Weather is big business for those of us in news, especially when it gets to be extreme weather like just about every state has experienced in the last two weeks.
Lots of news outlets have developed amazing new ways to get out weather information and pull in interaction from readers, but sometimes what’s simple can work in a pinch.
Most of the time when we’ve had snowstorms in the past, we at Cincinnati.Com have had a basic story file set up that we re-top and add to throughout the day as the news changes. Without the occasional total re-write during the course of the news cycle, it can end up reading like a very long Frankenstein of an article, with the possibility of specific items getting buried in all of the text.
I recently set up a basic WordPress blog specifically to handle weather events news to avoid this problem. It has links to all the basic weather info we have available on the site, a way to search all of the posted entries and tags/categories that make posts easy to browse by topic or location. The blog uses the TDO mini Forms plugin that can allow our reporters – and our readers – to submit updates from where they are.
Even though we haven’t yet gotten a lot of reader submissions, the blog has been immensely helpful from a news management standpoint. Reporters can file to the blog from their homes, phones or satellite offices, all we have to do it click “publish” in our dashboard. No re-writes are necessary because as the story develops, we can just add news posts. The format also provides an easy way to “sticky” important posts at the top and generates an easy link for the day’s event cancellations.
This easy method of publishing updates weather news has been a great supplement to our info releases and content on Twitter, on our mobile site, text alerts and all of the usual photos and videos we bring out fr every story. The blog’s been doing great traffic on storm days and, from my view, has been a huge burden lifted from the backs of already busy online editors (such as myself).
Because this info has such a short shelf life, I’ve just been deleting all of the old content as soon as the storm coverage ends. We don’t want readers coming back for new weather updates only to find outdated info from last week’s storm. I know that isn’t the greatest option for the sake of SEO and outside linking, but it has made it very easy to essentially launch whole new blogs for each circumstance. I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts on what they would do to prevent link breaks and confusion.
Anyway, that’s been our publishing plan these past two weeks – and if it’s something you think you could use, go for it. WordPress is free, quick to set up and has lot of plugins to enhance user experience.
What has anyone been doing to cover these storms online? What have you been reading?