Rothschilds Storm Into Online Weather Business – But Is It Really Six Times More Precise?

MyWeather.com seeks a piece of a $94 million media sector; “We’re happy to do a Coke-Pepsi Challenge with them anytime,” says the Weather Channel

Last Updated: May 24, 2011 @ 2:37 PM

Talk about a weather disturbance.

The online meteorological media business, which grossed $94 million in advertising revenue last year while reaching an audience of 82 million unique users in the U.S., according to comScore, is preparing for stormy weather, as a well-backed third player seeks to grab market share from the two current market leaders. 

The turbulence began last week. That's when Weather Central LP — best known as a supplier of weather-related data to local TV stations and now majority-owned by Sir Evelyn Robert Adrian de Rothschild and his wife Lynn Forester de Rothschild, of the famous European banking family, formally launched a new online product, MyWeather.com.

But is it really better?

Currently, the Weather Channel's Weather.com is the market leader, with 50 million users according to comScore. Weather Underground is second with 25 million users.

But here comes MyWeather.com, claiming to be "six times more precise" than its competitors in predicting conditions at, say, the local park, baseball diamond, golf course or residential block.

Available not only on computers, but mobile devices including the iPhone and Android, MyWeather.com has been heralded by the Rothschilds as the “most personal and precise suite of weather products for consumers anywhere on the globe.”

Already, MyWeather's new rivals are taking issue with the bold predictive claims.

Given the “old problem of reliability and accuracy in this space … we’re definitely not understanding how MyWeather ascertains how they are six times more precise,” Toby Skinner, marketing director for Weather Underground, told The Wrap.

“We’d be happy to do a Coke-Pepsi Challenge with them anytime,” added Cameron Clayton, the Weather Channel's executive VP of products. 

Describing the familiar Weather.com brand as “the category leader in all measures, including accuracy,” Clayton noted, “We are not surprised when other weather wannabes try to make a name by comparing themselves to The Weather Channel and weather.com. We will remain the leader — in accuracy as measured by third-party tracking and in consumer preference as indicated by monthly visitors and ratings."

If MyWeather’s claim wasn’t enough of a lightning bolt, Weather Underground and The Weather Channel feel they were left out in the cold in the massive media coverage of MyWeather's launch.

While outlets including USA Today, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter carried stories about the new service, none contacted either of the incumbent players, even though MyWeather took a direct jab at its rivals.

“I reached out to a couple of the reporters, asking why they didn’t contact us,” Clayton told The Wrap. “Only one responded to say that he was caught up with (TV) upfronts, and decided to do just a short item on it.” Clayton said.

Undaunted, MyWeather isn't retreating from its claim. “We’re standing by it,” said a spokesman for the Rothschilds. “We’re just a little upstart trying to get more precise and personal information to consumers."

“Accuracy is about forecasting weather,” he said. On the other hand, “precision is how you zero into an area” or an address. 

In short, the point is this: While MyWeather may (or may not) be six times more precise in providing weather conditions for a specific geography, its rivals forecasts for the vicinity could well be more accurate. 

“We know the difference between ‘precision’ and ‘accurate,’” The Weather Channel’s spokeswoman says. “It’s a joke to say that they can pinpoint a specific geography even if it proves to have been woefully inaccurate. We give our consumers precise and accurate which is what you want in a weather forecast.” 

One thing seems certain: This competitive storm won't blow over soon.