The days when The Weather Company was just a weather forecast provider are gone with the wind.
These days, the company, owned by IBM and sitting in its Watson data division, is advancing on all fronts.
In this video interview with Beet.TV, Sheri Bachstein, GM, IBM Watson Advertising, CEO, The Weather Company, explains what’s in the air.
Forecasts for context
The Weather Company and IBM Watson have, for some time, been making weather data available to the advertising ecosystem, believing forecasts can provide valuable contextual signals against which to deliver an ad.
Those datapoints are made available through platforms like Trade Desk, MediaMath, Adobe and Magnite.
The idea that you could place an out-of-home ad for an umbrella ahead of a storm is now clearly embedded. But Bachstein is also urging advertisers to be open to surprising linkages – like ice cream being popular in winter.
“Our data actually suggests that there’s a big spike in the winter time,” she says. “In the winter time, you want to stay inside, you want comfort food – ice cream is one of the top comfort foods.
“We were able to deliver that to an ice cream brand.”
If leveraging weather data for advertisers and publishers is a growth area, The Weather Company isn’t forgetting its large audience of consumers.
Bachstein claims 400 million users every month, and last year hit a million subscribers to the subscription service it launched three years ago, which drops the ads in return for consumer payments. But it also does more than that.
“We made the decision years ago that our premium subscription would be more than just ad-free, that we would actually be additive so we would add more services on,” Bachstein says.
“You get advanced radars, you get more weather data and the plethora of things if you’re a subscriber. And that’s worked really well for us.
“It’s a little different model than maybe some of the other publishers. We’re not gating the content because it’s really hard to gate weather data, especially when it comes to the valuable alerts that people need to save their lives.”
That The Weather Company now has a subscription operation gives it something in common with the range of other news and information publishers with the same model.
So the company has been teaming-up with other subscription publishers. Two months ago, it began offering USA Today and TripAdvisor subscriptions to its own subscribers, effectively piggy-backing its own offering.
In October, it started doing the same with Consumer Reports.
One selling point is for Weather to become a consolidated gateway to subscription services, which, for many consumers, are spiralling.
“We’re offering our consumers the Weather Channel premium app, plus they can bundle with one of our partners and they get an easy way to manage their subscriptions, which is a real benefit because that’s one of the pain points with consumers,” Bachstein says.
“All the bundles are savings. They are anywhere from 30% to 50%. We’re going to continue to partner with several partners, and offer that to consumers. We think it’s a really interesting way to grow the business.”
Yet another way the business is growing is social media, with now almost a million followers in TikTok.
And the company is also aiming to become a weather-fuelled provider of healthcare information.
“We actually just did a survey that consumers look to Weather as a trusted source of information, only second to their health provider, when it comes to managing their health symptoms,” Bachstein says.
“We’ve known there’s always been a connection between health and weather. We want to expand on that and help them, instead of them just having to look at the raw data or chart, we want to actually provide insights to them that will help them reduce their risk of symptoms, reduce their risk of flu allergie.”
With IBM Watson, The Weather Company has previously launched regional forecasts for things like influenza.
Now Bachstein hints at “some new emerging technologies” soon to be added to Weather’s app in the first half of 2023 – “something that hasn’t been done within the industry within weather that’s gonna be really exciting”.