You just love our weather

Dunedin's June floods were of huge interest to ODT Online readers. Photo by Gregor Richardson
Dunedin's June floods were of huge interest to ODT Online readers. Photo by Gregor Richardson

Carla Green explains why online readers of the Otago Daily Times are so obsessed with news stories about the weather.

You may not know it, but you love reading about the weather.

Weather stories make the online top-read story list of the week - or top-read stories of the month, if they are about snow, or anything record-breaking, no matter how banal the record.

The Otago Daily Times' most-read online story so far this year is not about politics, or scandal, or corruption, or scandalous political corruption.

It was about the weather - the floods in June, to be precise.

Actually, 10 of the top 15 stories so far this year have been about weather. Online readers love weather. And we are not the only ones who have noticed.

''In some respects, it's a 'we're all in this together sort of situation','' Dr Davinia Thornley said.

Dr Thornley is a lecturer in the University of Otago's media, film and communication department, and one of the many things she studies is media audiences. That is you.

''People are interested in sharing [weather] stories because ... of that notion of getting a sense of what's happening on the ground.

''People love the immediacy of weather stories, she said. Weather is always happening ... But it is also the fact that weather is something that applies directly to local readers.

''People are interested in sharing stories because they're either sending them out to other Dunedinites, or to other parts of the country or other parts of the world.''

Of course, Dr Thornley said, there was probably an aspect of voyeurism that could explain the interest in extreme weather and other disasters.

But there was also evidence of that interest being harnessed for good, she said.

''It's also making sure family and friends are not in trouble or might need help ... On the positive side of it, it's a way for people who might not be able to leave their houses [to] reach out.''

Dr Thornley was not sure if it was possible to ''engineer'' that kind of engagement with a story. It was usually difficult to predict, she said.

But it was clear that if a subject seemed directly relevant to readers - and if they had a strong feeling about it - that story would be popular.



Most read
Ten of the top 15 most-read online stories on this year have been weather related.

Dunedin hit by flooding
Snowstorm huddle a fantail phenomenon
Dunedin flooding: latest updates
Snow closes roads in the south
Snow falling in Dunedin
Record rainfall - city awash
Snow closes northern motorway
Flights disrupted as icy weather grips South
Wet, icy and maybe white
Snow expected to low levels tonight



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