Paul Douglas and weathernation
From the MPLS Startribhttp://www.startribune.com/blogs/Paul_Douglas_on_Weather.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUgOy9cP3DieyckcUsI
Busy day. I know it sounds ridiculous hearing it - sounds even crazier saying it: "We launched a national weather channel late Thursday." Friday was our first full day broadcasting "The Weather Cast" for Dish. Crazy times. What's that old saying, "may you live in interesting times..." Right. The world is changing, media is morphing. I don't - for an instant - pretend to have the answer key. But I do know that the Internet is capable of destroying business models, and simultaneously CREATING new business models. At WeatherNation we are relying on the 'net, high-speed fiber optic pipes to distribute content. We can go live - via the 'net, to anywhere in the world - from Excelsior. No need for expensive satellite uplinks or transponder time. Bandwidth is now sufficient to go live, SD or HD quality. We couldn't have done this 5 years ago, but today the sky is the limit. It's all about connecting the dots differently, taking advantage of technological breakthroughs to create (and distribute) content more cost-effectively, by an order of magnitude, and pass those costs on to the client.
Family Affair. My son, Walt, just graduated from Penn State with a degree in Telecommunications and Business - helping us at WeatherNation with shooting/editing and post production. It's good to have him working with me - diving into the deep end with the rest of us.
All I'll say is this: we have 3 HD studios, 12 meteorologists (many excellent people who were let go from local TV stations because they were too old or too expensive). We have state-of-the-art graphics systems from a company called Baron Services (their Vipir storm tracking tool and new OMNI 3-D graphics system is breathtaking - absolutely the best tools on the planet for tracking and displaying weather). Hands down. The only reason we even have a prayer of competing with the Weather Channel is because we have better story-telling tools, better weather graphics, and better people. Everyone on the air is a certified, professional meteorologist. No "presenters", no "personalities". Everyone at WeatherNation working on Dish's "Weather Cast" has a degree in meteorology. More important: they have a genuine passion for meteorology, and it shows on the air.
Control Room. WeatherNation's "Warroom" where directors monitor the feeds coming out of 3 studios. The computers on the right have 8 different weather "sources", different software packages that help us tell the weather story for our clients, including Dish Network, the Kentucky Weather Channel (CN2) and the Star Tribune.
The only reason we've gotten this far (and I truly have no idea what will happen tomorrow, or even an hour from now) is because I was blessed with extraordinary people: meteorologists, developers, engineers, directors, sales people and support staff - and we're trying new ways to tell the weather story. Back to basics. Meat and potatoes. Give me the weather - no movies, no specials, no network stars. Just give me the weather, give me what I need, then go away. Sometimes simple is better. BTW we are providing all the weather content for a Kentucky Weather Channel, CN2, based in Louisville, Kentucky, 24/7, focused on weather for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I think this is the future - PC-based systems that generate a continuous stream of weather content, local, regional and national, available on cable set-top boxes, mobile devices - with the ability to tailor information for every consumer, based on their home address or GPS location.
Just as important: the ability to tailor the advertisements, based on WHAT THEY LIKE AND PREFER AS INDIVIDUALS. Don't ram ad-spam down their throats. Give people a voice in the ads that pop up on their TV's, PC's or cell phones. I'd watch Apple ads all day, same for Malibu waterskiing boats, cars, computers, cell phones, gadgets (productivity devices). I'd actually sit up a little straighter in my chair and I might actually CLICK ON THE AD, if it was a product or service I'm actually interested in. Common sense. Don't use behavioral targeting to digitally stalk me, remember my clicks or past web sites I've visited. Forget cookies in browsers. LET ME CHOOSE. It's all going to come back to consumers, empowering....US....to see what we want to see based on our lifestyles and preferences, not what some pencil-neck geek on Madison Avenue THINKS I want to see, based on my "profile."
"Studio B" Our latest, state-of-the art, all-digital weather studio, where we produce live and taped HD segments for multiple clients. That's meteorologist David Neal, who was the #1 meteorologist in Birmingham for 2 decades, an amazing guy, the kind of guy you meet - and immediately like. The local station let him go a few years ago (for being too expensive). Sounds familiar. He's still at the top of his game, and we are very lucky to have him on the WeatherNation team.
Sorry - got carried away. I'm excited - exhausted - terrified - but most of all proud - of my team, our vendors, people like Kory Hartman from Severe Studios and meteorologist Jason Parkin in Des Moines, who was let go from KCCI-TV (but is extraordinary) (was in my classroom once in Iowa)
....developers like Lee Huffman (who created Ham Weather).....our chief tech guru, Mike Huang, my (amazing) business partner, Todd Frostad, who helped to start up Digital River and who is helping me run WeatherNation (although we lost control a long time ago - events seem to be spiraling out of ANYONE'S control) and Mark Schiller, who was my Chief Director at WCCO-TV, (acquaintance of mine-kids used to go to the same school)
also let go during a recent rash of cost-cutting.
Nothing this good happens by accident - it requires amazing people. I'm very lucky, and no matter how this turns out for WeatherNation and me I'm pretty jazzed that a Minnesota company took on the Weather Channel and tried to advance an alternative. Does it need work? Absolutely. But did you see TWC when it launched in 1982? The New York Times called it the "video equivalent of wallpaper." It got better, in a hurry. Not sure where this crazy journey will wind up, but the journey is what's important, not the destination. Hope your journey leads you somewhere memorable and exciting. I hope you look forward to getting up and going to work. If you don't, time for a mid-career adjustment. Life is too short to be miserable...