Here’s how I’d describe our business: on the media side, we’ve got The Weather Channel and Weather Underground. TWC is the leading provider of weather news and information, as well as complementary lifestyle content and entertainment. Our goal is to help our audience make the most of their lives outdoors. And Weather Underground is another leading provider of Web-based weather data, the big difference is that Weather Underground crowd sources their weather data through personal weather stations, and really appeals to the hardcore weather junkie where Weather Channel is much more weather enthusiast focused.
On the advertising platform side, our goal is to provide advertisers with access to our 163 million unduplicated users, and allow them to connect with their audience in meaningful ways across our four screens.
Further, on the B2B side, the role of our professional services WSI and Weather Central is to provide weather data to companies in aviation, energy and other sectors that rely on weather for their business operations. We also power many media outlets including our own.
Advertisers are buying into a few things. First, they understand that The Weather Channel owns local. If they want to reach consumers on a local level, there is no publisher that can deliver that connection more organically than we can, as users have to enter their ZIP or post codes in order to get accurate weather news and information for their location.
Secondly, they are learning that advertising on all four platforms – TV, online, mobile and tablet – greatly increases ad recall among consumers, and that they need to treat each platform very differently. Ideally, they create a campaign that has complementary aspects tailored to the strengths of each platform. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all proposition, so it can seem a bit overwhelming to a marketer. However, that’s where we come in. It’s up to us as a publisher to make it as easy and seamless for them as possible – listen to what their challenges and goals are, and then partner with them to develop their plan and execute it for them.
TWC has a fairly diversified business. Do you think this has contributed to the sheer scale it now has globally?
Well, yes. As I mentioned, The Weather Channel has a huge consumer business with 163 million unduplicated users across our television, online, mobile and tablet properties – and that’s not counting Weather Underground, which we recently acquired, and has over nine million unique monthly users and passionate fans. Plus, with WSI and the recent acquisition of Weather Central, we are the largest B2B weather provider to industries like aviation, energy and media markets, as well as multiple federal and state government agencies.
The brand itself has been a major factor in expanding our global presence. The fact that we’ve surpassed 10 million downloads on iPad and are #2 only to iBook – that’s driven by the brand. Even when a weather app is preloaded on a device, one of the first things consumers do is download The Weather Channel app. People trust the brand and want our content, specifically.
We’re just now really focusing on our international expansion, which will concentrate on the digital and mobile side rather than television. Our apps are available in 40+ languages and our relationships with Apple, Google, Nokia and others will help fuel our international expansion; we have a few more deals that we will hopefully be announcing soon. We provide data that’s most important to consumers and will leverage that worldwide to reach the audiences our advertising partners are seeking.
There seems to be this perception of TWC being a technology and data-first business. How did they create this? What does it take?
Yes, I’d agree we’re a data-led company. Weather is our core business, and as such, we have connected data and business services. We have over 200 meteorologists on staff – scientists who love data, stats and technology, so that’s our foundation. We are the keepers of such a huge amount of data that we can use to help so many people – consumers, other businesses and industries and our advertisers.
How does data affect TWC and on what fronts? How can this be monetised?
In the early days of digital, CRM and direct were separate, and eventually digital brought them together with marketing teams. What we’re seeing with our weather data is that at first we were connecting with the sales and merchandising side of companies, and now we’re also linking to the marketing sides to help them build their media plans.
As far as monetising it, we can leverage our huge body of data in literally limitless ways to reach a target audience. Does a QSR marketer want to reach consumers late night in an area near nightclubs and cars? Great – we can do that. Does a beverage marketer want to target mobile phones near an arena during a sporting event or concert? We can do that too. We have the data to deliver virtually any audience a marketer wants – wherever they want to target them.
For example, location-based targeting: we provide weather news and information for 40,000 ZIP codes (post codes) across the US. We offer advertisers the opportunity to target ads to consumers at the ZIP code level – and now we can do that on a hyperlocal level down to the city block. The great thing about the fact that they enter their ZIP code to get their forecast means that delivering an ad that’s locally relevant feels organic to them, not creepy as it might be on an app that has no ties to their location.
Secondly, we offer a number of different weather-triggered ad solutions. For example, a soft drink advertiser can buy a media plan where, anytime the temperature goes above 80°F/27°C we deliver an ad for their beverage across our digital or mobile properties. Anytime it snows, we can deliver a tire ad, or an ad for hotels in warmer climates. There is a mind-blowing amount of opportunity there.
Now, we’re refining that opportunity even further with our newest weather analytics offering called Weather Effects. We partner with companies and notify them of any significant weather changes (e.g. warmer, colder, severe weather) that may occur within the next 10 days, and they would trigger ads in those areas accordingly. This really takes things to the next level. Now, instead of experiencing an unexpected snowstorm and missing the opportunity to promote jackets, coats and boots, they can get ahead of the weather, leveraging it to move product.
Let’s discuss ‘multi’. What does multiscreen mean to TWC, and what opportunities does it create for advertisers?
At The Weather Channel, we look at four screens – TV, online, mobile and tablet. We separate tablet from mobile because we see very different usage patterns and consumer behaviors between the two. As a publisher, we push different and complementary content to each platform. You’ll obviously get the weather forecast on each of them, but for example, you’ll get original TV series on the network; you’ll get lifestyle and special interest stories on weather.com and straight weather forecasts, as well as mobisodes and interactive experiences, on mobile and tablet.
For advertisers, this offers limitless opportunities. On mobile alone, they can reach certain consumers at a certain day, time and place – down to the city block. We can trigger ads to run only when it rains in certain cities, or when the temperature increases or drops a certain percentage. I could give a thousand examples on ways we can slice and dice our data to reach a target audience.
On the multiscreen front, advertisers can maximise their impact by running a campaign across all four screens. We’ve done numerous studies that have proven a campaign’s increased impact by running it on multiple platforms. In fact, we just did a recent study on a Hallmark campaign that showed a 97% lift when a consumer saw the campaign on four screens, with a 24% lift on one platform and 53% lift across three platforms.
The idea then is that they create a campaign, with complementary creative, which leverages the strengths of each platform: whether it’s the emotional connection of TV; providing useful content online that enhances the consumer’s life; leveraging the ability to find a local store, make a purchase instantly on mobile or interact with a brand in an entertaining way on a tablet. The idea is to play to their strengths and not simply duplicate an experience across the four screens.
Would you say TWC has ‘cracked’ mobile? How did it do it?
The Weather Channel was early to cable television, early to the web, early to mobile and early to tablet. Being the incumbent always helps your brand against competition in the marketplace.
It’s still a very nascent business for everyone. We’re not satisfied with ad formats that exist today – you’ll continue to see us innovate on both the ad format and the consumer experience sides. I’d say though, we’re definitely pioneers and leaders in the industry – TWC is leading the charge, working with organisations like the MMA, the IAB and VivaKi on issues like standardisation, optimal ad formats, private exchanges and other industries affecting publishers and advertisers alike.
One key advantage TWC has over many publishers is the organic connection to ‘local’. As I mentioned, because users have to give us their ZIP code or post code to get their local weather forecast, it’s perfectly natural to them to receive an ad targeted to their current location, whereas on other apps or sites like a game it might seem creepy. So, taking local as far as it can go and leveraging all of that local data is one definite way we’ve cracked mobile.
What is TWC’s core revenue model on mobile? How can the rest of the industry make mobile so central to their business (and revenue streams)?
Our primary driver is direct sales for Weather Channel, and we have an entire team dedicated to mobile sales, but we experiment with all different revenue streams, including programmatic, ad exchanges and ad networks. On the other hand, Weather Underground is mostly programmatic. We will expand international sales largely through programmatic when it comes to mobile.
Really, we want to have as many venues for advertisers to work with us in a way that best suits their needs – whether it’s white glove treatment with big idea advertising solutions, or a private marketplace buy through an exchange, it’s really about what works for the client.
Mobile revenue is the same as anywhere… think about the platform’s strengths – it’s local and social. How can your brand play into those strengths? It’s okay if it’s a stretch, as long as you can find a creative way to engage your audience.
At The Weather Channel we are very focused on privacy-friendly solutions. There will always be companies that try to skirt privacy, but I think opt-in is better for building consumer trust and brand loyalty. This coming year, we will be focused on authentication across our own screens and improving the experience for those who use our properties. ‘My Friends’ Weather’ is a good current example where a weather.com user can authenticate and leverage Facebook graph data for severe weather alerts based on our forecast data. Both Travelers Insurance and Duracell have sponsored this, and we had nice pop-in authentications around Hurricane Isaac.
Lastly, how psyched are you about speaking at ATS London this year??
This is my second time speaking at ATS London, last time on the agency side, this time on the publisher side, so I am really psyched. It’s a great event and topics like programmatic and big data are just so timely right now.
I’m also looking forward to seeing old friends and colleagues and making new connections as well. Plus it’s always nice to stop by the TWC UK offices – it seems to get bigger with each visit!Global Desk Editor