Ina Fried

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Weather Channel Exec: It’s Not Pennies, but Making Money in Mobile Still a Challenge

It’s a common challenge for the biggest names in digital content. The customers are going mobile, but the dollars aren’t always following.

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The issue is familiar for companies, many of which had to struggle through similar challenges when their businesses moved from traditional media and onto the Web.

Jeff Zucker famously said that companies were trading analog dollars for digital pennies, which he later upgraded to digital dimes.

The Weather Company, which operates the Weather Channel, and all measure of weather-related apps, was in the thick of the shift from TV to Web, and is now seeing a similar shift to mobile.

“I wouldn’t say it’s mobile pennies,” VP Alex Linde said on Tuesday, speaking at the VentureBeat Mobile Summit. However, he said, his company gets one-and-a-half times as much traffic from mobile as the desktop, but only about half as much revenue.

ESPN Mobile chief Michael Bayle said much the same thing when I interviewed him in an earlier session, noting that the company still sells most of its mobile advertising inventory to those buying desktop and television ads.

And that’s from companies that are leaders in their respective spaces.

“We own the weather,” Linde said, noting that his company now literally names the storms it is reporting on.

So, what is it doing to make money from that?

First off, the company is working to move beyond banner ads and integrate its weather content more deeply with the ads.

When it comes to the two big platforms, Android is providing the biggest growth, Linde said, but iPhone users are more deeply engaged.

The biggest competition, he said, isn’t a commercial rival as much as it is the built-in weather apps and widgets that come preloaded on the iPhone and many Android devices.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google