Weather Channel App Uses Next-Generation Media

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The Weather Channel this month unveils a desktop application that has the potential to rival its weather.com service.


Called The Weather Channel on Your Desktop, it will offer temperature and weather information, supported by advertisers sponsoring relevant content.


A revenue-generating mechanism, the sponsorships will cover five categories -- health, travel, home and garden, golf and driving. Consumers who download the application choose one or more categories to receive content in their interest.


"This will allow us to gain incremental revenue from our key corporate partners," said Paul Iaffaldano, chief revenue officer at weather.com, Atlanta.


The application was created after weather.com received thousands of e-mails from users asking for this type of push service, he said.


A key challenge is to avoid being compared with PointCast, a news push service that clogged bandwidth on computers.


"The difference is, PointCast was really meant to be a screensaver, so when you weren't focused on your computer, it sort of came up in the background," Iaffaldano said.


"This is actually different," he said, "in that the icon is in your system's tray and it says what the current temperature is and users say, 'No, I want more weather information' and when you click, a device pops up. So, it's user-activated as opposed to in the background."


Toward that end, weather.com first will have to interest site visitors to sign up for the free service.


The application is downloadable from weather.com or other download sites, taking an installation routine of 135K. The routine will determine the pieces needed to complete the application and subsequently download them.


Depending on the operating system and browser version of Internet Explorer, the application could take anywhere from 1MB for Windows 2000, Microsoft Explorer or XP users or 4MB for Windows 95 and an old browser.


Turning on the PC automatically activates the application, which can be minimized to an icon on the PC screen.


"It's not quite an Internet browser, but it's a device that allows you to receive a data feed over the Internet without opening a browser," Iaffaldano said. "The benefit to a consumer is that it is a much faster way to receive information in that only data, and not graphics, are being transmitted over the Internet. Now, if you link off it, then it opens a browser and then you go off to the Internet."


This move is critical to The Weather Channel's plans to explore other media using its interactive service. Launched in 1995, weather.com almost consistently ranks among the top 20 most visited sites nationwide. About 14 million unique users visit the site monthly. Supported mainly by advertising, weather.com also licenses content to other sites.


Now, with the new application, the possibilities increase for extracting more revenue from interactive media. The intent with the application is to have one advertiser sponsor each category with related content for a long duration.


"When you sign up for weather, you're also signing up to receive, say, home and garden information with one of our partners," Iaffaldano said. "And the idea is not that the next week we change it and put somebody else [there]. The value of this is to develop a dialogue with that consumer, and that dialogue needs to be longer than just a burst. It needs to be long-lasting, multiple components, frequently and over time."


Weather.com will work with the sponsors to develop content and create appropriate links. Content can be updated daily or weekly. Weather.com would not release the names of signed sponsors.


Advertisers pay for the number of registered users of the application and for frequency of visits. Rates, which were not disclosed, will be negotiable.


"We actually think that, if done right and with the proper balance, we may actually increase usage to weather.com, because the [application] will appear each day as consumers pull up their PCs and increase the frequency and consumption that weather.com may provide," said Debora J. Wilson, president/CEO of weather.com.


"And if we can monetize it effectively this way, it may not matter to us [that the application is not our Web site]," she said.


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