Weather Channel’s Greg Gilderman, “People Want Hard-Hitting Climate Stories”
Weather Channel’s Greg Gilderman: People Want Hard-Hitting Climate Stories
In our sixth edition of The Rough Cut, where we interview the biggest innovators in digital video, Storyhunter Co-Founder Alex Ragir stops by The Weather Channel’s office in Manhattan, to speak with Greg Gilderman, Global Head of Video and Editor-in-Chief. They discussed the transition from television to digital news, how they pivoted out of Facebook video, and what the future looks like for all digital publishers.
The Weather Channel Digital, Telemundo and Efran Films recently received a News and Documentary Emmy award for the digital documentary, “The Source: The Human Cost Hidden Within a Cup of Coffee.” They used Storyhunter freelancers to supplement their production capabilities.
Below are edited highlights from the conversation:
TV audiences are different than digital, so the content should be too.
“The way legacy media companies thought about websites was that the main thing is TV, and the website is to support that. We said that people who consume things digitally are different [than television], so we built up a production staff of forty-to-fifty people — plus freelancers — doing original video, articles, [and] meteorology, to support twenty-four hours of original production. With TV meteorologists, they’re having a meandering conversation, and it’s great television, but if you’re on Weather.com or in an app, do you really want to sit through seven minutes to get information? We want to start with footage of whatever the major event is, have the footage take you in, then have a meteorologist who is going to really succinctly tell you what’s going on, maybe show you a little more footage, and then its over. If you watch it with the sound off, you’ll get the story. We went short with meteorology, and made it visual driven.”
The digital landscape is changing, but your fundamentals shouldn’t.
“We don’t change the fundamentals of what we’re trying to do, which is treating weather like important news — creating local and national forecasts. We try to really stay on top of what the flavor of the month is, in terms of how people think you’re supposed to run a digital media company. For example, we pivoted out of Facebook before a lot of other people did. We had seven different verticals, in more than one language, producing forty videos a day for Facebook, but we looked at those numbers and there was not a lot of revenue, and it didn’t seem like Facebook was particularly interested in helping us figure that out — so we just stopped.”
Quantity vs. Quality
“[With social media] you get into this mode of quantity because it’s infinite — you can publish these videos, and who knows what will be the hit? When we stopped doing video for Facebook, we had extra bandwidth. Not that we had extra people, but we had people who were previously doing tons of these [videos]. It’s cool to say to them, you don’t have to make twenty-five animal videos today. Find a really cool story, take two or three days to do it. For us, that’s a while.”
Maintain your values, and the work will follow.
“[If you want a job like mine] the main thing is to have your editorial chops…Just do it. If your values are there, and you have the opportunity, when you actually do get to manage people and a budget, you’ll remember what’s important. There are certain decisions you have to make like, ‘Are we going to tell this climate change story, and take a lot of flack on social media?’. If you’re only in the ‘marketing-short-term view’, that’s not the same as caring deeply about the issues and saying, ‘Global warming is real, and you’re going to hear it from The Weather Channel’.”
People want hard-hitting climate change stories.
“The appetite for really hard-hitting, truth-telling about global warming and climate change is only going to grow. We’re in this lucky position of being a brand that’s been around, but we’re doing cool new things with digital. There is a real thirst for that. People want to see the big media companies and brands not equivocate, and take both sides on things, where there actually is truth and falsehood. They want things called out… I think the appetites there, and that’s where we’re investing.”
The future of digital media is optimism.
“I’ve been in digital video through the financial crisis, through the social-media stuff, and I think [through it all] people want really good stories. When they hear about these new things like CNN’s Great Big Story, VICE, and ATTN, people get excited. I’m optimistic, but I do hope though that we realistically understand just how challenging it is to have Google and Facebook receive seventy-percent of the revenue in digital advertising. Conversations about how to not have that be the case help all of us in the media ecosystem.”
Previous episodes of The Rough Cut:
Warren Cohen, Head of Video, New York Post
Zahra Rasool, Editorial Lead, Contrast VR
Jason Beauregard, Head of Studio, VaynerMedia
Courtney Coupe, VP of Content, Great Big Story
Stone Roberts, VP of Global Video Strategy, Refinery29
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By Jordan M. Rapaport, Storyhunter Writer