WHEN WEATHER REPORTING LEADS TO A SURGE IN LISTENERS

It was fascinating to watch coverage of the — almost — historic Hurricane Irene unfold last weekend. As an article last week in Adweek pointed out, The Weather Channel (and properties like it) almost always see a big ratings boost from major weather events like hurricanes.

If past events are any indication, Irene is likely to be a ratings bonanza for The Weather Channel. During the blizzard that pounded the East Coast last January, the network saw a 29 percent increase in average viewers per day, according to Nielsen.

Local news and information coverage (which of course includes weather) has always been a big draw in the new media business, and as Irene bore down on the east coast, all eyes were fixed on weather reporting.

Media consumption studies routinely show that in times of potential crisis people gravitate toward trusted personalities and sources of information.

As an article in The New York Times put it, “Delivering on its promise to take people into the path of Mother Nature is what makes the channel a must-carry for cable systems across the United States, and what allows it to sell so many storm-related ads to insurance companies and home improvement stores before, during and after storms.”

Of course the news stations of CBS Radio have been providing up-to-the-minute information about weather and traffic for decades, and last weekend was no exception.

And while it’s certainly nice to see that a lot of people are listening to the radio stations you represent, it’s even nicer to know that those people are being truly helped by what you’re offering. In times of crisis, trustworthy information can be hard to come by. As consumer electronics site Gizmodo pointed out that, “Emergency radio during a hurricane is undeniably fascinating (and potentially life-saving).”

And as electricity, cable systems and the Internet went out for tens of thousands of people all along the east coast, there was simply nothing as good as radio at keeping people informed, dry and safe.