Paul Douglas is a nationally respected meteorologist with 33 years of television and radio experience. A serial entrepreneur, Douglas is Senior Meteorologist for WeatherNation TV, a new, national 24/7 weather channel with studios in Denver and Minneapolis. Founder of Media Logic Group, Douglas and a team of meteorologists provide weather services for media at Broadcast Weather, and high-tech alerting and briefing services for companies via Alerts Broadcaster. His speaking engagements take him around the Midwest with a message of continuous experimentation and reinvention, no matter what business you’re in. He is the public face of “SAVE”, Suicide Awareness, Voices of Education, based in Bloomington. | Send Paul a question.

Inventing a new Weather Channel: "The Weather Cast"

Posted by: Paul Douglas Updated: May 22, 2010 - 9:55 AM

 

Exhausted. Dazed. Amazed. The "Weather Cast" on Dish is up (channel 213), right next to the Weather Channel. Where it goes from here I have no idea. Just happy to be at this moment in time.

Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota

Today: Partly sunny, windy and warm. Winds: SE 15-30. High: 83

Saturday night: Muggy and mild - thunder possible far west. Low: 70

Sunday: Less sun, sticky and hot - a few strong/severe T-storms by late afternoon. Winds: S/SE 15-25. High: near 90

Monday: Intervals of sun, a few T-storms around town. High: 89

Tuesday: More clouds than sun, unsettled - another storm. High: near 90

Wednesday: More T-storms, locally heavy rain. High: 86

Thursday: Showers and storms begin to taper off. High: 84

Friday: Drying out (finally) with gradual clearing. High: 78

Busy day. I know it sounds ridiculous hearing it - sounds even crazier saying it: "We launched a national weather channel late Thursday." Friday was our first full day broadcasting "The Weather Cast" for Dish. Crazy times. What's that old saying, "may you live in interesting times..." Right. The world is changing, media is morphing. I don't - for an instant - pretend to have the answer key. But I do know that the Internet is capable of destroying business models, and simultaneously CREATING new business models. At WeatherNation we are relying on the 'net, high-speed fiber optic pipes to distribute content. We can go live - via the 'net, to anywhere in the world - from Excelsior. No need for expensive satellite uplinks or transponder time. Bandwidth is now sufficient to go live, SD or HD quality. We couldn't have done this 5 years ago, but today the sky is the limit. It's all about connecting the dots differently, taking advantage of technological breakthroughs to create (and distribute) content more cost-effectively, by an order of magnitude, and pass those costs on to the client. A team of entrepreneurs from Denver approached us and pushed us to try and make this happen - if it wasn't for them we wouldn't have gotten this far. We're trying to use (superior) weather graphics and a staff made up completely of meteorologists to put out out a competitive product. Does it need work? Absolutely. Are we where we want to be? No. But considering how long we've been doing this - I'm amazed we've gotten this far. It will get better over time, and regardless of what happens next I think we've proven (to ourselves) that the future is 24/7 weather channels, for the nation, for specific states, for individual cities - all pumping out streams of content personalized for each user, on whatever screen they're watching: satellite, cable set-top box, cell phone, iPad, anything. Everyone sees something different, based on their profile, their GPS location. No weather-spam. A truly personalized, always-updating service that's easy to find, easy to use, a tool to make better use of your time, plan your evenings/weekends with greater confidence, and keep their families safer. That's the vision.

Family Affair. My son, Walt, just graduated from Penn State with a degree in Telecommunications and Business - helping us at WeatherNation with shooting/editing and post production. It's good to have him working with me - diving into the deep end with the rest of us.

All I'll say is this: we have 3 HD studios, 12 meteorologists (many excellent people who were let go from local TV stations because they were too old or too expensive). WeatherNation is tapping a state-of-the-art graphics systems from a company called Baron Services (their Vipir storm tracking tool and new OMNI 3-D graphics system is breathtaking - absolutely the best tools on the planet for tracking and displaying weather). Hands down. The only reason we even have a prayer of competing with the Weather Channel is because we have better story-telling tools, better weather graphics, and better people. Everyone on the air is a certified, professional meteorologist. No "presenters", no "personalities". Everyone at WeatherNation working on Dish's "Weather Cast" has a degree in meteorology. More important: they have a genuine passion for meteorology, and it shows on the air.

Advanced Training. That's meteorologist David Neal and Gretchen Mischek - working on the new Vipir system from Baron Services. Not only can we display national Doppler Radar, down to street level, we can also tap into a network of live, local radars around the USA to get truly real-time information. Vipir is a product of Baron Services, based in Huntsville, Alabama, a weather vendor with an amazing track record of innovation - we're lucky to be teaming with them to get some new story-telling tools on the air.

The only reason we've gotten this far (and I truly have no idea what will happen tomorrow, or even an hour from now) is because I was blessed with extraordinary people: meteorologists, developers, engineers, directors, sales people and support staff - and we're trying new ways to tell the weather story. Back to basics. Meat and potatoes. Give me the weather - no movies, no specials, no network stars. Just give me the weather, give me what I need, then go away. Sometimes simple is better. BTW we are providing all the weather content for a Kentucky Weather Channel, CN2, based in Louisville, Kentucky, 24/7, focused on weather for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. I think this is the future - PC-based systems that generate a continuous stream of weather content, local, regional and national, available on cable set-top boxes, mobile devices - with the ability to tailor information for every consumer, based on their home address or GPS location.

Just as important: the ability to tailor the advertisements down the road on any device with a 2-way flow of information, a satellite/cable set-top box, a cell phone, a computer:  based on WHAT THEY LIKE AND PREFER AS INDIVIDUALS. Don't ram ad-spam down their throats. Give people a voice in the ads that pop up on their TV's, PC's or cell phones. I'd watch Apple ads all day, same for Malibu waterskiing boats, cars, computers, cell phones, gadgets (productivity devices). I'd actually sit up a little straighter in my chair and I might actually CLICK ON THE AD, if it was a product or service I'm actually interested in. Common sense. Don't use behavioral targeting to digitally stalk me, remember my clicks or past web sites I've visited. Forget cookies in browsers. LET ME CHOOSE. It's all going to come back to consumers, empowering....US....to see what we want to see based on our lifestyles and preferences, not what some pencil-neck geek on Madison Avenue THINKS I want to see, based on my "profile."

 

"Studio B" Our latest, state-of-the art, all-digital weather studio, where we produce live and taped HD segments for multiple clients. That's meteorologist David Neal, who was the #1 meteorologist in Birmingham for 2 decades, an amazing guy, the kind of guy you meet - and immediately like. The local station let him go a few years ago (for being too expensive). Sounds familiar. He's still at the top of his game, and we are very lucky to have him on the WeatherNation team.

Sorry - got carried away. I'm excited - exhausted - terrified - but most of all proud - of my team, our vendors, people like Kory Hartman from Severe Studios and meteorologist Jason Parkin in Des Moines, who was let go from KCCI-TV (but is extraordinary)....developers like Lee Huffman (who created Ham Weather).....our chief tech guru, Mike Huang, my (amazing) business partner, Todd Frostad, who helped to start up Digital River and who is helping me run WeatherNation (although we lost control a long time ago - events seem to be spiraling out of ANYONE'S control) and Mark Schiller, who was my Chief Director at WCCO-TV, also let go during a recent rash of cost-cutting.

 

Nothing this good happens by accident - it requires amazing people. I'm very lucky, and no matter how this turns out for WeatherNation and me I'm pretty jazzed that a Minnesota company took on the Weather Channel and tried to advance an alternative. Does it need work? Absolutely. But did you see TWC when it launched in 1982? The New York Times called it the "video equivalent of wallpaper." It got better, in a hurry. Not sure where this crazy journey will wind up, but the journey is what's important, not the destination. Hope your journey leads you somewhere memorable and exciting. I hope you look forward to getting up and going to work. If you don't, time for a mid-career adjustment. Life is too short to be miserable...

No Need To Water. All the models bring in a few showers/T-storms Sunday, another surge of moisture Monday, again late Wednesday, some .5 to .8" rainfall amounts over the next 5 days.

Oh yeah - the weather. There will be weather, I'm confident of that. What flavor? What time is it? Cue up instant summer, a stiff southeast wind, rising dew points, a dash of murky, hazy sun and highs topping 80 later today as a warm frontal boundary sails north of town. A good beach/lake/pool day, but expect a choppy ride on your favorite lake later today, gusts over 25 mph at times.

How does 90 grab you? If the sun stays out much of tomorrow (likely) we should at least see upper 80, 90 is not out of the question by late afternoon. A few T-storms may bubble up along a warm frontal boundary (stalled over central MN) and there is a SMALL chance of a few isolated T-storms that may turn severe, with large hail and damaging winds. We should have just enough instability (lifted index of -7 !), sufficient wind shear and low-level moisture sufficient to fuel a few strong to severe storms - wouldn't be surprised to see a few watches and warnings. We'll keep the videos updating throughout the day, keep you up to date as best we can.

A fizzling cool front stalls right over Minnesota early next week, and then ripples back and forth, sparking waves of showers and T-storms from late Sunday through Thursday of next week. Not a continuous rain, maybe a couple hours of rain each day.

No need to water anytime soon - I think you're covered. Have fun this weekend. I'll be at work.

Summer Temperatures. The CPC, the Climate Prediction Center, is forecasting a slight bias toward cooler than average weather for June - August across the Plains, the Upper Midwest and much of the Great Lakes, warmer than normal for the southeast and the southwest. Stay tuned. Historically, I don't put a lot of stock in these extended weather "trends", but they're interesting to look at, just another data point.

Summer Precipitation. The outlook for June - July - August indicates a slight trend toward wetter than average weather across the Plains and along the Gulf coast, drier weather for the Pacific Northwest.

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