6 responses

  1. Doug Weaver
    October 30, 2012

    I'm taking the risk of alienating a client company with this comment, but right is right and I need to speak up. No question there's a certain level of technical achievement here, and I know that Curt and David have made large bets on the future of programmatic for The Weather Company. And I'm sure that behind the closed doors of a boardroom or in a confidential memo to investors it may well have represented a significant business case study and an important supporting plank for how they intend to build the company. But...

    There is also a certain callousness in the bloodless discussion of business gain at the cost of human suffering. We've not even gotten a final count on the number of people who died in the storm or how long homes will be without power -- that is, for the homes that are not damaged beyond repair. A little too early for comments like:

    “We set a record on Friday in terms of programmatic revenue and since landfall is happening right now, I assume that trend will continue through the duration of the storm."

    or

    "Frankenstorm is driving massive spikes in internet usage, and opportunities within RTB."

    or

    "Therefore, when something’s about to hit, (marketers are) ready to go, they’re budgeted."

    I have tremendous respect for The Weather Company and the people who work for them on air, behind the scenes and in media sales and support. It's a brand I trust implicitly at the worst of times. That brand just took a hit, and for what purpose? Taking a public victory lap while the track is still wet was a bad call.

  2. David Kaplan
    October 30, 2012

    Hey Doug,

    I completely understand your concerns, and please let me apologize if you were offended by the piece's tone and focus.

    As someone who had family directly in harm's way in southern Brooklyn -- and I am also in the Brooklyn -- I was naturally cognizant of the possibility of seeming crass and trivial at a moment of a terrible disaster.

    I can't speak for The Weather Company/The Weather Channel and Curt Hecht and David Kenny, but I can tell you that they were absolutely concerned as well. I focused only on the impact of programmatic advertising because, although it may have seemed a little too soon, it was something that marketers and consumers of weather news were dealing with.

    I merely wanted to show how significantly things have changed when it comes to the business of supporting this kind of content and how marketers and content companies can be sensitive and yet still relevant at the same time.

    I don't think the idea of programmatic buying in this case is exploitative or that The Weather Company is strictly considering the bottom line and not the personal toll that their coverage is concentrated on. At the end of the day, the question of "how does all this get paid for?" was my focus.

    Again, if anything in this piece was over the line, it was entirely my fault and I ask the forgiveness of anyone else who thought this was handled inappropriately.

    -dk

  3. Doug Weaver
    October 30, 2012

    David, your explanation is helpful. Let me respond and elaborate a bit. In no way do I suspect that financial considerations drove the way that the Weather Channel or Weather.com covered the storm. I have no doubt that they covered the story and provided the information people needed in a timely and professional way. Your point about the financial support for extended coverage is well-taken, and would have been a good case study for a later time.

    It is, of course, easy for me to play Monday morning quarterback. But I still do question the point of TWC releasing so many stats and engaging in the discussion about monetization just hours after the storm hit. Back during the summer of The Wall Street Journal's online privacy series, I blogged about the need for all of us to get out of our digital bunker and start choosing our words with care. Do I think Curt or David or anyone at TWC doesn't care about the people of the Northeast? Of course not. I just think they -- and AdExchanger -- chose the wrong words to tell the wrong story at the wrong time.

    That said, I remain a huge fan of AE and TWC. If I weren't, I'd never have taken the time to write these responses.

  4. Annonymous Ad Tech Exec
    October 31, 2012

    To say that media isnt in the business of exploiting disasters is un genuine, its practically all that media companies do Doug, they exploit human suffering for private profits... You may not like that fact but that's the way it is. If it bleeds, it leads....

    Of course it was financially advantages for Weather.com/channel to cover the storm... They are in the business of covering storms. They are not a non-profit or a public service, even if they make their money off of the technologies created for and data gathered and distributed by the US Gov. Which makes them a private, commercial service built on public money... but that's a different thread altogether

    The fact that Weather.com weathered their increase traffic and that the infrastructure built for just that purpose worked, is very pertinent to those in the biz. Perhaps you should step away from your personal feelings ad address this as an objective professional. For if you dig deeper into the reasons behind your feelings, you could find yourself incapable of supporting almost any advertising technology or methodology due to ethical and moral breeches that drives the entire business.

    • Bob
      November 4, 2012

      I similarly would not have released a story like this for risk of how it would come across.

      However, anonymous, while the reality is that when bad things happen certain services and products are in high demand (in this case weather news and information, batteries, canned goods, bottled water, blankets, diapers, brooms, gas containers...), this is not something that most businesses feel particularly good about. If Procter & Gamble or Lowe's have better quarters as a result does not mean they will comment "And thank goodness for Sandy...really made our quarter! Business in NJ and on Long Island was great!"

      To suggest that "practically all that media companies do [is] exploit human suffering for private profits" is not only disingenuous but an extremely callous and jaded view of how most media companies run their businesses. Americans also vote with their wallets, and if they felt businesses were run solely with profit motives at the expense of doing the right thing they would rapidly go out of business.

      Anonymous, did you watch any of the media coverage of Sandy over the past week? Did you feel you were getting bombarded with ad break after ad break (I saw none)? Sending reporters out all week and maintaining news coverage practically 24/7 is hardly low cost - it would not surprise me if this week's events actually HURT the bottom line for many media companies, as many pre-empted their primetime programs to keep the local news coverage, without ads, running, for the benefit of those of us looking for information as to how things were going and what we should do or could do to help.

      The NYTimes, too, took down their own restrictions on free articles per user in order to ensure access to news and coverage (which are since back up). They are not exactly a company making tons of money these days...actually they lost money last quarter. http://www.google.com/finance?q=NYSE%3ANYT&fstype=ii&ei=78GWUPDUHcjD0QGNfQ

      Also, if you really feel "almost any advertising technology or methodology [is driven by] ethical and moral breeches" (this part actually makes me laugh) why are you in the ad tech space yourself? I'm in that space and I LOVE what I am doing: helping content producers find ways to continue providing good content during a dynamic moment in the evolution of how people consume media. If I were focused on maximizing my own income I would be in a different industry.

  5. Alejandro
    November 7, 2012

    On a slightly different note, I was surprised to see how many advertisers were "on-air" during the storm. Barring advertisers in certain verticals, I would've thought that few would be willing to have adjacency to the terrifying images associated to Sandy. So, in a way, I'm surprised that revenue was so high during the catastrophe...I wonder how the ads that did run performed.

    To clarify, I don't mean this comment to sound callous, in other words, I'm not merely speculating as to revenue and profit during a cataclysm. I am questioning advertisers' willingness to associate their image to media that is being consumed by users in distress.

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