Jun 1, 2021 - Economy

Twitter teams with climate vet to launch local weather news service

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Twitter is partnering with veteran climate journalist and meteorologist Eric Holthaus to launch a local weather news service on the platform called "Tomorrow" that will be built using all of Twitter's new creator products — from paid newsletters to ticketed live audio rooms and more.

Why it matters: "It's the largest collective of writers and experts we've launched with," Twitter's VP of product Mike Park tells Axios.

Details: "Tomorrow" launches Tuesday across 16 cities in North America with the participation of 18 local meteorologists who will create free content and content for members.

  • Holthaus, who's written about climate for many years via publications such as Grist, The Wall Street Journal, and Slate, is the only full-time employee for now. He plans to bring on roughly 20-30 climate writers and 4 part-time editorial staffers in addition to the 18 professional local meteorologists.
  • The team will produce newsletters and exclusive long-form content on Twitter via the company's newly-acquired newsletter platform Revue, as well as membership-specific short-form content for users, such as ticketed live audio sessions via Twitter "Spaces" and audience Q&A services.

The Q&A services will be unique to this model. Members can ask unlimited questions during breaking news weather events to meteorologists and climate experts, essentially scaling a function that Holthaus says has become second-nature for climate and weather experts on Twitter anyway.

  • For now, Holthaus says they will solicit questions via email, but in the future, he imagines they will be submitted via a password-protected part of the Revue website, which is still in development.
  • "You can imagine paying subscribers getting even closer to experts, using features like Spaces to ask questions before a hurricane or other severe events," Park says.

Be smart: Twitter has long been the go-to platform for breaking news events, but weather events have become especially endemic to conversations on Twitter, given that the news changes so rapidly by the minute.

  • "[W]eather is a perfect match for Twitter – some of the largest spikes in conversations on Twitter are tied to severe events like hurricanes, floods and fires," says Park.
  • "During Hurricane Sandy, my Twitter following went from 5,000 to 150,00 in a week," Holthaus notes, "I was just interpreting weather information through plain language and meeting people where they needed me at that moment."
  • Holthaus says he is often flooded with DM's (Twitter direct messages) from desperate people all over the world looking for answers about evacuation and emergency plans during catastrophes. "People say you literally saved our life, when there wasn't clear information reaching them from federal authorities."

By the numbers: Memberships will start out at $10 monthly. Holthaus, who is bootstrapping the operation for now, says he hopes to be revenue positive by the end of the first week.

  • "The goal is to be in most of 50 major media markets in North America by the end of this year," he says.
  • In 2022, he wants to expand internationally to places where Twitter usage is high, but there aren't as sophisticated of weather services, like India and Brazil.

The big picture: For Twitter, "Tomorrow" represents the manifestation of a new creative vision and business model.

  • Earlier this year, Twitter said it wanted to double down on subscription revenues via tools that help bring experts or influential people and fans together. Last week, Revue announced that it's testing new promotional tools inside newsletters for writers that want to band together.

What's next: Twitter wants to invest more in writer "collectives," especially at the local level.

  • "Outside of individuals sharing news and knowledge, we believe a collective approach is a super interesting model. Low overhead with an audience-funded model is a solid recipe for success," Park says.
  • In the future, Park says he hopes to build more journalism collectives across every topic. "We want to make writing online fun again, and that means making it easy to form a band," he says.
  • He also notes that the company will soon get to a place where video monetization is one among several revenue models on Twitter.
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