Your tweeted complaints about this year’s summer heat wave could soon find their way to the TV screen: The Weather Channel and Twitter are launching a deep integration of tweets in the network’s on-air programming, its website and its mobile platform on Thursday.
The Weather Channel Social, as the collaboration is officially called, brings weather-related tweets to the airwaves as well as to Weather.com and the Weather Channel iPhone app. The Weather Channel is also launching 220 custom local Twitter feeds to update Twitter users about their city’s weather forecast.
Tweets displayed on the Weather Channel properties will be curated to filter out any swearing not suitable for broadcasting. The Weather Channel’s properties will also only display content relevant to the location of a particular weather forecast — it just doesn’t help to know that it’s cold elsewhere if you’re braving the high temperatures in Austin, TX.
But even with those caveats, the network still has a lot of material to use. On an average day, Twitter sees about 200 tweets per minute just about the weather. If it gets a little hotter or colder than usual, that rate raises to about 300 to 500 tweets per minute. And when it rains really hard, it also pours tweets: “Significant weather events” can provoke up to two million tweets per day, according to Twitter.
One of the biggest challenges of the integration was apparently to separate weather-related tweets from observations about all the other things that can be hot, cool and foggy in this world. The Weather Channel is relying on technology provided by the New York-based real time data specialists from Wiredset, which also runs Trendrr.com, to curate the Twitter firehose. Wiredset built an AI engine based on the Maximum Entropy Method of data analysis to make sense of all these tweets. Another challenge was that only three percent of tweets come with location information, which is why The Weather Channel is relying on Twitter profiles and location information within the actual text of each tweet, rather than geotagged data.
Other networks have occasionally experimented with the integration of tweets into on-air programming, but those experiments have so far mostly been based on single events like the MTV Music Awards. Making tweets a constant part of your programming is definitely a much bolder step, and The Weather Channel is placing an interesting bet on the power of citizen reporting with this integration.
Tweets about your average sunny day will be part of regular forecasts on Weather.com and featured during select on-air programming, but the social integration will play a much bigger role for the network when things go awry. In other words: The Weather Channel essentially just turned millions of Twitter users into field reporters, ready to be put into the spotlight and featured on air whenever severe or even catastrophic weather strikes parts of the U.S.