Dak on Design: Weather embraces technology but needs storytelling, not just the forecast

As we wrap our Focus on Weather, it’s important to reflect on the changing dynamic of broadcast weather coverage in the world of local news.

Technology continues to drive differentiation (and lower barriers to entry) between systems and platforms while viewers are expecting more than just the seven-day forecast. As I’ve heard time and time again from talking with station managers and GM’s, it’s no longer acceptable to have a meteorologist deliver the same rundown, day after day.

Weather has always been and will always be a very personal topic, and stations must remember this as they look to the future.

Weathercasting most add more storytelling at the local level, helping viewers not just know the weather but understand how and why it will impact their lives.

In a recent study about weather consumption, 56% of respondents noted a preference for local TV news for their weather information, compared to 38% for national websites and 26% for local websites. The study, from The Weather Company, included 1,000 responses, and of course, showed weather apps as the top source of information with 69%, but, local TV was still above 50%.

More specifically, during severe weather, the study found that 63% of respondents would pay closer attention if the information was from a local broadcaster over other sources.

Weather continues to be one of the most stable (and sellable) parts of a local newscast, yet stations continue to be implored to do more with less, mainly due to the demands of shareholders and the ever present cost cutting.

We’ve seen this recently with Univision owned-and-operated stations, as they’ve hubbed their weather out of Houston with a flashy new studio aimed at creating a Spanish-language weather authority. This also means a limited need for metrologists at each of the organization’s stations, creating efficiencies.  Other services already offer a similar setup for smaller stations. With recent changes in FCC rules and more on the horizon, it’s only a matter of time until more ownership groups go down this path, citing accuracy and technology as the driving factors.

With recent changes in FCC rules and more on the horizon, it’s only a matter of time until more ownership groups go down this path, citing accuracy and technology as the driving factors.

Sure, by going this route, you can have more tools, such as AR and advanced maps in a centralized location with a trained user base, but what happens during severe weather? Plus, who can the station send to local schools or a festival for outreach and engagement with the community?

Weather has always been and will always be a very personal topic, and stations must remember this as they look to the future.

Machine learning, new datastreams and improved accuracy make it a great time to be a forecaster, as Mike Mougey of Baron noted in our Insight Insights roundtable, but remember it’s about those community connections, it’s about explaining the story and not just showing maps and data.

Consider how new tools, like Facebook Live, can be used to continue to lead during severe weather events and how you can continue to connect with your community. Remember, viewers have many choices for weather, what sets your presentation, storytelling and forecast apart? 

Our Focus on Weather segues nicely into our next special coverage area, as we showcase the latest advancements in augmented reality (AR) for broadcast. Watch for unique coverage of this growing storytelling technology all month long, as we explore unique projects, its impact on workflows and our Industry Insights roundtable on AR adoption and utilization in TV.

About Dak Dillon

Dak Dillon is NewscastStudio's managing editor and can be contacted here. Along with covering the television industry, Dak serves as principal and creative director for a digital agency in addition to working on broadcast projects.

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