NILES — Sitting in his basement, which doubles as Niles’ home studio, Matt Rudkin checks the water temperature of Lake Michigan to see if it’s likely to snow next week.
This is data that Rudkin verified and recited countless times during his nine years as a meteorologist at the WSBT. But instead of reading it on air now, he’ll be posting it to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as part of his new independent social media-focused weather service – Matt Rudkin Weather.
“I love the forecasting challenge,” Rudkin said. “It’s really fun. It never gets old.”
Rudkin left WSBT in June and now works at United Airlines planning flight routes, but he knew he wanted to continue posting forecasts to fuel his passion for weather and Michiana. This manifested as a social media-focused forecasting service that Rudkin runs as a hobby.
“I grew up in this area and I attribute a lot of my success to it, not just on TV but also in my career, so it’s fun to give back,” he said.
Rudkin grew up hoping to be a pilot, but he couldn’t afford to go to flight school. He started taking meteorology courses at Purdue University, thinking they would help him once he became a pilot. However, he soon found a love for broadcasting, which set Rudkin on a television career.
This path still involves weather analysis, although social media is a new challenge for the seasoned news anchor. Rudkin pays for weather data, uses that data to make forecasts, and then posts his daily and weekly forecasts on social media.
Rudkin’s posts reach an average of 385,000 users per month, according to his figures, and he has a handful of local businesses as sponsors to cover the cost of data charges, which means Matt Rudkin Weather is able to reach the break even.
According to her figures, 73% of her social media followers are women and more than 97% come from Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.
Rudkin is trying to carve out a niche for himself, as local TV stations still have top weather crews and cell phone apps provide quick and easy access to weather information.
Still, he’s trying to capitalize on the popularity and following he’s built on TV — assets he thinks he can transfer to a business focused on digital and social media.
Rudkin said he tries to avoid sensationalizing weather systems and focuses on educating his audience rather than preaching to them, something he learned while teaching at Valparaiso University.
“People don’t want to be told how to dress, they don’t want to be told what they should or shouldn’t do, and they like to know why,” he said. “I really try to teach people, and if you can teach people at their level, they really respect you.”
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The absence of snowstorms in December contributes to his sensible approach, Rudkin joked, although he expects the region to experience the snow and cold temperatures the region is accustomed to before too long.
“La Niña never gives up,” he said. “It’s a question of when.”
Online content creation
Rudkin joins waves of people nationwide creating their own content online, for podcasts, YouTube channels, and social media channels. Some are simply looking for a creative outlet in their spare time, while others pursue the dream of a lucrative career.
According to Jennifer Riley Simone, who teaches marketing at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, the most important thing for content creators is to invest in their own platform, usually a website, to not to be beholden to changes in social media algorithms. media companies.
“When it comes to digital marketing…invest in your own space first, which is your website,” said Simone, who also founded Fresh Figs Marketing. “Distribution platforms are an essential part of a sound digital marketing strategy, but they shouldn’t be the center of it.”
Rudkin acknowledged that he has all his “eggs in the Facebook basket” at the moment, and recent events such as Facebook’s extended outage in October made him realize the need to diversify beyond the platform. -form.
But while it takes time to build a brand and generate an audience, Simone said, Rudkin is a step ahead of his years on local television.
“Meteorologists have been rock stars for a very long time,” she said. “I think it has nothing to do with the weather and more to do with his personality. People fill the same niche all the time, but it’s how well you do it and how well you connect with people. who watch your content.”
As he plans to potentially expand his side project, Rudkin hopes to evolve into an app rather than a website, though those plans are fluid. He also toyed with the idea of getting a green screen and better lighting, but he said his audience has liked his video style so far.
“I had no idea it would be as successful as it has become, so I’m very, very lucky,” he said. “It’s just a side hobby, and I’m still learning. And if it continues to be successful, maybe I can make a career out of it one day.
Email Marek Mazurek at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @marek_mazurek