Swell prediction for surfers’ site
Local surfer Todd Halliday has combined his favourite past time with his marketing degree to create a low cost business venture that has generated a significant amount of interest in Western Australia.
That interest has prompted the 23-year-old to try and grow the service commercially around the country.
Tapping into Australia’s love affair with the ocean, Mr Halliday started a web site almost three years ago that provides free, week-long swell and wind forecasts for a majority of the Western Australian coastline.
Called Ocean Outlook, at oceanoutlook.com.au, the site allows surfers, fishers, divers and boaters – often of the landlocked or desk-bound variety – to plan their weekend adventures up to five days in advance. There are also links to live ocean cameras and other industry web sites.
The online service receives more than 3,800 visits a day and has just been expanded into the eastern States.
Although there are other services similar to Ocean Outlook, particularly on the east coast, Mr Halliday said many did not provide free, long range forecasts updated twice-a-day.
The idea caught when Mr Halliday stumbled across some swell and wind charts while surfing the net a few years ago.
“I had no idea there was such a thing and was fascinated by the fact these could accurately predict swell for six days in advance,” Mr Halliday said.
He was convinced to start up the website to get the information out to the public.
After finishing his marketing degree at Curtin University and with some financial backing from his father the site was launched in 2001 with a five-day forecast for Perth-Mandurah.
It has since expanded to almost all of WA and Mr Halliday recently moved to Queensland to launch the east coast service and grow the business commercially.
While still grappling with the means to extract a profit from the popular service – the bane of many Internet-based businesses – Mr Halliday, who also works a second job as a night filler, is confident the low-cost business will eventually be a significant revenue earner.
“It was a concern to start with but not a major problem. I always thought it would be hard to get people to pay for a service such as swell and wind forecasts but I’ve always believed getting advertising and sponsorship would be the way around it,” he said.
As other revenue streams do not look viable at this stage, online advertising remains the main source of revenue.
Other income streams have been tested but proved unsuccessful.
A survey was recently conducted to test the market’s response to a charged SMS weather alert, however, it found most Western Australians were not prepared to pay for the service.
However, basing his calculations on other sites’ advertising rates, Mr Halliday said if the east coast was as popular as WA, he expected visits to increase at least five fold and thus greatly increasing advertising revenue potential.
Now that a suitable market base has been generated in WA Mr Halliday is in throes of developing a media kit and will soon have a sales representative approaching companies for advertising and sponsorship.