The Weather Company: Creating Consumer Apps that Leverage its Big Data
The Weather Company (TWC) was innovating by leveraging its big data on weather to create new consumer products. Weather was the original big data problem and over the years, TWC has capitalized on this data with its engaging TV coverage on The Weather Channel, as well as its popular website and mobile app. Recently, looking for new uses for its weather data, the company decided to build weather-related apps targeting outdoor enthusiasts. To crowd-source ideas for these apps, TWC invited all employees to a company-wide "hackathon" where they were asked to create a mobile app prototype for a segment of this population. At the end of the three-day event, everyone demonstrated their prototypes and the company executives decided to pursue OutSider, a mobile app for runners. Like most media sites, TWC employed an advertising-based revenue model. While TWC had millions of TV viewers and website visitors, it had limited information about them. However, with the profile information offered up by runners when they registered to use the OutSider app, as well as the data gathered by the smartphone sensors, TWC was poised to charge a premium for the vendor advertisements placed within the app. As well as illustrating the significance of leveraging data assets to create new products and services, the case also provides an example of the intersection of mobile and big data. When asked to name an innovative company, TWC would most likely not be top-of-mind for most individuals, yet the 30-year-old company was very entrepreneurial in its approach to consumer mobile app development. In addition to outlining TWC's ideation process, the case describes the composition of the mobile app development team, the implementation of agile software development methods, and its use of modern big data technologies. Finally, the case reviews the OutSider app's features and describes its competition. Readers are asked to contemplate how TWC can best leverage its weather data to increase its revenue going forward.