The Weather Outside Comes Inside
My favorite Washington weather site, capitalweather.com, tomorrow becomes part of washingtonpost.com
Jason Samenow, Dan Stillman and their team of ten weather geeks and meteorologists, who are now entering their fifth year as the area's top purveyors of web weather info, analysis and nifty special forecasts--for Nats and Redskins games and Fourth of July fireworks, for beaches and holiday getaways--will take their act to this here web site starting at 5 a.m. Tuesday. But have no fear: "We'll still do everything we already do, and we'll be adding new features too," says Samenow.
And nobody at capitalweather--they'll be renamed the Capital Weather Gang--is quitting their day job. This will remain a labor of love, though with some new potential to make some money while they're at it. Samenow is a climate change analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency, and the rest of his volunteer team consists of a lawyer, a computer guy, several degreed meteorologists and a whole lot of lifelong weather obsessives. Samenow and Stillman devote 10 to 20 hours a week to what has essentially been a hobby--the money they've taken in from ad sales has been fed back into improving the site. They're now hoping that the deal with the Post will allow them to distribute some green to their team members for the first time.
Weather sites were among the earliest and most frequently visited of information sites on the web, in part because weather geeks are so information-hungry and in part because there's just about no other aspect of the news that keeps people coming back for more like the weather. Washington, as it turns out, is an especially good town for weather reporting. "Interest here is very, very high because of the weather diversity we get here from snow to hurricanes to extreme heat," says Samenow, 31.
The site has been drawing about 70,000 page views per month, and during a zesty winter storm of the sort that we haven't had in a while, capitalweather sometimes attracts 30,000 views a day. "Winters tend to be more active for us because people here are snow-obsesssed," he says.
Speaking of snow obsessions, the Capital Weather Gang will lose none of their fresh and spunky personality and plan to expand their service to include ratings of the local broadcast weathercasters and "very frank commentary on all local weather issues," Samenow says. I asked if he plans to rate or rank the local schools superintendents on their school-closing decisions, and he seemed to like the idea, though I imagine he'll be much more kind, understanding and fair on that score than I tend to be. (Let the bashing begin, even if it is 70 degrees outside.)
Online is the future of weather info--Samenow is certain of that, even if The Weather Channel is up for sale for something on the order of $5 billion.
"People can turn to our site at any time without having to wait for weather on the 8s or the last few minutes of a TV newscast," Samenow says. (But local TV and radio outlets, cognizant of this, are moving toward 24/7 weather offerings, too, with all-weather digital TV channels and now, a nonstop traffic and weather subchannel on WTOP's digital radio service.)
"TV forecasters have to dumb down the information, whereas we can really explain the science behind the weather," Samenow says, "and we can be candid about our opinions too." Good to have you aboard, guys--now, about the weather: Can you hit reset and put us back in winter, please?
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