by Steve Miller
copyright 1996, Electric Nevada
NewsChannel 8's venture onto the World Wide Web with the Jeff Hardin Weather Page won't be the regional ABC-TV affiliate's last Internet undertaking.
Channel 8, said Hardin, had already been "thinking about the Internet as an important medium -- another way to get our message out" -- when Jim McCarthy, of the local Webscapes design firm, called the station.
"He approached us, did all the leg work and ground work and made it all come together" for the on-line weather page, the meteorologist told Electric Nevada.
"He brought some ideas, and we had a couple of meetings," after which McCarthy implemented the first version of the page, said Hardin. "And Jim has continued to add little things. We've had a very good experience with him, his ideas and enthusiasm,"
Asked if NewsChannel 8 -- having had a "good experience" -- is planning any additional ventures onto the World Wide Web, Hardin's answer was non-commital but suggestive. "Not anything we could comment on at present," he said.
Hardin says he has a daily 5:30 p.m. routine with McCarthy to keep the Web page up to date -- even on weekends.
"I will call him and give him the five-day forecast, which is Channel 8's own," he said, and then McCarthy will put the new information on site. In the case of a sudden important change in the forecast, the page will be updated more than once a day.
"The hits we get," says Hardin, "a lot of the time are from people who are looking for weather information that has a bit more detail" than the station's 6:30 p.m. on-air forecasts. "That's why it's updated frequently," he said.
Also to provide additional detail, he explained, people can click on any of the individual-day icons, to access information regarding Reno from the National Weather Service web site.
One of his special interests, said Hardin, would be to use Internet technology to connect with Nevada's schools.
"There are so many places in the state where I'd like to go but it's just not feasible, physically. For example, Wendover -- while I can't get there physically and talk to the school kids, I could go on-line with them" through an Internet chat connection.
Hardin, who was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, and learned his meteorology in the U.S. Air Force, came to NewsChannel 8 after five years at a station in Wilmington, N.C.
Jim McCarthy, designer of the Channel 8 weather page, traces its origins from his side to surveys he conducted on the Internet, asking people what they would most like to see. Current weather information was one of the highest responses, he says.
The number of browser 'hits' on the site since it went up February 22 has backed up the survey results, he says.
"It's amazing how much traffic there is


when Channel 8 mentions the site" on the air, said McCarthy. When there is no mention, the Hardin site averages about 1500 hits per month; when it is mentioned, he said, there are an average of 6,000 hits per month.
Also, "a lot of people from outside Nevada are accessing the site," before coming to Reno, says the website designer. "I just got an email from someone in Canada who said 'we come into Reno vacationing quite frequently, and find the weather page very valuable.'"
Another local website designer calls the Jeff-Hardin site "one of the best designed I've ever seen."
"The graphics, of course, are good, but what has impressed me is the way the site was conceived, and how practically, and usefully, it functions," he added.
In developing the site, said McCarthy, he videotaped Hardin's weather section of the newscast, then carefully tried the match the icon colors and designs as closely as possible.
While his company, Webscapes, has only recently been incorporated, said McCarthy, a recent graduate of UNR, he has been doing web design for three years. Both he and PowerNet, his internet service provider, donated their services and disk space for the Channel 8 weather site free of charge.
In terms of possible future projects for the weather page, says McCarthy, "what we'd like to do is audio clips for Jeff Hardin. Probably, at first, just 'welcome to the site,' et cetera, but later, to allow folks to download the forecast itself."
Another possibility, he said, would be to put images from Channel 8's new sky cam on the Net. The sky cam for the station -- a camera that sits high atop KOLO's antenna-tower -- inaugurated its service just last Wednesday, April 10.
Robert Hoke, KOLO-TV's promotion and marketing director would not confirm those were the station's plans. But he did acknowledge that anyone familiar with the Internet recognizes the possibilities.
"I'm sure that someone could call up Reno and see a shot that's less than an hour old," he said.
Hoke also concedes that Channel 8 is paying serious attention to the subject of the Internet, and planning the station's next local step.
"We certainly see the potential of the Net in the future, and don't want to be left behind in the dust," he said.
"We've had a lot of meetings, discussing where we want to go, and how this could benefit our viewers. I'm not sure how many people in the Truckee Meadows currently have Internet access, but we know it is really growing at a rapid, rapid pace."

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