Porter Bibb, the head of an investment company that tried to purchase The Weather Channel a few years back, gushed about TWC as did a few other interviewees.
Why? What makes The Weather Channel such a great deal?
The Weather Channel has excelled at creating excellent cable and online branded utilities, the sum total of which is worth considerably more than if each were operating independent of each other. It’s a rare gem in the evolving world of media.
Why does this synergy work so well?
To answer that question, let’s first take a look at how some traditional outlets failed miserably in the online world.
Parade Magazine boasts having the largest periodical readership rate in the United States. Remember when you used to leaf through Parade along with the advertisement circulars on Sundays at your parents’ house? A lot of other people still do.
But, Parade failed completely to convert this high offline readership to an online audience. At my old job with the ad agency, our ad rep from Parade often lamented that a tiny fraction of their print audience converted to the web. Parade treated the online site as a bastard stepchild. Their main goal was to use the site to increase print readership! How silly! They would go so far as to delay posting articles on their website until a few days after the Sunday edition as to not cannibalize print readership. Their online offerings stank of rotten eggs — old content and Web 1.0 style. Even a year or two ago the stench of Web 1.0 at parade.com was all too strong.
Let’s give Parade a little bit of credit. It’s undeniably tough to convert a weekly periodical to the demands of a never-ending fresh, daily medium like the Internet.
But, how about local TV? They produce hours of local news content everyday. Surely they must be able to serve online audiences well.
Nope. To put it bluntly, local TV websites suck. And they suck BAD. Nearly all local TV station sites are bloated with an unfathomable number of sections. Information overload cripples even the hardiest of online local TV news explorers. That is, if your computer can even handle the 15 simultaneously running flash applets. Loading Indianapolis based ABC affiliate WRTV 6 and San Francisco based CBS affiliate KPIX 5 in 2 Safari tabs brought my computer to an unusable crawl.
Having a crappy online site doubly punishes a media outlet. First, the outlet loses out on whatever online ad revenue they could be generating if they didn’t have a crappy site. Second, and even worse, a poorly constructed online offering significantly damages brand perception of the traditional media outlet. Visitors to an online site of a traditional outlet expect the same standard of quality as they found on TV, print or radio. When they show up online and see a half-baked conversion of traditional assets, they lose faith in the overall brand. Not a good situation.
The Weather Channel slam dunks its online and traditional offerings. The weather.com domain is top notch, and offers the same simple utility based functions of its traditional TV channel.
Perhaps most importantly, having top-notch online and traditional presences allows your ad reps to sell lucrative cross-medium advertising packages (read: fat cash). The Weather Channel scores big with moms, both online and on TV. This makes it very easy for TWC ad reps to sell cross media packages to consumer packaged goods marketers, giving it a significant revenue boost. Media agencies plunk down a lot more if they can get the same demographic cross media. And, in my humble opinion, cross media campaigns are much more effective than single medium campaigns.
It takes a lot of initial effort, but if you can arrange your operational processes to develop content for traditional and online mediums at the same time you can make double the ad revenue for the same amount of work. Single effort, double cash. That’s the magic of The Weather Channel.