According to Meeker, weather fetches a category-crushing $1.24 eCPM. That's 6% or so bigger than the next category, education. And a stunning 80% or so more than the median value of the top-10 listed categories -- mostly utterly mundane stuff such as health and fitness, education and utilities. Supposed mobile world killers including sports, media, and news -- the stuff investors hoped would pay off in the no-money Web -- don't even make Meeker's top 10. Weather's critical position is not lost to investors. This summer, The Weather Channel companies, which counts some serious Wall Street backers including The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital, bought out Ann Arbor, Mich.-based provider Weather Underground -- in part to protect both companies from today's twister of online and multichannel weather operations. I gave up counting the number of weather apps after WeatherBug, GO Weather and the weather features in LevelUp Studio's Beautiful Widgets suite of offerings. But the scary thing is, that massive threat is just part of the risk established weather content companies face in this impossible-to-rationalize digital economy. Just as the Internal Revenue Service's website has made much of private tax and accounting products obsolete, no less than the uber-geeky, government-owned National Weather Service is quietly remaking itself as a digital content powerhouse private investors must fear.
So here investors are -- yet again -- looking down the barrel of more grim digital age big-think. The information that drives the modern digital weather business is the same as the information driving the modern music, publishing and legal businesses: It's a commodity. Competition is brutal. And wholesale content creators, which, in this case, is the government, can reach consumers directly. That adds up to a smaller sandbox for investor-backed weather companies to play in, and one less lucrative niche to pay for our crumbling digital infrastructure. Weather, once one of hidden flowering cherry trees of the content forest, is now just flying debris in the digital hurricane.