Saturday, November 17, 2012

Nifty -- AccuWeather's 50th Birthday

AccuWeather had its 50th birthday on Thursday...probably with some office birthday cake...but it was an occasion that is noteworthy for those in the private weather forecasting business.  Despite AccuWeather's occasional forays into doing or saying something that earns criticism from the blogosphere, such as the past critiques of the NWS or their push for privatization, the company's passion and innovation in the weather business has put them among the leaders in private sector forecasting.

Companies often can't get to 50 years without being at least good at what they do.  AccuWeather's leadership in media broadcasting drove them to become one of the larger producers of content for radio and TV stations in the country.  You can hear Elliot Abrams on many a morning on numerous big city news stations providing weather -- sometimes at the same time through the magic of digital mp3 files.  Forecast graphics and insight get provided to TV stations from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

It started because Joel Myers had weather in his blood from a young age.

"I remember when I was three or four years old I was fascinated by snow," he explained in an article on "I loved when it snowed and got excited during snow storms. I remember when I was seven years old, particularly, there was a snow storm in Philadelphia that blocked the streets and my aunt was trapped at our house and stayed up virtually all night just watching the snow come down, and just being fascinated with the impact of the snow on civilization. It was about that year or the year after that my grandmother bought me a diary, and I started writing the daily weather conditions, just during the winter, rain and 56 or whatever, to keep track of particularly when snow occurred."

Myers, a Penn State grad, acquired his first client in 1962 and the rest was history...although there were bumps along the way.  In 1971, the company began its foray into radio broadcasting.  AccuWeather provided almost all of the weather forecasts on KYW 1060 in Philadelphia for forty years, having just recently been usurped outside of morning drive for CBS 3 forecasts done in-house.  Elsewhere, AccuWeather has provided similar lengthy relationships with listeners in New York, Boston, Chicago, and many other cities throughout the East and Midwest.  By 1972, Philly's own Channel 6 signed on as its first TV client and remains an AccuWeather client to this day.

AccuWeather has occasionally earned critique -- its 25 day forecast has earned criticism about the accuracy of forecasting specifics that far out.  Its initial criticism of the NWS in the wake of Hurricane Rita was silly and eye-rolling.  However, it is also an innovator (very solid iPad app) in an industry where technology and science are constantly driving innovation and change.  There are many passionate people who work at AccuWeather and many very solid meteorologists.  Again, getting to fifty years in corporate America as your own entity takes being good at what you do...and despite the moments where the company's PR hasn't been at its best, their passion for the weather is arguably among the best in the industry.