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New age, new possibilities

The Met Office weather app makes the most of the latest mobile technologies - catering for the ever larger audience who wants their weather news on the move.

Gone are the days when you would rely solely on the newspaper, radio or TV to get the weather forecast. Today, people are turning to a whole variety of channels - from traditional television and radio, to social media and, of course, weather apps.

The way we access information has changed - and continues to evolve at breakneck speed. For example, in the last year alone, the number of 18 to 35 year olds using desktop websites has dropped dramatically. It is estimated by Ofcom that 60% of 16-24 year olds access the internet mainly via smartphone.

What's causing this shift? And how can the Met Office respond so that it continues to deliver content and information that's relevant, efficient and appealing to the UK population? To answer these questions, the Met Office has been researching the needs and behaviour of its UK audiences.

Video testing with diverse user groups saw participants given different weather app options - they were then filmed, recording the ways in which they tried to access the information they wanted, and what that information was. The insights gleaned have fed into a new digital strategy, and the development of new age app and digital updates.

A varied audience

What is clear is just how varied people's needs and wants actually are. While some people only check the weather occasionally for a specific purpose - say to find out whether it's likely to snow in their area during an imminent cold snap - others plan their daily life around the forecast. For example, a landscape gardener may choose when to work according to when it's expected to be dry. Others may effectively be amateur meteorologists and want to know the science behind the forecasts.

Catering for the different interests of these audiences is a huge challenge - and Met Office digital channels are doing just that. For instance, more visual and 'snackable' media is being created that particularly suits the younger 'YouTube generation'. One example of this is Vines - very short, looping, animated videos - that have been created for severe weather alerts.

As Owen Tribe, Head of Digital Media at the Met Office explains, "To be relevant and engage with your audience, you have to meet them where they are in a way that solves a problem or meets a need they have - otherwise they just switch off."

But it's not just about delivering information in an accessible and efficient way. Part of the new digital strategy is to bring context to the data in a relevant way. For example, if there's a storm brewing, Met Office digital users can find out the story behind it and its causes. Besides bringing the weather to life, this also enables the Met Office to share resource, expertise and insights with our audiences.

Creating dialogue round the clock

What's particularly striking is that Met Office digital engagement strives to give users a voice. "We want to be able to have a two-way conversation with our users to solve challenges and understand the UK population's needs in a digital landscape that is continually changing," explains Owen.

Users can to share ideas, likes and dislikes - and, because the Met Office app is the only one of its kind that comes with an open-all-hours weather desk, we can live up the ideal of being the trusted advisor for weather.

This focus on dialogue also ensures that the Met Office app remains relevant to the people using it. Our digital channels will always be a work in progress, changing and improving according to user feedback. With user behaviour changing as fast as the technology that drives it, this agile approach is the only way to stay relevant and secure the loyalty of the UK consumer.