A Forecast On How IBM Will Use The Weather Company: Future Still Cloudy

ibm weatherWhen IBM revealed Friday it had closed its deal (financial terms weren’t disclosed) for The Weather Co.’s product and tech business, it began setting expectations on how those assets will be used.

There are two things to consider. First, The Weather Co. has digital publications that sell advertising. Second, it sits on a massive front of weather- and location-related data.

“Weather is arguably the most important impacter for businesses and consumers,” said Jeremy Steinberg, The Weather Co.’s global head of sales. “Bringing the full data set, and our cloud computing expertise, will accelerate a lot of the work IBM was already doing.”

What will ideally come of this partnership is that IBM’s know-how in analytics and other disciplines will help advertisers work with The Weather Co. as a publisher. Additionally, IBM’s units – like Watson, its commerce group, its agency Interactive Experience and Design Thinking – will apply The Weather Co.’s data to service their clients.

There’s a strong connection in particular between Watson and The Weather Co. – the latter’s cloud data platform will power IBM’s data services and Watson’s Internet of Things-related services. Moreover, Weather Co. CEO David Kenny will head up the Watson unit.

“We work with marketers to develop weather and location strategies to achieve their business objectives,” Steinberg said. “We’ll devise the right weather and location strategies that map to their KPIs. I don’t want to speak on the other [IBM] divisions’ behalf, because we still need to get connected with them, but there are synergies to help other businesses make better decisions, including in marketing.”

Steinberg emphasized that he thinks of The Weather Co. less as a publisher than a product and technology company. He noted that the company, over the past three years, has radically transformed such that it builds weather-centric consumer products and technologies designed to help marketers “make better decisions.” In this way, he sees alignment with IBM.

Of course, IBM isn’t a media company and The Weather Co. – its status as a developer of tech products notwithstanding – has a media business. It’s still unclear how media will be prioritized within IBM – though it’s evident that The Weather Co.’s media business is not nearly as important to IBM as its data business.

Speaking at AdExchanger’s Industry Preview event on Jan. 21, Chris Wong, an executive in IBM Commerce Marketing Solutions, said that while his group wasn’t responsible for acquiring The Weather Co., he expected its data could help improve his unit’s offerings.

“We acquired The Weather Co. not because we wanted a weather app,” he said on stage. “We acquired the Weather Co. because we knew there’s incredible data that can be gathered and used – especially with our Watson capability – around things like weather [and location].”

He added that as data-as-a-service capabilities proliferate, no one vendor will provide all the data for everyone. “The challenge, going forward, is not about coming to IBM only to get data,” he said. “It’s about us facilitating your access.”

Meanwhile, Steinberg is anxious to capitalize on IBM’s global status. “IBM has an enormous sales operation,” he said. “And I’m really excited to partner closely with them to help extend the work they’re doing in industries into marketing channels.”

What joint IBM-Weather Co. products Steinberg will ultimately be selling, when and to whom remain to be seen. Steinberg was hesitant to go into too much detail on IBM’s product road map, or to provide a deployment timeline.

“The deal closed on Friday,” he said. “I would say we’re early on.”

He noted, however, that IBM and The Weather Co. had a B2B partnership dating back to early last year. “We’ve already been working together and through that, there are a lot of products and services we brought to market,” he said. “We’re going to expand that to consumers and to advertising/marketing.”

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