A headline today on Weather.com, The Weather Channel’s Web site, has reached new heights in its absurdity and, frankly, irresponsibility. It’s leading Weather.com down a dangerous path of completely losing credibility as a serious source of weather information.
While there is a possibility of some minor coastal flooding in Maine, the storm otherwise poses few hazards. Winds are not forecast to reach damaging levels. This is a mild and – on balance – beneficial storm for the region.
The headline was clearly not devised to responsibly convey credible weather information, but to simply to monger fear and generate clicks.
This is not the first time Weather.com has taken this approach. Last spring, after the National Weather Service issued its seasonal forecast calling for a near to slightly below average hurricane season, Weather.com’s headline was “NOAA Report: Hurricane Forecast May Shock You”. Weather.com’s editorial team later dialed back the headline, but only after it was called out by meteorologists on social media.
The Weather Channel openly admits it lures readers to spend time on Weather.com with splashy headlines on topics that have nothing to do with weather.
Examples from today: “Fairy Tale Home Frozen in Time for ‘Titanic’ Victims” and “What Makes These 59 Foods BAD?”
The approach of running so-called “weather adjacent” stories to entertain site visitors, particularly when the weather is quiet, is an understandable strategy (see this excellent piece in Business Week for more: The Weather Channel’s Secret: Less Weather, More Clickbait)
But Weather.com’s recent tendency to overhype and misrepresent the actual weather – its bread and butter – is extremely disappointing and counterproductive. The hard-working, talented meteorologists who are the face of the network deserve better. And, most importantly, so do its readers.