What do you think of when you hear the name The Weather Channel? Most likely you think of one of the top destinations to check what the temperature will be that day in your area, or the primary brand you turn to when you’re about to go on vacation and need to know what the weather will be like so you can pack accordingly. But The Weather Channel, which was founded just over 35 years ago, is so much more than just a place for meteorology.
The Weather Channel boasts a host of related digital channels, all of which have proven popular with audiences. In fact, one of the brand’s biggest bragging rights is that its mobile video viewing has grown 120% year-over-year! A lot of that improvement can be attributed to The Weather Channel’s digital editor-in-chief Neil Katz, who told Tubular Insights he’s “proud of growth hacking” four of the brand’s new Facebook channels: Rockets Are Cool, The BRB Life, Crazimals, and United States of Awesome. Here’s what Katz’s job consists of on a daily basis and how he grew these four channels into must-see content for The Weather Channel’s dedicated audiences.
Tubular Insights: What does an average day look like for you? What are your primary responsibilities/goals each day?
Neil Katz: A breakdown of my average day as editor-in-chief usually looks like:
I usually wake up at 6:30 am ET, and check my email to get the overnight weather forecasts, which includes hotspots for serious danger over the next 72 hours. Then I watch our mobile morning show called The Lift, which provides The Weather Channel’s 24 million daily mobile users with snack-sized updates on breaking weather, cool science and outdoor fun to start their day.
After that, I read the a list of early pitches compiled by the team, which leads to into our 9:30am ET editorial meeting where we get an update from our lead meteorologist on the breaking weather news that we need to track and where we need to position our shooters to cover. During the meeting, we also review pitches for all the fun stuff we’re going to do on our social channels such as dancing lamas for the Crazimals channel (see video below); live rocket launches for our science channel, Rockets are Cool; or floating restaurants for our travel channel, The BRB Life. The rest of the day is dedicated to focusing on strategy, sales, and product.
TI: What tools do you use to manage The Weather Channel’s video channels/outlets?
NK: To manage our video channels, we use the native tools on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. And, of course, Tubular for aggregated video stats, insights on what our competitors are doing, trending video, and tracking sponsored campaigns.
TI: What’s your biggest challenge as digital editor-in-chief?
NK: Our biggest challenge (and greatest love) by far is tracking dangerous weather to keep people safe. The logistics are tricky. The hours can be grueling when it comes to tracking big storm systems and weather, by its nature, is sometimes unpredictable. So, our team of meteorologists, producers, writers, and editors really need to be on their toes.
TI: How did you approach growth hacking the four channels you noted above? What was your strategy there?
NK: We started with data from our own properties. Most Americans have around 200 days of good weather a year. That’s good for you, but bad for us. So, over the last four years, we’ve been investing heavily in weather-adjacent content. Through lots of experimenting, we’ve found our swim lanes: science, nature, and outdoor lifestyle. Those categories now account for 50% of our on property viewership.
Based on that, we launched four new channels: Rockets are Cool (1,382,559 fans) for amazing science; Crazimals (2,327,337 fans) for fun animals when you want to take a break; US of Adventure (929,796 fans) for feel good patriotic stories; and The BRB Life (258,303 fans) for adventure travel.
Our strategy has remained the same. We use our flagship Facebook page for The Weather Channel (7,699,080 fans) to grow the audiences of the new channels. So far, we’re exceedingly happy with the growth. And, even happier with the loyalty and energy of our new fans.
TI: What statistics do you have regarding each of those four channels? Increase in views, subscribers, watch time, etc.
NK: We’ve been exceedingly happy with our new channels. Across all of our FB channels, we’re now seeing around 400 million views per month.
TI: What impact have these new channels had on The Weather Channel as a larger brand?
To be honest, probably none. And, that’s a good thing. The Weather Channel is a 35-year-old company that consistently ranks as a top five most-trusted media brand. We do everything we can to make sure that stays true. But, The Weather Channel has a swim lane.
It’s important that The Weather Channel stays focused on keeping people safe from storms and providing the world’s best weather. These new channels have given us editorial and brand freedom to do new things and reach new audiences, especially younger ones. And, that’s very exciting for us.
TI: Why do you think The Weather Channel in general is successful in terms of online video?
NK: We are successful because we’ve become a mobile juggernaut. Our mobile audience is 24 million people each day. That’s more than ESPN, CNN and even Twitter.
As a result, huge video growth has come with that. We’re seeing 120% year-over-year gains for our mobile video. And, users that stay with us for content, not just weather data, spend 7x more time with us each month. If we can use video to help our fans make better decisions on a daily basis, we’re very happy with that.