‘Everything you need is in your hand’

As senior vice president of product, Cameron Clayton leads the teams responsible for The Weather Channel’s mobile and digital applications, interactive television and consumer applications software, as well as product development for weather.com.

In addition to overseeing TWC’s mobile-product portfolio, he is in charge of its download products, such as the No. 1 weather application on Android, BlackBerry, iPad and Palm, and the No. 1 iPhone app of 2009, according to Advertising Age magazine.

Each month, more than 42 million users go to weather.com; 22 million users go to weather.com on mobile; and the app is the second most popular app overall on smart phones — behind only Facebook. Clayton spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about interactive marketing, apps and why Apple locked him in a windowless room.

Q: What do you do?

A: I'm a storyteller. I tell my stories digitally through applications on mobile phones. It's very simple.

Q: How do you tell a story on a phone?

A: On television you can tell the story with video, while on the mobile, consumers want information faster and it's about data and maps. They want to know about severe weather as it's unraveling. With the phones and iPad it makes it even easier.

Q: Why?

A: Phones and the iPad are easy to use. Adding touch has changed the landscape. Touch is such a natural thing that it's fun to explore it and see how it works. You might worry about breaking a computer but you can't break a phone or iPad. You can be in a place with no computers or TV, but as long as you have your mobile device, you're fine. Really, all you need is curiosity and you're fine with your mobile.

A: How is weather.com doing?

Q: It's a runway success. The app is perfect for business travelers. You can check and find out how long your flight will be delayed. It's easy to find out that Atlanta is having an ice storm, but the app tells you about cancellations, weather patterns. Everything you need is in your hand.

Q: How do you integrate the mobile apps with the television station and the website?

A: It’s part of a whole vision. It used to be all separate divisions, but under our new management we’re all now on the same team. It’s a big change. When we launched an app on the iPad, for instance, we promoted it heavily on television. We created house ads on the website. It was a cross-platform and cross-promotional effort and that is unique and powerful to us.

Q: Is it the same content as on TV and the web?

A: The content changes and relates to the show as it progresses. For instance, let's say "Storm Stories" is on television. We can show behind-the-scenes of that show, as well as other related content. You can link to the web and you can have a television experience and a mobile one. It's all connected and in sync. It's personalized to you.

Q: What are your future challenges?

A: We need to extend the engagement; we want people to visit more often and stay longer. For 27 years we have had weather specialists tell consumers what the weather is, with no feedback. In severe weather, we are the experts, but there are times when two-way feedback is helpful. We don't want to be preachy, and feedback will help us tell a more accurate story.

Q: How?

A: For instance, we can have a weather expert say it's 90 degrees in Atlanta and humid, but wouldn't you want someone in Atlanta telling you how humid [it is] and what to wear? And wouldn't it be even more relevant if you knew the person telling you about the humidity? It also helps the consumer become more invested. It also provides data that maybe the TV can't or won't.

Q: What is the key to a successful app?

A: You have to have a good product as well as a good understanding of the consumer and what solutions they want. It is essential to keep it focused and simple.

Q: Are you worried about content or information overload?

A: In society at large, particularly here, there is more of a need for immediacy. There is no waiting in line for information; it's right now. Our philosophy is to be in all places where you could get to us and get the information you need. Wherever you are, you can get your weather information. That's not overload. If you want it, you need to have it available to you on your mobile screen.

Q: Tell us about your work with Apple when it was developing the iPad.

A: We worked hand in hand with Apple. We invested early on — in 1999 — with the first Android in the iPhone. Apple came to us with the iPad. I couldn't even tell my CEO what I was working on. They put me in a locked room with no windows and security. They drilled a hole through a desk and chained the iPad to a desk. They even took close-up pictures of the desk so that if something leaked they could match up the wood grains on the table to find out who did it. When iPad was launched, we launched with them. We were on the iPad from the start.

Q: How did you end up in Atlanta?

A: I love to ski and started dating a girl I met on vacation in Vail. We had a five-year, long-distance relationship. And, as you know, every guy will go to where the girl is, and she happened to be from Atlanta. So I moved here and now have season tickets to Georgia football. Go Dawgs!

Q: Tell us about New Zealand.

A: People think of it as "Lord of the Rings" minus the trolls. But the scenery that you see in the movie is all unaltered. It is spectacularly beautiful and people like being outdoors. I don't say it's more beautiful than the United States, but what I say is that if you took all of the national parks in the U.S. and squeezed them together, you would get New Zealand.

Meet Cameron Clayton

Title: Senior vice president of product, The Weather Channel

Age: 34

Hometown: Lake Hawea, New Zealand

Education: Management degree, University of Waikato in New Zealand

Resides in: Marietta

Wife: Jamie, a stay-at-home mom

Children: Colby, 4, Charlotte, 2, and Jacob, 6 months

Favorite Apps: Wall Street Journal, Ocarina Flute, New York Times

Hobbies: Skiing, golf and rugby

Best things about being from New Zealand: Can-do, get-it-done attitude

Biggest culture shock upon moving to U.S.: “People eat a lot in their cars.”