Changing with the Weather.com

Revised Web site seeks to attract visitors by addressing various lifestyles and making forecasts more relevant
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It may be hard to improve on a good thing, but that's exactly what Weather.com had in mind when it re-launched its site last week.

The leading weather-related Web site, Weather.com, is undoubtedly a winner. It ranks among the top 30 Web sites worldwide and is firmly entrenched among the top five cable and broadcast sites, according to Media Metrix.

"They are in the enviable position of having this great brand name and this great URL," says Robert Hertzberg, Internet analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix Research. None would argue that the site's sister company, the 24-hour Weather Channel cable network, drives many users to Weather.com. As Hertzberg notes, "weather forecasts are all well and good, but you have to wait for them to come to you when you're talking about television and radio. The Internet is a great place to go and find out how the weather is going to affect you."

The relaunch is intended to "refresh the look, feel and organization of our content," says Weather.com President and CEO Debora Wilson. According to her, the goal is also to enable the site, which has been up and running since 1995 to accommodate more traffic and content, as well as incorporate database functions.

Now, Weather.com is delivering even more-highly personalized weather content. For example, local forecasts have been enhanced by the inclusion of local severe-weather alerts, says Wilson. "If there is a tornado watch for a specific area, we would proactively send that information to a local forecast."

Yet another change at the site is the addition of hour-by-hour forecasts for the four days ahead. Wilson believes these forecasts will help outdoor-sports enthusiasts or anyone planning an outdoor event. "It's a huge improvement, especially if you want to know if it would be better to play tennis at 2 p.m. versus 4 p.m. because a storm might be coming."

The site has also added climatologic information. Weather.com is using its extensive database to offer users access to the average highs and lows and the weather conditions for 77,000 locations across the world. Wilson considers this a real plus for vacation planners who want to know what the typical weather is like on any particular day in any particular city.

The relaunch is part of the site's on-going strategy to "make the weather relevant." It is also a continuation of Weather.com's positioning of itself as a lifestyle site. "There are consistently 15 to 20 reasons why people need weather information," Wilson notes. "It is related to the things they do in their life. As a result, we have extended and married weather content with those reasons."

With that in mind, the site has personalized its information even further by including indexes that will help users determine the best ski resorts, golf courses or even beaches to visit.

Another major improvement, made late last year before the re-launch, has been the expansion of forecasts from five to 10 days. Wilson says, "that was very important to our users-to be able to plan through the weekend."

Certainly, business for Weather.com remains strong. Ad revenues have been up, according to Wilson, although she declined to discuss specific numbers. "We are in the top 30 sites in terms of ad revenue."

On average, the site receives about 8 million "unique visitors a month," says the Weather.com executive. And, of course, bad weather is good news for the site. December was a busy month: "We had all kinds of winter storm activity across the country. We grew significantly. We had 14 million unique visitors that month. We had over half a billion page views."

The relaunch is a good idea, Hertzberg thinks. "They are trying to add new features that will enhance the kind of content that is there and ties into more lifestyle things, as opposed to what the weather is going to be in Poughkeepsie tomorrow. That makes sense-businesses can't stand still."

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