Cancellations.com, owned by commercial weather forecaster AccuWeather, will look to expand its revenue base later this month with an automated telephone notification system that alerts families about school closings due to inclement weather.
An expansion of Cancellations.com's e-mail alert facility, the service targets superintendents of school districts.
Cancellations.com will work with several schools in a pilot program while simultaneously promoting the service to other school districts, aware that this effort comes smack-dab in the middle of winter.
“We thought it would be better to roll it out this [winter] season rather than wait for the next and promote it over the summer, so that at least we're prepared for the next winter,” said Emily Andronici, product manager at Cancellations.com, State College, PA.
Assuming the pilot program goes smoothly, Cancellations.com hopes the new service will gain acceptance across the targeted 7,000 schools in 22 states, mostly in the Northeast and the Midwest, that have signed up to post closings notices on the Cancellations.com site.
The schools involved in the pilot program will participate either for free or at a discounted rate. Other schools will pay a flat yearly rate for a designated number of calls. Schools will be charged extra for additional calls. Parents can also sign up for the service for a fee. Andronici would not reveal the fee structure for schools or individuals.
The site expects subscriptions from the service to be the No. 3 revenue stream, after weather content feeds licensed to companies and site ads.
Andronici said this is one of the first times an online weather service is offering closings information by phone. The feature is intended to replace phone chains used by organizations and schools to convey closings due to bad weather.
School superintendents can visit Cancellations.com, click on the phone icon and fill out a form. The information supplied will include the phone numbers to contact, the message and the time to send the messages, which are translated from text to voice.
“[The strategy] is to have an additional feature of our service that fills a gap in what superintendents of school districts need,” Andronici said. “They usually have anywhere from 10 to 20 people that they have to contact, and then those people have to contact an additional 10 people and so on and so forth. So basically, when they make a posting on Cancellations.com, that eliminates them from having to call anybody.”
Cancellations.com will use a combination of e-mail newsletters and media outreach to persuade schools to sign up for the automated phone notification system.
Adverse weather conditions often spike traffic on the site.
During recent snowstorms in the Midwest, for example, Cancellations.com registered more than 1.2 million page views from users looking for information on school closings.
The phone notification will help Cancellations.com reach households without a computer or that are not inclined to turn them on at an early hour.