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The Weather Channel takes second place: 2010 Mobile Publisher of the Year

The Weather Channel has placed second in Mobile Marketer?s Mobile Publisher of the Year awards.

Based on the nominations received from readers and submissions from this publication's editorial team, Mobile Marketer is convinced that the Weather Channel shows all-round excellence in mobile content and advertising, offering an experience that is worthy of emulation.

"I give credit to the Weather Channel/ for making it easy for advertisers to extend their PC buys onto the mobile platform, and for jumping into the game early," said Christine Espinoza, digital planner and mobile specialist at , New York. "At , we have accounts that have been running on the Weather Channel's mobile site since as early as 2008.

"For anyone who has followed the mobile space during the last few years, you know that it was a time of skepticism over mobile," she said. "If you don't have a mobile site, the Weather Channel will build you one. Also, the Weather Channel introduced a 300x250 unit earlier this year so advertisers could easily transfer their existing creative assets to mobile.

"In terms of performance, we've seen great success running with Weather in terms of engagement metrics. For one of our insurance clients, the Weather Channel mobile sees a CTR 6-7 times that seen on desktop, and more importantly, high levels of engagement with the content on the WAP site."

User experience
The user experience was one of the key criteria for selecting the finalists for the Mobile Publisher of the Year.

A pioneer in the space, the Weather Channel provides a highly navigable and mobile-optimized viewing experience on all of its mobile properties, whether on the Web or via smartphone and iPad applications. 

The company is the No. 1 content provider on the mobile Web, the top weather application on iPad, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Palm devices and was named the top iPhone application of 2009.

The publisher?s cross-platform strategy is impeccable, with presence in all the major application stores and Web optimization for various browsers and devices.

According to Nielsen, the Weather Channel is the No. 2 most popular application overall on all smartphones.

In order to continue to stay relevant to the consumer, the Weather Channel also works with advertisers to optimize the user experience. 

Advertisers are able to tie into weather content across the Weather Channel?s mobile platforms to integrate into the user?s daily routine of checking the weather. This connection with the consumer provides a benefit for the advertiser and creates a consumer who is more open to the advertisement and equally responsive to the message.

Another noteworthy aspect of the Weather Channel?s mobile presence is its personalized experience regardless of platform.

The publisher creates a suite of applications tailored to the capabilities of each device: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, BlackBerry, HTC Evo, Galaxy S, Windows Phone and Droid.

?The Weather Channel mobile team develops all its products with a focus on the user experience with the expectation of our customers in mind,? said Cameron Clayton, senior vice president of mobile at the Weather Channel, Atlanta. ?We want to be where the people need us and provide them the best weather experience possible. 

?The Weather Channel looks at multiple factors to provide an outstanding consumer experience,? he said. ?We provide to consumers the most accurate, reliable weather forecasts and lifestyle information on whichever screen they are using. 

?Beyond the actual forecast, our mobile portfolio is also aesthetically pleasing in its design. We stay relevant to the consumer ? especially the on-the-go mobile consumer ? to continue receiving top usage rankings.?

Content is key for mobile publishers. The Weather Channel takes its Internet and broadcast operations and brings them to the mobile device.

The Weather Channel takes the mobile medium seriously, without fear of cannibalization of its other channels.

Providing the best weather information and experience on mobile helps support not only the development of mobile, but also growth of usage across the Weather Channel platforms. 

Research has found that users of multiple the Weather Channel platforms consume more content on each platform. 

Those who use the Weather Channel on two platforms ? TV and online ? have a 13 percent higher viewership of the Weather Channel, and those who use the Weather Channel on three platforms ? TV, online and mobile ? have a 42 percent higher viewership of the Weather Channel, according to OTX Research?s Cross-Platform Study 2010. 

The Weather Channel is most definitely a cross-platform media company.

The company goes beyond just a cable network, and its mobile applications and Web site.

All of its platforms work in tandem to create a branded, recognizable experience. The content and design is consistent across platforms.

?Consumers see The Weather Channel in different ways because they use it depending on what?s relevant for their lifestyles,? Mr. Clayton said. ?In the early days of mobile, The Weather Channel quickly decided that our content naturally lends itself to an audience that is on the go.

?Armed with that knowledge, we built backend data systems to provide raw data-points that can be articulated differently as necessary on the ever-expanding list of form factors,? he said. ?The end result is a data set that is consistent across platforms but not constrained to a particular layout or information density.

?We are able to parse our data into usable chunks correlated to the consumption allowed on the end-user?s device.?

All weather content at the Weather Channel is overseen by the company's Global Forecast Center. 

The Global Forecast Center generates forecasts for different locations across the globe. 

Each worldwide weather forecast is initially created by a very large and sophisticated computer simulation called the Digital Forecast, or DiCast. 

This first estimate, or ?guidance,? is then passed to the Weather Channel's human forecasters who tune and amplify the latest machine forecast during what is called a forecast intervention cycle. 

When the meteorologists? intervention is completed, the final forecast is transmitted or published simultaneously to all of the Weather Channel platforms and partners, whether broadcast or digital properties. 

This ensures content across the Weather Channel?s platforms is similar. With this content basis across all of its platforms,

The Weather Channel differentiates its content from competitors by adding context and relevance to weather and forecasts.

Design is key for mobile publishers. As stated before, consistency is important for a brand experience, but the mobile edition must not simply be a barebones, stripped-down version of the traditional Web site.

For the Weather Channel, each platform is seen as part of a larger whole. However, the publisher understands that all platforms are unique and need to be treated, and developed for, as such. 

Mobile users do not come to on mobile or to a the Weather Channel mobile application for an online experience, or to see The Weather Channel they would see on their television set. It is an experience tailored for mobile. 

Consumers are on the go, and they need weather information that is not only tailored to their mindsets but also targeted for their specific mobile platforms and devices.

The Weather Channel?s mobile Web site was created independently of online. 

?One size never fits all, and as such, we spend a significant amount of time designing our applications to overcome limitations of a platform and to take advantage of device specific capabilities,? Mr. Clayton said.

?Different layouts in landscape and portrait orientations provide unique opportunities to display information in the most appealing format," he said. "We continuously observe, investigate, and refine the usability and design of our products to expose the optimal use of all device characteristics."

In addition to the Weather Channel?s wide-range of applications for each platform, its mobile Web site is designed specifically for phone browsers.

When users type, the Weather Channel automatically detects the type of device making the request and routes it to an optimized experience designed explicitly for the screen resolution, bandwidth constraints and supported technology.

The publisher maintains a database of devices in the market to ensure it provides the best experience the platform allows. 

Mobile Web and application traffic is obviously key for publishers? success. For the Weather Channel, which is ad-supported, it is even more important.

The Weather Channel is one of the biggest players in the mobile space and has many top mobile distinctions relating to traffic and usage. 

The company is the top content provider on mobile Web and the top weather application on all smartphone platforms. 

In addition, the Weather Channel is the third-most-used smartphone application overall across all platforms, behind only Facebook and Google Maps, according to Nielsen. 

The company is also the leader in cross-platform usage ? of all media brands, consumers use the Weather Channel the most across all platforms ? including TV, online and mobile, per Nielsen.

With more than 12 million downloads on iPhone, more than 7 million downloads on Android and more than 1 million downloads on iPad, the Weather Channel is the No. 1 weather application on iPhone, Android, iPad, Palm and BlackBerry devices. Unique monthly visits to the mobile site and application usage have both increased significantly over the last four quarters

Not only is on mobile the leading mobile weather content provider, according to Nielsen Mobile, it is the fifth largest mobile web site overall in unique visitors. 

Looking at the unique audience for the Weather Channel mobile Web over the past year, the audience has increased by more than 36 percent.

The below mentioned Nielsen data for's mobile Web traffic of unique users is given monthly:

o July 2009 ? 13,588,000
o September 2009 ? 14,044,000
o January 2010 ? 16,432,000
o March 2010 ? 17,654,000
o June 2010 ? 18,528,000

According to the most recent Nielsen App Playbook, weather applications are the second most popular category for download. The Weather Channel is the obvious leader among weather applications. 

Going beyond just the weather category, the Weather Channel is the second or third most popular application on all smartphone devices. 

Meanwhile, over the last year, interest in the Weather Channel SMS alerts has increased. 

The number of SMS alerts sent out has increased 123 percent from July 2009 to August 2010. Below mentioned monthly data, according to internal numbers, show this increase in texts delivered:

o August 2010 ? 54,581,356
o May 2010 ?   39,784,832
o February 2010 ? 35,192,857
o November 2009 ? 19,905,702
o August 2009 ? 23,252,581

So many mobile publishers rely on advertising to be able to provide consumers access to their mobile content for free.

To ensure a viable mobile operation, a mobile publisher must demonstrate how ads can exist in context with content without disrupting the user experience.

The Weather Channel has shown evidence of ad campaigns that ran in prior four quarters, with variation of units including banners and rich media.

Also, the company continues to demonstrate its industry-leader position by developing innovative products for advertisers that allow for national reach with local contextual relevance. 

Furthermore, the Weather Channel offers dynamic weather integration within mobile ad units. 

Available now, the Weather Channel is also bringing its smart ADaptor ads to mobile, which allows advertisers to dynamically contextualize their messages based on the environment where ads serve. 

The Weather Channel is also a location-based service brand, but with a much larger audience than players such as Foursquare and Gowalla. 

Additionally, the Weather Channel offers expandable ad units on mobile. In March 2010, the company was the first to market in rolling out the Interactive Advertising Bureau standard 300x250 ad units on mobile. 

The 300x250 unit makes it easy for advertisers to be present on mobile and creates a seamless transition to use the same creative online and on mobile, encouraging the growth of cross-platform integration in the industry. 

Chevrolet, for instance, is using the Weather Channel?s ADaptor technology that lets the automaker modify banner advertising creative dynamically based on predefined elements.

The product addition allows Chevrolet to target a powerful branding message to the Weather Channel?s large mobile Web audience on smartphones through 2010. Chevrolet can dynamically contextualize its messages based on the environment where ads are served (see story).

Brewer Budweiser also ran mobile ads for its Bud Light Lime brand on the Weather Channel?s mobile site and within its iPhone application to promote some of its mobile initiatives.

Ads included videos and click-to-Bud Light WAP sites and the Apple App Store. The iPhone application banner ads were expandable ad units, so a user could touch the ad to expand it to take up a majority of the screen on the device, featuring a video that played within the ad unit that conveyed being on the beach and having a Bud (see story).

The Weather Channel offers an ad-supported channel in every mobile effort it works on. This is an essential part of creating a strong mobile business with potential to endure as the platform grows and matures. 

The media brand created mobile destinations that are specific to the device?s capabilities. Each of its products is developed according to specific platform and device specs because each is unique.

Adapting each product to capitalize on device and platform capabilities guarantees the best experience for both the consumer and the advertiser based on what is expected of the device.

?Clearly, the Weather Channel has embraced the mobile channel wholeheartedly,? said Sarah Amitay, director of mobile marketing at Havas' Mobext, Boston. ?They understand that their audience needs them across all screens and are constantly looking to innovate and respond to that demand.

?The fact that Weather content remains the top content/application category and the Weather Channel Mobile is top within that category speaks volumes,? she said. ?From a competitive standpoint, it still seems that others are focusing on their online products whereas the Weather Channel seems more screen-agnostic.

?Additionally, I think that the Weather Channel is getting right with their targeting capabilities ? whether it's device, demographic, or geo, the Weather Channel is realizes that personalization and location is the key to driving results.?
Mobext is an ad agency which sometimes buys mobile media for clients on the Weather Channel?s mobile properties.

?Service and proactive are two words that come to mind when I think of the the Weather Channel team,? Ms. Amitay said. "They have been a great partner for us."

ROI on advertising
The Weather Channel not only supports mobile advertising, it also gives advertisers great results and campaigns that worked in engaging consumers in terms of brand awareness or lead generation.

For example, the Home Depot ran an iPhone takeover to run as a complement to an online homepage takeover. 

This was during Home Depot?s busiest time of year ? the critical holiday season ? and the campaign successfully drove critical marketing metrics and consumers? intent to visit a store. 

To wit: store visit intent was 88 percent for the exposed ad group but only 75 percent to a control group. Brand favorability was 69 percent to a control group but 80 percent to the exposed group. 

Message association was only 26 percent to a control group but 54 percent to the exposed group. And ad awareness was only 19 percent for a control group but 83 percent for those seeing the ad.

A leading financial/banking institution has been running continuously on the Weather Channel mobile to drive application downloads for its own iPhone app. 

?Based on the Weather Channel?s established app audience and rich pool of consumers, they continue to renew and run because of our reach and usage numbers,? Mr. Clayton said. ? We have a long list of repeat advertisers on mobile.

?A leading wireless communications organization has run a click-to-call campaign for more than a year,? he said.

Ad agency relations
The Weather Channel has proved to the nation?s leading ad agencies and their media buyers that its mobile edition is a serious consideration for an ad buy and one that delivers a responsive and engaged audience.

The company's integrated ad sales team is leading with mobile this year ? mobile is the priority for expanding cross-platform ad sales deals. 

The Weather Channel ad sales team also works with agency partners not only to provide Mobile 101 events and spread the word about mobile, but also to target each agency team for better understanding of how mobile can fit in with the larger marketing strategy for the specific brands they represent. 

As a leader in the mobile space with a huge cross-platform footprint and reach, the Weather Channel strives to support education about mobile marketing and advertising possibilities to explain how mobile can play well in the sandbox as part of a larger campaign. 

Revenue model
The Weather Channel has demonstrated a revenue model that can adapt to the increasing consumption of digital media.

The company's model relies on a mix between advertising and subscription-based revenue, moving heavily towards advertising as the market moves to a more mass market consumer. 

An early innovator in the mobile space, the Weather Channel first appeared on mobile in 1999 with a mobile Web site. 

The Weather Channel ad products and ad sales generation span across mobile Web, applications, multimedia and messaging platforms. 

The dedicated mobile ad sales force works closely with TV and Web ad teams to create high value, cross-platform ad deals. In addition, the Weather Channel has subscription-based video deals with major carriers.

The Weather Channel is currently focused on ad-supported smartphone application distribution platforms.

Integration with other channels
The Weather Channel?s mobile offerings integrate with the media organization?s other channels, particularly Internet.

The company integrates mobile with all its other platforms, fully incorporating mobile design, data and consumer experience with online and the Weather Channel network in the early planning stages. 

The the Weather Channel ad sales team works closely with network and online teams to sell integrated campaigns. 

Ad sales even goes a step farther ? the Weather Channel is leading with mobile. Mobile is not seen as the third screen here, but as the first screen.

?It is the fastest growing platform, outpacing the Internet even in its heyday,? Mr. Clayton said. ?Consumers are rapidly moving to mobile, and we want to be there to provide the best weather information when and how they need it. 

?We also look to benefit from the cross-platform usage leadership position The Weather Channel holds,? he said. ?The Weather Channelis the leader in cross-platform usage ? meaning that of all media brands, consumers use the Weather Channel the most across all platforms ? television, online and mobile.?

One specific marketing example of cross-media integration was the Weather Channel for Android QR code promotion. 

This creative campaign across platforms produced results. Leveraging Android?s bar code scanning capabilities, the Weather Channelcreated mobile banners and on-air and online spots featuring a QR code that Android devices could scan for a direct download of the the Weather Channel Android application. 

The team effort brought mobile marketing to three the Weather Channel platforms ? television, online and mobile. 

The Weather Channel for Android campaign was creative in its use of simple QR technology.

?We used the technology in a new way ? the first U.S. broadcaster that we know of to display it on screen for scanning, while also including it online and on mobile,? Mr. Clayton said. ?The campaign got great response from viewers, users and press.? 

When the QR code promotion ran in February 2010, the Weather Channel saw an increase of 21 percent in downloads month over month. 

Press coverage helped with awareness of the application as well as the Android platform as a whole, which at the time, was still gaining momentum. 

As a result of public relations outreach, traditional and social media outlets were abuzz about the Android QR code promotion, and it gained more than 1.6 million impressions. 

The Weather Channel has dedicated senior and junior talent running mobile operations under the larger digital umbrella.

While working closely with its other platforms, the Weather Channel has a large team dedicated to mobile.

From the top down, the company keeps up with the mobile industry and the Weather Channel?s place in it. 

At the executive level, a digital executive vice president oversees both the mobile and online teams. 

The mobile product team consists of a senior vice president, four mobile product managers and two business development team members. 

Specific to advertising, the Weather Channel has a dedicated mobile ad sales team of seven and mobile-specific ad products and creative development team members. 

With the addition of internal mobile developers and marketing and communications support focused on digital properties, the Weather Channel has a mobile team of about 50. 

The company has tremendous belief in the success of the platform, from the CEO down, that the Weather Channel is leading with mobile so that from the start, initiatives have mobile in mind.

?This leadership position is an important motivator to our mobile team,? Mr. Clayton said. ?As a significant player in the mobile space, the Weather Channel continues to strive to lead the industry in innovation, mobile marketing efforts, thought leadership and mobile advertising.?

Final take
Giselle Tsirulnik is senior editor of Mobile Marketer