Here’s the story on how the Weather Channel got the super-premium domain name Weather.com and how it grew into a major Internet destination.
Have you ever wondered how companies secured such great domain names so early on in the age of the Internet? In many cases, it was done by a proactive employee without permission from senior management. Sometimes management didn’t even know that the company had a digital presence until a server under someone’s desk accidentally got unplugged. That’s exactly what happened with The New York Times’ Twitter account. The story of what happened at the Weather Channel is a little different, but it still involves a proactive employee moving their company into the digital age on their own.
How Weather Channel Got The Weather.com Domain
On August 9, 1994, an employee in the Weather Channel’s IT department thought it would be cool to have an e-mail that ended up in “weather.com”. So they pulled out a credit card and bought the domain name. That early on in the days of the Internet, simple domains with common words were very easy to obtain.
By 1996, the site was providing localized weather, ski reports, holiday travel updates and even featuring content about holiday shopping and Santa’s elves.
It wasn’t until April 20, 1999, that someone at the Weather Channel realized that the domain WeatherChannel.com wasn’t registered yet. That could have been a very expensive mistake to correct.
The unknown employee who first registered Weather.com is a hero. They probably couldn’t imagine that a decade later that domain would be one of the top 10 most visited media sites on the Internet. According to Nielsen‘s NetRatings, Landmark Communications‘s site Weather.com racked up 37.8 million unique visitors in March 2007, making it a more highly trafficked web property than most broadcast TV network sites.
The Secret To Weather.com’s Success
To what does Weather.com owe its success? For one thing, it’s primarily a reference site, a genre that does very well online. And it spends a lot of time and energy on search engine optimization and marketing. Lately, it has seen its distribution through widgets growing as well. General Manager Joe Fiveash also gives a big chunk of the credit to the site’s singular focus on weather.
“That’s all we do, we don’t do 10 other things. Consumers pick up on that. And the URL reinforces that,” he said. But the site has also smartly expanded into all areas that touch weather, recognizing there’s often a variety of reasons people care about the day’s forecast. “We try to make the planning aspect using the weather as tailored as we can to the activities they want to engage in,” he said. “Nine times out of ten they’re coming to the site with a specific task and if we can make that experience better, it’s going to be a more useful experience.”
And it’s never enough to be complacent. Consider that Weather.com has been a mobile player since that category’s early days as well. Currently, the site ranks eighth, behind only the mobile search portals and CNN, according to M:Metrics.
NERD NOTE: The Weather Channel’s first broadcast was on May 2, 1982, at 8:00 PM. The channel has been broadcasting 24/7 ever since.