer and the mission of the book was to help people unlock the inner creativity that was probably beaten out of them somewhere earlier in life.

I came across David Kelley’s TED talk last night. It is not very long and worth your time.

Kelly tells the story of Doug Dietz, an engineer who builds MRI machines. Dietz was very proud of the amazing technology but also deeply saddened to learn that most children were terrified to use his product, which was big and noisy and scary. Determined to look at the problem from his users point of view Dietz consulted with experts in children’s communication and the result was an MRI that looked like a pirate ship. An adventure story was created to go with the artwork. Kids loved it and were much more comforted during the experience.

Again, the main message of Creative Confidence is unlocking creativity. The greater message for me was realizing how important it is to look at your product through the eyes of the end user. Doing so is a game changer.

A standing ovation for everyone at The Weather Channel for amazing work during this amazing tropical season. Thank you.

All of us, especially those in severe weather markets, understand the daunting task of continuous coverage. You need things to talk about. As we wait for the next big and noisy and scary thing, ask if your users will receive useable information from a visually cumbersome spaghetti plot. The goal, looking through their eyes, is not to dazzle them with unnecessary technology. They’d rather have you hold their hand on a pirate ship.

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Strike While The Iron Is Wet

It seems unlikely that one of your reporters and a photographer will be caught on a flooded highway…..and told that their television station is being evacuated…..and have to carry the coverage solo for close to an hour… the middle of a once in a lifetime weather event.

This is the moment right after Brandi Smith and Mario Sandoval found themselves in that exact position. They did a fantastic job.

After more than 30 minutes of solo coverage it began to rain even harder and there was the slightest tone shift in Brandi’s delivery for just a moment that said, “Really? More? There is more?” I had been watching radar and knew it was coming.

Take this moment to visit with news management and make sure everyone in the newsroom has RadarScope on their phone. More importantly, teach them how to use it.

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Mobile weather information creates an interesting privacy problem. In order to more effectively sell your attention to advertisers, information providers need to know more than just your city. Looks like AccuWeather has gotten caught with its hand a little too far in the cookie jar.


My favorite quote is from the AccuWeather spokesperson:

“This is a quickly evolving legal field and what is best practice one day may change the next; and… we take privacy issues very seriously,” the spokesperson said. “We work to have our [terms of service and agreements] as current as the law is evolving and often beyond that which may be legally required to protect the privacy of our users.”

In other words, “Our lawyers are working quicker than lightning to stay just ahead of the law.”

This is a tough problem. Our business models depend on advertising. But, the “internet of things” is coming for your data. Don’t believe it?

“Society as a whole continues down a path where devices in your home, traditionally our most private space, are largely controlled by other people who want to know what you’re doing,”

There is an easy fix. Opt-in. If users had to tap “Allow” for every piece of data collected Facebook would dry up and blow away, and the AccuWeather legal team might not have to work as hard to “protect the privacy of our users (from us)”.

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The Definition Of A Forecaster

Not long ago I came up with a definition of a forecaster:

  • Assess the current conditions
  • Identify the influences on those conditions
  • Make a prediction as to how the influences will affect the future

This is a really interesting article. You probably need to read it before moving on. I’ll wait…

(tapping foot…shifting in chair…)

The main message is that Facebook is, and has been, pretty good at spotting trends and copying them. I get it. Competition makes everybody stronger.

The underlying message is a bit more ominous. From the article:

Today that app, called Onavo, has become a little-known weapon in Facebook’s massive expansion strategy…

The technology shows how far Facebook is willing to go as part of its aggressive strategy to reach into new areas beyond social networking…

In the last Facebook quarterly earnings report it cautioned that while it has two billion users, it knew that it had reached a point where it knew it couldn’t maintain large growth in the amount of advertising it could put in its mobile app (assessing the current conditions, by the way). In order to maintain a high growth trajectory the company will begin experimenting with ads in its Messenger app because it needs more apps in which to place ads (influences, by the way).

Sidebar. Go and try to log out of Messenger. You can’t do it. Next, remove Facebook and Messenger from your phone. Now put Messenger back and you won’t need to log in. Meaning that somewhere your username and password have been left on the phone.

So, who cares (making a prediction, by the way). Facebook needs more information on you to support its advertising business (another good article, you can read this one after you finish this). It will use Onavo and every other means to gather information about you, whether you are aware of it or not. These actions will be executed by the same guy who took the original idea from two Harvard classmates.

Oh no, Kevin. That old argument? Really?

Yes. And here is why. Forecasting the weather is math. It follows a predicable pattern. If you know the math and can gather enough of the influences you can see the future.

Who knew that you and Zuck were in the same business?

The Washington Post

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Time Warp

Time to mention this time warp again.

Good effort in dealing with one of the inherent problems with social media…old data. We have some arrows showing direction (since a static radar image is next to useless except for the users getting rain) and there is a timestamp.

Twitter used to be chronological but this 3:56pm image was served to me at 6:20pm.

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