Late News Weather for May Sweeps

Weather.  It’s May sweeps again – severe weather season in many parts of the country is already upon us.  Weather.  How much more is there that we can say about weather?  Weather.  In your planning for sweeps have you brought together news managers and weather teams to talk about how weather will recruit viewers and drive ratings in May – especially to late news?

As a SmithGeiger client you certainly have known for some time that weather is the number one reason for watching local news. But did you also know that weather now is one of the main reasons for changing the channel or turning off the TV?  In many cases, weather is the number one cause of repetition in our local newscasts from daypart to daypart. This means viewers will actually turn the channel to see what the other meteorologists have to say.  Do your viewers see the same weathercast in late news they saw at 6 p.m.? If so, you are in danger of creating an ejection point at a critical juncture in the newscast.  

As you prepare for the May rating period – we believe one strategic move you should make is to take time to look at what you are going to do to win late news weather.  More than likely it is time to recalculate how we present late news weather.

In a world where the fastest weather consumption happens on a smartphone, believe that TV’s role must be the nuance and expertise that a person cannot get from an app or an alert or headline.  BELIEVE that the more the weather is changing, the more TV meteorologists must deliver short term precision that enhances viewers decision making in their lives.  Believe that TV weathercasts must evolve and be an enhancement of getting weather on a computer, tablet, or mobile device.

We have entered the era of EDITORIAL URGENCY where TV news’ survival is dependent on having the absolute LATEST information.  Why else would viewers watch?  Instinctually, though unscientifically, I sense that during severe weather and even disruptive weather a viewer believes that a TV newscast will update VIDEO and FACTS at a rate that exceeds digital media.  And therein lays not only the value of live TV but also the BIG opportunity.

As you prepare for the May rating period, we would like you to consider three elements as they relate to winning weather in your late news: 

  1. Are you delivering the key elements that research shows viewers want in late news?  There are differences in viewers needs in late news versus other dayparts. 
  2. Are you looking at weather as a significant opportunity to add urgency and immediacy to the late news?  Or are we leaving those decisions to the meteorologist?
  3. How are you using digital and social with weather to drive viewers to your late news?

Key Takeaways For Late News Weather

Many, many stations today are recognizing the importance of late news weather and are consistently inserting an A block weather hit. The question you have to ask is if this first weather hit is hurting or helping you recruit and retain viewers.  Here is what you should do to make sure first weather in the A block helps your late news effort:

  • Recognize that the First Weather hit should NOT be locked into the same location in the A block every night.  For instance, do you always play First Weather at or near the end of the A block?  We would suggest on many nights it is worthy of being the third or fifth story in the A block.  In a world where we are trying to hold onto the late night viewer with the start of each new story – weather may represent the next best story you have to offer to keep viewers engaged. 
  • Perhaps the most important forecast viewers are looking for in late news is what the weather will be like in the morning for their commute.  See, even the night before, viewers are already planning – wondering if they need to set that alarm clock 15 minutes earlier because of a rainy or foggy morning commute.  Do NOT give away this forecast in the First Weather hit.  If you do the sound of TVs turning off could be deafening. 
  • In fact, try not to give any real forecast for tomorrow in that first weather hit.  Instead, focus on what is happening right now and overnight.  Use the radar, show current temps.  What will the low get to overnight?  Then tease ahead specifically to the morning commuter forecast, the 12 hour daypart for tomorrow and the weekend forecast.  Of course, if there is a big change in the weather coming tomorrow – that is also something worthy of teasing ahead.  Bottom line: we must produce these early A block weather hits to be concise, all about right now, and include a specific hook to the main weathercast. 

The second weathercast in the late news is perhaps the most important weathercast of the day – the one that occurs right as the meter on the second quarter hour begins. The main weathercast in late news has been and continues to be one of your key tools in maintaining your rating or even increasing it. 

There are several key elements viewers are looking for in a late news weathercast: 

Doppler radar is the gold standard in forecasting. Several of my colleagues and I have been talking about radar and the idea that Radar has become sexy again. If you have an add-on feature like VIPER or the WSI hand tool – make sure your mets put it through the paces on-air and show the power of the technology you have available at your fingertips.  Of course, explain what the viewer is seeing in layman’s terms (simple and easy to understand).  Radar is one of the most compelling images you can start weather with – it instantly engages the viewers. 

Remember viewers are very tied into planning at this point in the day. So the daypart forecast for the next day is an important piece of the puzzle.  Remember to focus on those time periods where the viewer is most affected by weather. 

Anything you can do to help the viewer look forward to the next day – including that all important 7 a.m. forecast – is going to be relevant and engaging for the viewer.  Has your late news met built out a specific “morning commute” graphic yet?  If not - it’s a solid opportunity for May.

With May being one of the severe weather months in many parts of the country make sure you are looking ahead to the next potential severe event.  Even if it is out 3-4 days, viewers will appreciate the advance warning you are giving to them.

Weather as a Live Source of Urgency and Immediacy
The “Era of Immediacy” fueled by social media, smartphones and digital means weather story-telling needs to evolve and innovate by acknowledging today’s media consumer expectations.  
View weather as another “LIVE” opportunity that can bring immediacy and urgency in the late newscast.  Don’t make it so highly formatted that the energy is sucked out of it.  New information and data that has just come into the weather center can be showcased as such. Live cameras from around the DMA can reinforce the weather that is happening NOW.  Report weather more quickly and completely during late news. Create anticipation inside the late news for the weathercast that is yet to come. 

Help your late news meteorologists to think like a producer.  Added maps and graphics should match every point in the weather story. Meteorologist should build at least one new “explainer” graphic each day to help tell that day’s weather story. At 11 pm, he/she also needs to really focus on the day ahead and not dwell on the day or what’s happening NOW—unless the NOW is a big deal.  

Finally, use the immediacy of your weather technology to recruit viewers.  “Just checked the Weather App for the latest forecast.” Live app alerts and social media updates with a specific call-to-action to watch the late news.
Weather is Now a Three Screen, Real Time Battleground

Finally, a few key reminders and ideas on your multi-platform weather approach: 
  • Be aware on all screens – your station is on alert and tracking severe weather or disruptive weather that is approaching anywhere from 24-72 hours out.  This means you are alerting your viewers to an increased weather presence by your entire weather team. 
  • Alert on all screens – Severe or disruptive weather is imminent.  Use all devices to alert consumers to tune in now to your on-air core product for the latest information.  Assure your news consumers you will continue your tracking across ALL screens.
  • Take action on all screens – your team is on-air and online with the latest minute by minute updates.  Viewers should stay tuned for the latest with emphasis on continuous coverage on-air and then streaming secondarily. 
  • Always encourage viewers on the digital platforms to tune to the next weathercast for a deep drill down on weather changes and events heading your way.
  • Your website efforts can be a powerful proof of performance to loyalists and seekers of you keeping your on air promises to “storm track”, to sound the “first alert”, and to “keep you safe”.

When severe weather threatens, many of your viewers will come to your website looking for the latest. You have to prove in an instant that your team knows about the severe weather threat, that you understand how serious it could be, that you care about the threat to deploy the resources needed so the viewer can keep their family safe, and that you will help with information, resources, and live coverage on air and online before, during and after the storm

For tips on producing a weather segment in th morning newscast, please check out A Weather Primer for the Morning Executive Producer!