Whether Or Not

17 11 2011

I am a weather geek.

There. They say that confession is good for the soul. I am the kind of person who gets excited over occluded fronts, virga, upper-level storms. And The Weather Channel.

Ever since their first broadcast back in 1982, I have been hooked. Maybe it was the 24/7 attention to my favorite subject. Maybe it was the hotties telling my the highs and lows (OK, more confession there). And maybe because it really is the most important piece of newsworthy information all of us need.

No kidding. A recent series of focus groups my colleagues and I performed for a local network affiliate showed hands down that the most important part of the evening newscast was the weather.

TWC has been on the forefront of narrowcasting for nearly 30 years now. Initially ridiculed at launch (“Who in their right mind would want to watch a station about the weather?”), it is now hailed as one of the biggest TV victories in many decades.

And let’s not forget the web and mobile apps.

In fact, TWC is very nearly reaching the point at which its mobile content alone will surpass its TV viewership. And its website is no slouch, either, with one of the Top 20 sites overall. Heck, even Sheryl Crow sang about it.

Not bad for something nearly everyone said would fail. I’m sure TWC brass have a heapin’ helping of schadenfreude every time they hear about their initial critics losing viewers.

So popular is TWC that it has teamed up with both Apple and Amazon so that new iPhone, iPad and Kindle Fire units already have a TWC app pre-loaded. All you have to do is tap. And like the picture at left, the app follows you wherever you go, instantly loading the local weather. Because local is where you are. And you need to know how to dress, right?

There are many categories of users and viewers, but all of us have one thing in common: We need to be able to plan ahead. As a cyclist, I depend on current weather so I may layer my sport-specific clothing appropriately (or scuttle the ride entirely if it looks like rain is only 30 minutes away). Farmers need to know the weather because of their line of work. Moms and Dads need to know how to dress their kids. And businesspeople need to know whether to pack a jacket even though it was 84 yesterday here in New Orleans.

While most fans of TWC don’t leave the station on as background clutter (more confessions, he says), it’s one of <>the most important stations every motel and hotel had better have on its television system. From the dirtiest Days Inn to the most rockin’ Renaissance, TWC is de rigueur for the hospitality industry.

The facts that it is the #14 iPad app and #44 iPhone app show that we want to take it with us when we leave the room.

So as TWC readies for a significant “Oh-year” birthday next spring, its employees need to be meeting in front of the gigantic green screen for a massive round of back-patting and high fives. Job well done. Warmer than average. Sunny with a high of 75.

Now if I could just figure out what in the world ever happened to Cheryl Lemke.

Dr “Weather Thou Goest?” Gerlich

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