AccuWeather: A Case of Weathering Translation

Article ImageCompany: AccuWeather

The State College, Pa.-based AccuWeather provides hourly, even by-the-minute, weather forecasts for any longitude and latitude on Earth, with customized content and video presentations available on smartphones, tablets, and websites, as well as via radio, television, and newspapers. The company also delivers a range of customized enterprise solutions to media, business, government, and institutions, as well as news, weather content, and video for more than 180,000 third-party websites. 


Business Challenge

With non-U.S. use of AccuWeather's digital offerings dramatically increasing in recent years, the company wanted to find a way to better translate and localize its weather forecasts to meet the needs of the wide variety of languages, in which its offerings are accessed every day.

Vendor of Choice: Rubric

The Edinburgh, Scotland-based Rubric is a global language service provider, specializing in translation and localization services for companies in the technology, software, manufacturing, tourism, marketing, and media publishing industries.



"We are a 53-year-old company now and really have a global audience," says David Mitchell, VP of digital media, emerging platforms, at AccuWeather. "More than half of our traffic to our digital properties is coming from outside the U.S. now."

And it was due to what Mitchell calls "this dramatic increase in non-U.S. traffic over the past 6 years" that made AccuWeather want to find a company to offer better translation services. "We were kind of forced into translating because of the distribution we had," he states. "It was thought about and planned, but certainly, as we signed deals with global distributors, it became a must for us." AccuWeather first worked with "a very small, kind of known entity," and while "they were good for the very beginning," Mitchell says, "we quickly outgrew them as far as complexity and amount of work."

AccuWeather switched to a "large translation organization" that Mitchell opts not to name. "What we found with them was the quality of the work was decent, but we were treated ... like a number," he says. "There was no real partnership in this; it was more just a one-off transaction each time [and] not a lot of effort to understand what our content was and what we were trying to do as an organization." Despite this apparently ho-hum relationship with the translation provider, Mitchell says AccuWeather was "not actively looking for a change at the time." But then Rubric came calling.


"AccuWeather is a very significant player in their space and a client that we very much wanted to work with," says Ian Henderson, chairman, CTO, and co-founder of Rubric. "So we did reach out to AccuWeather." And the more Rubric talked, the more the folks at AccuWeather liked what they heard.

"Once we started talking to them, we were very much intrigued with how they were approaching things and how they were looking at things differently than anybody else we had worked with as far as organizing and understanding the context of what we were trying to do [and] highlighting some issues that were in some of our products in the market," Mitchell says. And it was all at a cost that was a little bit cheaper than what the company had been paying.

"It was really an easy decision at that point to make the switch," he says. About 2 years ago, the companies paired up. "At a high level, it was about understanding what we were trying to do," Mitchell adds. "It wasn't about just taking a file that we'd send over, translating it, and sending it back. It was about asking questions, understanding what we were trying to do before they even got a file from us, and then once they got a file of the English words to translate, they would come back with many questions and/or potential problem areas, where things could be done differently."

Mitchell says Rubric could offer "a heads up" that a particular phrase might be tricky in a certain language. An explanation would be provided about why it was translating things in a different way or even offer two different options for AccuWeather for one particular phrase. From there, Rubric would work with AccuWeather on which option worked best.

It was a refreshing change of pace. Before Rubric, "we had none of that," Mitchell says. "We'd hand off a file, they sent it back, and we would struggle to get feedback or questions answered." When it comes to translating AccuWeather's forecasts, Henderson says Rubric uses SDL WorldServer, a translation memory technology tool used by such large corporations as PayPal and Adobe.

"But technology is only one [part] of the equation," Henderson says. "We have to have good translators. All translation companies will say that, [but] what you'll find ... is that in our industry, it's very common to subcontract to other translation companies." He says that part of the problem with that "is that the translator doing the work is too far away from the end result."

Another important component, Henderson says, is project management. Rubric, he says, has a dedicated team of project managers "who are very much focused on AccuWeather" and who understand what AccuWeather is trying to do.


As AccuWeather grew to incorporate more than 100 languages, its userbase expanded rapidly, especially in the mobile space. "We would not be on basically every major Android manufactured ... without this work," Mitchell says of the partnership with Rubric. He adds that as smartphones become ubiquitous and expand into emerging markets and locales with new languages, "things like deployment in Uzbekistan and in some lesser-spoken languages [that are] very important to our partners are things that [Rubric has] allowed us to do ... and not ... giving them a reason to go to any other weather provider just because we don't have a language."

Traffic "continues to grow at a really good rate for us, and I think we can confidently say that would not be the case if people were landing on our properties or using ... our device-manufactured widgets and the translations were not done appropriately." He adds that the numbers showing "how often they come back, how long they may stay on our properties, and which subcontent they consume are consistently increasing to us."

"As we get better with translating and at localizing, we believe strongly-and we've seen proof-that we do a better job of retaining these customers," Mitchell says, "and they come back more often, and stay longer, and have a better experience."   

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