Cofounders Danielle Weisberg, Carly Zakin on how theSkimm keeps young America informed

What to say when your agency colleague asks you for a reading recommendation... theskimm's cofounders chat with PRWeek about its smart but fun take on the news.

Name
Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin

Title
Cofounders

Outlet
theSkimm

Website
www.theskimm.com

How did theSkimm get its start?
Weisberg: When Carly and I were roommates in New York working at NBC 30 Rock in our mid-20s, we saw a disconnect in the way traditional media tried to reach our friends in ways that didn’t fit the daily routines of female millennials. They didn’t have a news source they loved. So we wanted to create it.

theSkimm has two guiding principles: Firstly, people want info from a voice they trust. We created that voice around theSkimm girl. She’s our character, our personality.

Secondly, we’re obsessed with the routines of this audience. When we build products we combine voice and routine to make sure our content and products actually reach our audiences where they are.

theSkimm seems to take a lifestyle approach to how people consume news?
Carly: We thought about what we do every morning and how we check email after waking up. For theSkimm to work, we knew it had to read like an email from a friend. That helped lay the foundation for all product-building: what routine are we going to be part of?

Skimm Ahead, the subscription service we launched a year ago, tackled a different routine - the calendar. All professionals live and breathe by their calendar. We knew there was an opportunity for us to integrate directly into that routine.

How do you keep all 20,000 of your Skimm’bassadors engaged?
Carly: They’re our most special asset. First and foremost, they help us grow. As a happy accident, however, a community has developed on top of that.

People are networking, supporting each other, finding roommates, jobs, and significant others. This year we launched the B-List, as in bucket list. Their goals ran the gamut from wanting to lose 10 pounds to coming out to one’s parents to adopting a child. The community, which basically comprises complete strangers bonding over their love of a product, helps them achieve that.

What do you look for in a brand partner for native advertising?
Danielle: Brands that respect this audience and have interesting stories to tell. We turn a lot of partners down because it’s not a good fit, either because they’ve done things that show they don’t respect our audience or don’t have something compelling.

How does that improve the experience for your customers?
Danielle: We can tell a brand story and communicate how it’s relevant to the daily routines of our audience. For example, we work with Chase, one of our first sponsors, to figure out the financial challenges of a female millennial’s life.

Because of the tips they learned, some were motivated to pay off their student debt or made the decision to rent instead of buy.

We also partnered with Google for the election, creating content to encourage people to vote and help them understand what they needed at the polls in their state on Election Day.

If you continue to see success with subscriptions, will you lessen your reliance on advertising?
Carly: We never started working with partners because we wanted to or needed to rely on advertising. We actually turn down 50-60% of incoming brands. So we don’t look it as replacing one or the other.

How do you tailor content to each social platform to maximize reach?
Danielle: A lot of media companies rely on creating a huge amount of content and distributing it on social. We rely on a large amount of engagement from the newsletter to carry people through to other parts of theSkimm.

We definitely have a revenue stream that involves native advertising and part of that is social content. But the bulk of that doesn’t rely on the size of our following. In general, we go for intimacy at scale.

As we’ve gone into video, social has been a great place to get feedback from our audience on what we’re testing. Our social channels serve as an amplification of the funnel to make people aware of the brand and get them into the newsletter.

What’s happening with Skimm Studios?
Carly: There’s a lot in development right now. It’s not about producing content for content’s sake - it’s about creating an experience that makes it easier to be smarter in a totally different routine.

Danielle: We have video on social and have been experimenting a lot. We’re right on target with where we want to be.

What do you say to those who think it’s condescending to break down news for young professional women?
Carly: We’ve gotten more than 5.5 million people, who maybe were otherwise uninterested, engaged with a news product and who love it. There shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. We’re first and foremost a journalistic product. If we can make it easier for people to enjoy that consumption, we’re proud to do it.

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