Weather on the Web

Streaming weather has come to the Web. Weather.com (The Weather Channel) and Accuweather.com are among the leaders, providing a variety of streaming weather content, everything from daily local and regional forecasts to lifestyle features such as weather reports for golfers to weather forecasts around the world, including Afghanistan.

You can find streaming weather content elsewhere on the Web, including newspaper sites, but Weather.com and Accuweather.com are among the biggest players, drawing on the content they gather for their weather enterprises--The Weather Channel's cable network and the Accuweather forecasts distributed to TV and radio stations and newspapers.

The sites provide "on demand weather forecasts for any place in the world whenever you want it," says Jay Mathieu, strategic media project manager for Accuweather.com.

Both sites also stream advertising before the reports, with Weather.com having done it for two years, while Accuweather is just starting, in accordance with the new tuner it is using.

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Weather.com streams audio as well as video, providing radio like reports from one area of its site.

The video streams mimic television weathercasts, with graphics of weathercasters alternating with weather maps, or shots of weathercasters in front of the graphics, like a newsroom setting. "The difference between TV and streaming is you have to produce streaming media differently. The text that works on a TV screen doesn't work on a Web browser, you can't read it. You have to make text bigger on the Net," Mathieu says. He also notes that the Web "isn't up to the resolution of TV yet," making for graphics on the Web that aren't as clear as TV.

Still, there's plenty of weather information being streamed, with Accuweather.com providing 101 city forecasts, regional forecasts, breaking clips about severe storms and a five to seven minute show called Point Counterpoint. Weather.com offers similar local and regional coverage, plus a wealth of lifestyle features. It now offers video from a lifestyle page, which includes weather related information on home and gardening, allergies, golf and more.

Tony Grohovksy, director of broadband services for Weather.com, says it serves one million audio and video streams per month. Mathieu says Accuweather.com served 800,000 streams in August.

Advertisers play 10 to 15 second gateway spots before weather streams pop up. Weather.com also plays spots after the reports run. Advertisers also get logos with links at the bottom of the tuner.

The advertising can run throughout the site, as Motorola did recently on Weather.com, when it bought the entire site. But ads can also be targeted, such as an airline or car rental company buying Weather.com's travel weather stream, Grohovsky says.

Advertisers pay per impression, which is a problem for Weather.com, Grohovsky notes, because the site doesn't get enough. "We may get only 100,000 travel impressions per month, but an advertiser may buy a million," he says, meaning it would take 10 months to fulfill a contract. "We need more users to get more impressions to increase our inventory to advertisers."

Accuweather is just beginning to stream ads in front of its content. It recently reached an agreement with Wired Kingdom, which is providing the technology for a new tuner that will make the streams more accessible to users plus make ad insertion possible. "We didn't have the technology to insert advertising before and there was no way to monetize it, except with syndication," Mathieu says. "The idea was to find technology to integrate streaming advertising."

The Wired Kingdom technology changed the Accuweather.com tuner. Now, a daughter window pops up with a channel selector that looks like a TV screen, making it easier for users to select a stream. Logos and banners appear above and below the screen and ads play after users make a selection.

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