The Weather Channel, long known for its local weather on the 8s and soothing elevator music, turns 30 today. To celebrate, the company is giving Weather.com a major face-lift centered on social media.
While the new design is sleeker and more eye-pleasing, the real goal behind the relaunch is to give the viewer a personalized local and weather experience with an emphasis on the social nature of weather. "Weather is a sort of genetic element in the fabric of our humanity that is inherently social," said Weather Channel evp of digital products Cameron Clayton, who provided Adweek with a sneak peek at new site last week. "If you think about it, one of the only topics of conversation to endure since we all lived in caves is the weather."
In fact, in a media climate bursting at the seams with social interest, the Weather Channel is hoping to leverage the tweets and comments of a share-happy culture to enhance the site's user experience—as well as live TV coverage.
New widgets allow site visitors to share their opinion on the current weather, which is then culled to track sentiment and analyze local and national trends for viewers. Weather.com  also features multiple ways to engage in weather conversation over various social networks, if you're into that kind of thing.
Yet, those who roll their eyes at weather tweets and Facebook posts may be forgetting the viral and newsworthy nature of severe weather and natural disasters. Weather.com's sentiment analysis and social settings should provide the company with a well-trafficked platform to gather data in these unique but important weather moments. (Weather.com has long been one of the most visited sites on the Internet; per comScore, the site racked up over 54 million unique visitors in March.)
And lots of those users are already quite social. During Hurricane Irene last year, the site recorded over 25,000 tweets per minute at certain points during the storm. As a result, Weather Channel was able to use some of this social media intelligence to help reposition camera crews for optimal live coverage.
As of today, Weather.com also features proprietary TruPoint technology designed to help users gauge the expected stop and start time of rain in their area. Clayton explained the patented technology looks six hours into the future and has achieved high rates of accuracy after nine months of testing.