Windy City Weather

When I was a kid who loved listening to radio stations like WOKY and WRIT (where a teenage Bob Pittman was a DJ for a while), and later WCFL and WLS, and even later WDAI and WLUP, I was listening to my favorite stations primarily for the music, but they also served lots of other functions in my life — they were my primary sources of weather forecasts, traffic reports, sports scores, and lots more too.

Someday, it's possible that pureplay, Internet-only, music-oriented webcasters like Pandora, Slacker, and AccuRadio may add local service elements like newscasts, weather, sports, traffic, and maybe community events and/or concert calendars. The insertion of such elements is absolutely possible today using current technology. (Operationally, it might require the addition of one employee per market to record fresh audio elements that could be inserted into listeners' streams as appropriate, although I imagine that traffic would need to be sourced from a third-party service.)

But would this make sense in the context of consumers’ needs in 2014? I'm not so sure.

Let's think about weather: In, let's say, 1980, my alternatives were (A) checking the weather forecast in the morning paper, (B) remembering the weather forecast from the previous evening's 10pm TV newscast, (C) calling WE6-1212 for a prerecorded National Weather Service forecast (updated hourly), brought to me by Wisconsin Telephone, or (D) hearing weather forecasts interjected regularly (including full forecasts as part of the top-of-the-hour newscast) on my favorite music radio station.

Of those four approaches, (B) and (D) were my primary approaches and served my needs in the vast majority of cases. TV gave me my overview for the coming day, and radio gave me reminders and updates on a regular basis.

Today, if I want to know the weather forecast, I swipe to the second screen of apps on my smartphone, touch the Yahoo! Weather app (proving, incidentally, that Yahoo! still has a role in my life!), and within a few seconds, thanks to well-designed graphics, I've absorbed a very detailed forecast, complete with hour-by-hour projections through midnight and a five-day forecast thereafter.

I actually absorb more useful information in a few seconds on Yahoo!'s newly-designed app than I would absorb watching a TV weatherman’s five-minute segment. And, thanks to the magic of multitasking, I can do this WHILE I'm listening to a radio app (or my music collection, or during a phone call, or whatever).

So, do I think it would add value to Pandora if they stopped the music at random times of their choosing to push a 20-second forecast onto me? On the whole, I think probably not. Perhaps occasionally I'd find it valuable, but I believe 90% of the time it would be a needless, unappreciated interruption.

Technically, this will get even easier for webcasters to theoretically do in the future as text-to-voice functionality gets better.

However, as a response to consumer need, I think it's an idea whose time has come and gone.

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