Friday, October 31, 2014

When a Small Business Comes Into Contact With Ebola (BusinessWeek)

The Gutter bar and bowling alley in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood
The Gutter bar and bowling alley in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood
Reports of the first Ebola case in New York City have included a detail that might make small business owners cringe: Craig Spencer the 33-year-old doctor who had recently returned from working with Ebola patients in Guinea, visited a Brooklyn bowling alley before he became aware of his symptoms.
While the health of Spencer and those close to him is a far graver concern, his case also underscores the risks faced by businesses touched however briefly by Ebola. Gutter, the bowling alley visited by Spencer, plans to reopen quickly. Other businesses have struggled.
Coming Attractions Bridal & Formal, a family-owned business in Akron, has been closed since Oct. 16, after a Dallas nurse who had contracted the virus spent three hours in the shop looking for a wedding dress. Earlier this week, owner Anna Younker posted photos of cleaners in hazmat suits decontaminating the space with ultraviolet torches that look like 5-foot-tall bug zappers.
Despite taking that precaution, Younker said in a Facebook (FB) post that her shop would remain closed until Nov. 4, a full three weeks since the patient’s visit, to let fears die down. Meanwhile, Younker and her husband are scrambling to deliver wedding dresses to customers.
Insurance could cover some of Younker’s losses if she carries a business interruption policy, says Linda Kornfield, a Los Angeles-based insurance lawyer at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres, & Friedman. Such policies cover losses incurred when a business closes because of physical damage from a disaster. That usually includes the revenue a company would have made if it hadn’t closed, as well as costs incurred to reopen.
“The interesting question here,” says Kornfield, “is whether the presence of Ebola virus at your company facility is some sort of physical damage.”
The language of such policies can vary, but it’s common for them to cover businesses that close because of an order of civil authority. A business closed down by health officials could win a claim even if the insurer didn’t view contamination as physical damage.
One thing insurance won’t cover is loss of business because fear keeps customers away. The manager of Back Country Bar-B-Q, a restaurant located down the road from the Dallas hospital that treated the city’s Ebola cases, told a local TV stationthat sales fell off 40 percent in the weeks since the case was discovered. There’s probably not insurance for that.
Clark is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek covering small business and entrepreneurship.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

“where is your emergency,” (Public Knowledge)

When you call 9-1-1, the most important thing the dispatcher needs to know is “where is your emergency,” according to an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered last week, which featured PK’s Jodie Griffin.

As more people cut landline phone service, they may not realize that they are making it harder for emergency services to come to their assistance. In the past, callers could be easily located through their landline, down to the apartment number.

Today, one-third of homes rely solely on wireless phones, which are much more difficult to locate. Location accuracy is crucial for victims of domestic violence, children, callers who don’t speak English, and more.


Recently, FCC has proposed new rules that will improve location accuracy for wireless devices--enough to find which floor you are on in a building. Public Knowledge is reminding the FCC that even as the technology we rely on to communicate changes, our values should stay the same. Sign our petition here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

An Apple Design Wizard Crafts a Shotgun for Beretta (BusinessWeek)

Last month Apple proudly announced it had hired Australian-born aesthetic guru Marc Newson to join the tech company’s legendary stable of designers. He’s about to come out with a decidedly low-tech masterpiece: a high-end engraved shotgun to be produced by the Italian firearm manufacturer Beretta.
It would be difficult to find two companies at more distant positions on the spectrum of corporate culture and product focus. Apple (AAPL) is known for innovative digital devices and phones, with a history built on sleek computers. The company, founded by the late Steve Jobs, is the epitome of Silicon Valley cool.
Beretta, still owned by the Beretta family, traces its roots to the early 16th century and makes metal-and-wood tools that, by design, kill living things. OK, sometimes Beretta’s guns merely propel ammunition through targets. Even at the range, though, shooters are simulating the exercise of lethal force. And as for materials, yes, some modern pistols are made from industrial-strength plastic, but the guts of even the most up-to-date small arms haven’t changed much for generations: pull trigger … bang!
Newson will design a shotgun similar to the Beretta 486 Parallelo, on Nov. 13Courtesy BerettaNewson will design a shotgun similar to the Beretta 486 Parallelo, on Nov. 13
Best known for dreaming up highly functional components for aircraft, Newson has earned international fame and moves in celebrity circles. Last year, U2 front man Bono asked him to collaborate with Jonathan Ive, Apple’s senior vice president for design, on a series of items for the Red charity auction at Sotheby’s to raise money to fight AIDS and other diseases in Africa. Newson and Ive came up with an inventory “ranging from a one-off Hermes red leader saddle and a white Steinway grand piano with a red inside lid to a red version of the cutting-edge Mac Pro tower desktop computer,” the Financial Times reported.
The collaboration with Ive must have gone well, as this September, Appleannounced that London-based Newson would join the tech titan. The Beretta shotgun project was already well under way and must have been basically completed by the time Apple made its announcement. The Italian firearm maker is set to launch the product in coming weeks, Dezeen reports:

“Newson’s design will be released on 13 November, when the gun is officially unveiled at an event in London. It will be a version of the existing 486 Parallelo – a 12-gauge side-by-side game gun that features a round body receiver and lavish engravings. Beretta currently produces 1,500 weapons a day, with ‘sporting firearms’ counting for an estimated 90 per cent of production. Its repertoire includes shotguns, pistols and rifles. American Armed Forces and State Police Forces started using the Beretta 92 pistol series in 1985.”
Likely to receive criticism from anti-gun activists, Newson joins a long tradition of artists applying their skills to beautify firearms, as Bloomberg Businessweek hasreported in other contexts.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Inbound Trade Mission from Prague, Czech Republic - November 4th, 2014 (Miami-Dade County)

TUEDSDAY, NOVEMBER 4TH, 2014 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.

Location:  Conrad Miami Hotel, 1395 Brickell Avenue, Miami, FL, 33131
Matchmaking appointments will be made with the businesses listed below on a first come, first served basis, free of charge
Pre-qualified companies can confirm appointment time by contacting:
Adam Peters, Trade Development Specialist – EDIT 305 375-5420 or

Registration closes Friday, October 31st, 2014.

Economic Development and International Trade Unit,
Business Affairs Division, Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources
111 N.W. First Street, 12th Floor · Miami, Florida 33128-1994

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Middle-class adults have $20K saved for retirement (USA Today)

A third aren't contributing anything to a 401(k), IRA or other retirement savings plan.

 Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY

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Middle-class people in the USA have a median of $20,000 saved for retirement, far short of the $250,000 they think they'll need during that time of their lives, a new survey shows.
A third (34%) of working middle-class adults aren't contributing anything to a 401(k), IRA or other retirement savings plan, according to the survey of 1,001 adults, ages 25 to 75, with a median household income of $63,000. The survey was conducted by Harris Poll for Wells Fargo (WFC).
Those who are putting away money for retirement are currently saving a median of $125 every month, the survey shows. About 61% say they're not sacrificing a lot to save for retirement, but 38% are sacrificing to tuck away money for their golden years.
And 55% say they plan to save later for retirement in order to make up for not doing enough now.
"The main message here is people are putting off saving, and they are losing the benefit of long-term compounded earnings," says Joe Ready, director of institutional retirement for Wells Fargo. "Kicking the empty can down the road is going to be detrimental to their retirement security. It's really a problem."
Other survey findings:
• 31% of employed middle-class adults say they won't have enough money to survive in retirement.
• 70% have a 401(k) or equivalent plan available to them through their employer, and a majority of them (93%) are currently contributing to their plans. On average, those who have access to a 401(k) plan saved 10 times more than those who don't have a plan.
• 50% of middle-class adults in their 50s say they will work until they are at least 80 years old because they will not have enough saved for retirement.
Research shows that the No. 1 factor in saving for retirement is your contribution rate, Ready says. "You have to save your way to retirement. That's the hard work. Investments matter, but savings matter more."
USA TODAY contributor Regina Lewis explains how to avoid retirement myths. (Money Quick Tips, USA TODAY)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How Climate Change Is Fueling the Miami Real Estate Boom (BusinessWeek)

Miami Beach, Florida
Miami Beach, Florida
As a city sitting virtually at sea level, Miami has been called ground zero for the problems posed by climate change, a place where rising sea levels threaten its future existence. The latest forecast of sea level rise from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for example, predicts that by later this century, global sea levels will be two feet higher than they are today, quite possibly higher. Under that scenario, the nuisance flooding in Miami that periodically comes with high tides will be a daily affair, the storm surge impact of hurricanes will be amplified, and lower-lying areas of the city will be uninhabitable. That’s actually not the worst of it: Under higher sea levels, the Biscayne Aquifer—where southeast Florida draws its drinking water—will increasingly suffer from saltwater intrusion, a problem for which there is no foreseen solution other than the investment of billions of dollars in water treatment facilities.
As bleak as this future would seem to be, few with real skin in the game in Miami—residents, real estate investors, and companies—are backing away from long-term investment. Exhibit A: Miami has been undergoing a nearly unprecedented surge in real estate construction, with planning discussions centering less on who will leave first and more on how high new projects can be built. Among the projects under way, for example, is an 80-plus-story behemoth in Brickell Center, the city’s urban core. If Miami is on the verge of being a modern-day Atlantis, those who would have the most to lose are apparently not buying it.
Why this apparent deafness to the dire warnings? Well, here’s a paradox. If one talks to developers and city commissioners in the area, it’s hard to find evidence of overt denial of current and future risk; Miami was a city, after all, almost completely destroyed by a hurricane in 1926, and most concede that a recurrence is a matter of when, not whether. Likewise, few deny that the city’s unique geography makes it vulnerable to the effects of rising sea levels. It’s a long-term problem that the planning commissions of Miami and Miami Beach acknowledge exists and threatens to get worse.
Where locals disagree with outsiders, however, is about how best to deal with the problem. Rather than sounding alarms and cutting back on development, there’s an implicit sense that the best approach may be, ironically, to do the opposite. And while a strong case can be made that this behavior has no rational basis, it may represent Miami’s best long-term hope for dealing with the threats posed by climate change, one that other cities might be advised to mimic: The best strategy, in fact, may be to foster a collective belief that there’s no threat—or at least not one serious enough to lose sleep over.
Before I explain why, let me first address the two standard explanations for the building boom, explanations that are indeed part of the puzzle. The first is that real estate developers, by their nature, are gamblers with short planning horizons. In the late 2000s, the real estate and equities crash quickly wiped out many builders. One might assume that would have made them skittish. To the contrary, the quick recovery that followed taught most that big risks are worth taking, and are survivable. While developers today may concede that sea levels are rising, it’s a risk that lies well beyond their investment horizons, and in any case is dwarfed by the more immediate risk of a returning recession.
The second explanation is that many of the buyers for all the new condo units arecash investors from Latin America, and the risks of Miami real estate—overdevelopment, speculation, environmental unsustainability—remain small relative to similar investments back home. No one is saying that real estate isn’t risky in Miami, or that sea level rise is fiction. What they are saying is that all investment carries risk, and development there is a bet they’re prepared to take.
But there’s another rational reason why even risk-averse residents in South Florida might, paradoxically, hope that buyers and sellers remain collectively naïve, or at least act as if they are, about the risks of sea level rise. South Florida relies almost exclusively on real estate taxes to fund public infrastructure. If the threat (or reality) of sea level rise suppresses property valuations, there will be less public money to address the risk. As an illustration, the head of public works for Miami Beach recently argued that the city would be wise to accelerate its investments in storm water drainage improvements ($100 million now and $400 million planned) simply because the city has the tax base to afford it—something it could not necessarily count on in the future.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Google unveils Nexus 6 phablet, Nexus 9 tablet; lands with Android Lollipop (ZDNet)

Summary: Google finally catches up with the rest of the smartphone space by offering its home-brew phablet, along with the next iteration of its tablet and Android operating system.

Despite little fanfare and a muted announcement, Google said on Wednesday it was ready to lift the veil on its latest Nexus devices.
Meet the Nexus 6 "phablet" smartphone, and the Nexus 9 tablet. Both will run the latest version of Android, dubbed "Lollipop," in line with its candy-themed naming scheme.
In a blog post announcing the new devices, Android chief Sundar Pichai said: "Lollipop is designed to be flexible, to work on all your devices and to be customized for you the way you see fit." 
According to recent reports, the quiet unveiling was due to a scramble in the last few days to get the final bits ready for the next-generation Android release. That softened any announcement Google was gunning for, said Forbes on Tuesday
Google's Nexus 6 "phablet" phone, built by Motorola, which this year was sold off to Lenovo, features a 5.9-inch quad-HD display with a resolution of 1,440 x 2,560 pixels, or 493 pixels-per-inch. It also comes with a Snapdragon 805 quad-core 2.7Ghz processor, and Adreno 420 graphics.
The Nexus 6 boasts a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. The phone requires just 15 minutes of charging for six hours use. Google says that it's ready for 24 hours of use from a full charge.
With dual-front facing speakers, the phone offers stereo sound.
The Nexus 6 will be available for pre-order in late October, and will be out in stores in November. It's available on AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular, but subject to carrier release times.
Unlocked versions will be available through the Google Play Store. 
Meanwhile, the Nexus 9 tablet includes an 8.9-inch IPS LCD display. Weighing in at just over one pound, it's powered by a 64-bit dual-core Nvidia Tegra K1 processor and an Nvidia Kepler graphics chip.
It has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, and a 1.6-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls. The tablet also comes with 16GB or 32GB storage options.
Google's Nexus 9 tablet, developed by HTC despite little experience in the space, comes in a brushed aluminum frame, instead of the anticipated all-metal design, which helps keep the price of the device down. 
There is no expandable storage, so choose your model wisely.
The Nexus 9 will be available on October 17 for pre-order. 
The long-awaited revamped tablet arrives a day after Apple is expected to reveal its latest iPads, which are slated to include with a beefed up A8X processor — slightly better than the iPhone 6's chip, along with its Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
Both devices, the Nexus 6 phablet and the Nexus 9 tablet, will run the latest version of Android Lollipop.
Android Lollipop boasts a number of new features, including a universal user interface and experience across devices, better multitasking, and better enterprise featuresThe Android operating system also comes with device encryption, just like Apple's iOS 8. Both Apple and Google implemented this in the wake of government intrusions.
The latest version of Android will be initially available on Google's latest own-model Nexus devices, including the older Nexus 5, and will roll out to other manufacturers from there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sube todo lo quieras que te esperare al bajar: Por: Ricardo Tribín Acosta

E   N       M   I       O   P   I   N   I   O   N

La arrogancia del poder a veces no tiene límites. Las gentes con características de soberbia se convencen así mismas que todo lo que logran en la vida se debe únicamente a su gran inteligencia y capacidad de hacer las cosas, lo cual oscurece la posibilidad de ascender con humildad en los diferentes pasos que contiene la gran escalera de la vida.

Al comienzo todo va bien y la aparición de unos egos endiosados los hace creer equivocadamente este aserto y siguen por consecuencia lógica sin descanso en su carrera hacia el “éxito”. Muchas veces olvidan de donde vienen y por ello no resulta raro que hasta su propia familia, incluidos sus padres, ignoren en su enloquecido crecer.

Todo lo anterior funciona a la perfección hasta que, como algo de común ocurrencia, les acontece una situación que no saben manejar y entonces es cuando “caen como cocos después de haber subido como palmas”. Allí es donde solo recogerán su propia siembra de abandono y rechazo pues son tantas las heridas que han dejado en su camino que prácticamente nadie quiere relacionarse con ellos en el asfalto.

Por lo anterior es importante procurar ser amable con las personas que se encuentren en el ascenso al éxito, porque se volverán a encontrar precisamente en el descenso al fracaso, y allí será el lamento y el crujir de dientes, o la satisfacción de la solidaridad, si aquellas reconocen que fuimos amables y humildes en la parte de arriba de nuestras carreras.

Miami, Octubre 11 de 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Weather Channel's Secret: Less Weather, More Clickbait (BusinessWeek)

The Weather Channel's Secret: Less Weather, More Clickbait
Photo illustration by 731; Animation by Tracy Ma; Photographs by Getty Images
The writers and editors at the Weather Channel’s don’t often talk about the weather. They’re not meteorologists. They don’t mention the forecast or debate whether New York’s overcast sky means it’s going to rain. When they wheel their desk chairs together in the open-office newsroom for their morning editorial meeting, many of their ideas have nothing to do with storms or sunshine at all.

“A gallery of city skylines then and now?” suggests Stephanie Valera,’s travel editor.
“I’m finishing that thing on large castles,” says her assistant editor, Simone Scully. After that, she says, maybe something on vineyards. There are pitches for stories about sharks, whales, food allergies, and drones. The health editor wants to do something on how an apple a day can help with weight loss.
Neil Katz,’s editor-in-chief, listens to their ideas and selects the ones he thinks readers will like. Bald and bookish, he speaks quietly but clearly, just like everyone else he works with. He approves the skylines and castles, says “maybe” to the weight loss, and gives enthusiastic approval to a story about a scientist who works in an active volcano, because volcanoes are cool.
Katz calls these types of stories “weather adjacent,” and during the last two years he’s peppered with thousands of them. He’s changed the way the Weather Channel’s website presents the weather, doubling the site’s traffic even as viewers drift away from the TV network. People come to his website or mobile app looking for the local forecast; it’s Katz’s job to keep them there with headlines such as “12 Spooky Abandoned Hospitals and Asylums” and “What Does Mars Smell Like?” (Answer: We don’t know yet, but NASA is trying to find out.) Something similar has happened to the Weather Channel itself, where reality programs and morning talk shows have superseded weathermen giving old-fashioned forecasts. Amid all this, the company has ventured into new territory: using its massive collection of weather data to help companies sell products based on the weather. “People’s relationship with weather is changing,” says David Clark, president of the Weather Channel Network. “We have to build products that people really want to consume.”
For years, the Weather Channel accepted that viewers ignored it on sunny days and essentially bided its time until a hurricane came along and the whole country tuned in for hours, even days. Now that viewers are moving away from TV toward streaming and prerecorded shows, that model doesn’t work so well. During the past four years, the Weather Channel’s fair-weather audience size has dropped about 20 percent, according to Nielsen(NLSN), averaging just 214,000 viewers a day, or less than half the size of other specialized cable channels such as theFood Network (SNI) or HGTV. And the past two hurricane and tornado seasons in the U.S. have been unusually calm, making the network’s shove-Jim-Cantore-out-into-the-storm business model practically moot. “It’s as if we were ESPN (DIS), and football and baseball season were canceled this year,” Clark says.
The mild storm seasons have been “fantastic for Americans but terrible for the weather news business,” Katz says. “The team we’ve assembled is trying to figure out what to do on the sunny days of the year. It’s not a new problem; it’s just one we’ve finally invested in tackling.”
When the Weather Channel first went on the air in 1982, it looked like a flop.Newsweek called it “a 24-hour-a-day exercise in meteorological overkill” and a prime example of the stupidity of cable TV. In its first year, the channel lost $7 million, causing its original owner, Landmark Communications, now Landmark Media Enterprises, to oust a co-founder, former Good Morning America weather forecaster John Coleman. But there was something about the soothing music and brightly colored maps that people started to like, and within a few years the Weather Channel was drawing a daily audience of millions. “People sit and watch for hours on end,” a baffled New York Times reported in 1985. “Even the Weather Channel doesn’t know why.”
With more than 97 million subscribers, the Weather Channel is now one of the most widely distributed cable networks in the country. During big storms its audience spikes into the tens of millions, often surpassing those of regular news outlets such as Fox News (FOX) and CNN (TWX). Its parent company, Weather Co., has been jointly owned by NBCUniversal (CMCSA), Bain Capital, and the Blackstone Group(BX) since 2008, although Bloomberg News reported in September that the companies are considering a sale. (“We don’t comment on rumors,” says David Kenny, Weather Co.’s chairman and chief executive officer.) It has 1,300 employees among offices in eight U.S. cities, with headquarters, main forecasting center, and television studios in Atlanta. Weather Co. doesn’t disclose its revenue, but media research company SNL Kagan says last year it made about $340 million.
Despite the decline in TV viewers, Weather Co. is growing—booming, actually—in the two areas that really matter: Web and mobile. Sure, only a couple hundred thousand people watch the Weather Channel on any one day, but about 7 million visit and an additional 13 million look at its app. “This week we did 25,000 forecasts per second—that’s 2 billion in a day,” Kenny says. “It used to be that people checked our website once in the morning. Now on the phones, it’s three or four—some people check 40 times a day.”
To create a forecast, Weather Co. pulls nine separate weather models from places such as the U.S. National Weather Service, the Canadian weather service, and forecasters in Europe and Asia. It collects data from 1,000 commercial air flights and the 64,000 weather stations that make up the Weather Underground network. Its 220 meteorologists then tweak the data based on their knowledge that, say, one of the models tends to overestimate the likelihood of snow.
Thanks to more-precise math and faster computers, today’s five-day forecasts are as reliable as a three-day outlook was 30 years ago. Yet most models are still correct only about 70 percent of the time, and they can’t tell you what’s going to happen beyond two weeks. AccuWeather, the Weather Channel’s main rival, tries to. Although if you ask independent meteorologists about the 45-day forecasts AccuWeather began issuing last year, you won’t get an answer, because they’ll be too busy laughing. Trying to predict the weather that far out is like trying to calculate the last decimal in pi.
“It used to be that people checked our website once in the morning. Now on the phones, it’s three or four—some people check 40 times a day”
When Kenny joined Weather Co. in 2012, he looked at its huge store of data and realized it wasn’t being used to its potential. The company was still focused on TV, even though people mostly checked the forecast on their phone. The questions they were asking had changed as well. “People want to know if it’s going to rain in the next 15 minutes, and they want to know it where they’re standing at Columbus Circle, not Battery Park,” Kenny says. “We had to figure out a way to give them that.” If the company didn’t, there were plenty of nascent apps that would.
First, Kenny bought Weather Underground, which used thousands of mini-weather stations attached to its members’ houses, immediately improving Weather Co.’s accuracy in places such as San Francisco, where one area of the city could be 20F cooler than another. He also closed 7 of 13 computer data centers and put everything on the cloud instead. Forecasts came out faster and were more precise; the number of unique locations the Weather Channel offers forecasts for has since jumped from 2 million to 3.2 billion.
All the data in the world aren’t helpful unless you have a good way to communicate their meaning. So Kenny brought Katz over from the Huffington Post to revamp the website and app and hired Clark, a longtime media executive at Madison Square Garden (MSG) and Fuse, to run the TV side. Katz and Clark prepared to overhaul everything. “I don’t think we’d been honest with ourselves about the need to adapt to consumer behavior until that point,” Clark says.
On the website and app, Katz developed what he calls “a deliberate strategy of high/low that was somewhat gratefully borrowed from Arianna [Huffington] at theHuffington Post.” In addition to serious pieces about the weather, he ran galleries of women in bikinis and an article about how Kate Upton said she got frostbite during a Sports Illustrated photo shoot, expecting traffic to soar the way it did elsewhere on the Internet. It didn’t. “The audience both got upset and didn’t care—the worst of both worlds,” he says. Instead, they went for what editors call “creepy abandoned”: pictures of deserted theme parks, crumbling buildings, basically anything weird and old.
“On a January morning in Miami, if a set of weather conditions occurs, people will buy a certain brand of raspberry” didn’t give up on long investigative pieces on topics such as fracking and climate change. They don’t get as much traffic, Katz says, but they make the site feel more substantive.’s latest project is The Real Death Valley, jointly produced with Telemundo, about migrants who die in the South Texas heat while trying to cross the border from Mexico. Already available online, the documentary will air as a one-hour TV special on the Weather Channel in November.
Under Katz, the nonforecast part of the website has more than doubled its page views, from 1 billion in 2012—already an anomalous number because of Hurricane Sandy traffic spikes—to 2.4 billion this year, despite the frustratingly calm weather. More than 150 million people have downloaded its app. On Apple’s iOS 8 system, which comes preloaded on the iPhone 6, the Weather Channel has replaced Yahoo! Weather (YHOO) as the default forecast provider. Since the system rolled out, the channel has added half a million customers, 40 percent of them overseas. “It took us global overnight,” Kenny says, though he acknowledges most of the company’s traffic still comes from the U.S.
Following its expansion, the Weather Channel can collect data about people, not just weather. Last year it launched WeatherFX, an in-house advertising agency that combs through mounds of weather data, matching it to consumers, and sells its discoveries to its advertisers.
The company persuaded advertisers such as Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) and Procter & Gamble (PG) to hand over their sales data for every product they sold, in every store, in every aisle, all over the country. “I mean that literally,” says Vikram Somaya, general manager of WeatherFX. “We said, ‘Give us your data.’ Traditionally, that’s not been met with a whole lot of resounding cheer, right?” But the stores did it. WeatherFX’s team then matched the information with the past 30 years of local weather data and uncovered sales trends so specific they surprised even the data scientists. “People always thought we reacted to the weather, like, ‘Oh, it’s raining!’ and then we’d run and buy umbrellas,” says Somaya. “That’s actually not how it works at all.”
Katz and Somaya
“We can tell you that on a January morning in Miami, if a set of weather conditions occurs, people will buy a certain brand of raspberry,” he says. Not just any fruit. Raspberries. When advertisers ask for an explanation—why raspberries?—Somaya can’t always provide a clear answer. “A lot of times we have to tell them to just trust us.” Other times, he finds correlations that make perfect sense. “There’s a particular dew point percentage that makes everyone in Dallas rush out and buy bug spray,” he says. “We couldn’t figure out why, then we realized that insects’ eggs hatch at that dew point.” Basically, everyone in Dallas was getting bitten at once.
One of the first brands to use WeatherFX was Pantene, which learned that people didn’t buy products to control their humidity-frizzed hair on the day it was humid. They needed time to go shopping. Pantene started running location-specific ads on the Weather Channel’s mobile app, offering free “haircasts” that would tell people how flat, fried, or frizzy they could expect to look during the next three days. Sales of Pantene’s advertised products jumped 28 percent.
Since then, WeatherFX has formed partnerships with more than 200 brands. It figured out how to sell cold and flu medicine in the middle of the summer. It helpedMichaels Stores (MIK) promote rainy-day craft supplies by offering coupons and reminding parents a few days in advance. It even figured out that when Seattle has several days of rain followed by four hours of sunshine, “everybody goes crazy,” as Somaya puts it, and rushes to eat a fruit cup—again, it’s that specific—outside. WeatherFX places mobile, Web, and TV ads on the Weather Channel and has started brokering deals for commercial spots on competing cable networks if it thinks the right audience will see them, even buying space as a regular ad agency would do.
The only reason any of this works is because the Weather Channel app constantly tracks users’ locations—it has to, otherwise it can’t provide a forecast. And WeatherFX plans to tailor ads not only to a forecast but to an exact location. In Chicago on a warm (OK, less frigid), sunny winter day? You probably want to eat yogurt. And oh, look at that—you’re driving right by a Trader Joe’s, which happens to be having a sale. “There’s a little bit of a minefield around privacy with this,” Somaya concedes, though he says as long as the company is honest about what it’s doing, users don’t seem to have a problem revealing their location. “We don’t track you as a person,” he says. “We just want to know where you are and what your weather is like.”
In the beginning, WeatherFX assumed it would have to break down its data along the traditional marketing demographics of age, gender, and race, but it quickly realized it didn’t. No matter who they are or what they look like, people in the same place mostly react to weather the same way. “Assuming you’ve lived there a while,” says Somaya, which is why people in the Florida Keys feel very differently about 40F weather than people in Duluth, Minn. As long as they’re from the same region, 55-year-old Hispanic mothers hate getting caught in the rain as much as black college students. They get colds together in Minneapolis, they soak up the infrequent sun together in Seattle, and when a hurricane comes ashore in North Carolina, they all rush to the TV and turn on the Weather Channel. 
Weather Co. is still trying to figure out how to get viewers in front of its television channel when the weather is nice. On Wake Up With Al, hosted at 5:30 a.m. by Al Roker before his stint on the Today show, sports and celebrity news have increasingly crept into the broadcast. Nascar racer Kurt Busch recently pretended to intern on the show, which Roker says makes sense, because “weather is integral to racing.” The channel’s most widely promoted program this fall will be Fat Guys in the Woods, a reality show about wilderness survival.

The network’s core weather obsessives remain unimpressed. “A lot of people consider the Weather Channel to be irrelevant at this point,” says Eric Holthaus,Slate’s meteorologist and a former employee of forecasting app Weathermob. The company’s Facebook page is full of people writing to ask why there are so many nonweather prime-time shows and why their Weather Channel forecasters have suddenly started talking about other stuff.
“I get that they want to compete with other channels, but I don’t want to watch that stuff. And even if I did, I already have those other channels,” says Missi Grantham, 42, who lives in Mobile, Ala. She says she’s watched so much Weather Channel over the past 20 years that for a while she needed it to fall asleep. Grantham cut back a few years ago when the network aired reality shows, and she realized she couldn’t use the Weather Channel to constantly follow the weather. In January, DirecTV(DTV), trying to negotiate a better rate, complained about the shift away from forecasting and briefly dropped the network. The fight lasted three months, ending only when tornado season rolled round.
“General entertainment is the wrong analogue for us,” Clark says. Since the DirecTV dispute, the network has doubled down on round-the-clock forecasting. In July it launched a Sunday morning talk show called WX Geeks, hosted by the former president of the American Meteorological Society. The show can get so far into the weeds—forecasting equations are used as a backdrop—that it can feel like a college seminar. The program isn’t getting huge ratings, but Weather Channel die-hards love it. “You never want to abandon your core weather geeks,” Kenny says.
WX Geeks, like many of the Weather Channel’s TV programs, is shot in Atlanta, where producers have access to plenty of the company’s meteorologists. WeatherFX and the team work out of New York. Last year they moved from a drab, all-beige space near Grand Central Terminal to the sixth floor of a Midtown Manhattan skyscraper renovated to look like a set decorator’s idea of a tech startup’s industrial loft. There’s a shuffleboard table and air hockey. Flatscreen TVs tuned to the Weather Channel let visitors know that Daytona Beach, Fla., got 7.95 inches of rain last night—“a record for today’s date!”—and that Bartlett, Kan., is experiencing baseball-size hail. In the reception area, weather definitions for everything from cirrus clouds to zonal flow run across the gray walls like wind swirls on a weather map. The office is so close to the neighboring buildings that a glance out the tinted windows shows only another office building or brick wall, depending on which way you look. No one seems to mind that if you look out the windows, you can’t actually see the sky

.Suddath is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek.