theSkimm: A Digital Weapon for the Modern News Consumer

@theSkimm is a digital winner for news consumers wanting a consistent, convenient, curated news experience

Many find it overwhelming to know where to go for news basics – for analysis, not just facts. There is simply so much information available to us that trying to sift through it all is impossible. Thoughtful and reliable analysis is more valuable today than ever. TheSkimm is a daily email newsletter that arrives in your inbox every morning at 6am. It has a distinct and modern voice. It gives you the basics of what you need to know to be able to carry on a conversation about key current events. It is consistent and, because it is optimized for consumption on your smartphone, convenient.

Two Reasons theSkimm is a Digital Winner

TheSkimm creates value in two key ways:

  1. With the massive (and growing) amount of information available online, news consumers are seeking a trusted and curated news experience. Consumers want analysis not just facts. TheSkimm delivers that.
  2. News consumers also demand consistency and convenience. They want to fit their news consumption into their daily routine. They want their news to come to them, and not vice versa. TheSkimm delivers here too.

Analysis Trumps Facts

Technology has increased the speed and channels through which news can be transmitted. Twitter has completely redefined the concept of breaking news. But many news consumers place a premium on thoughtful and digestible analysis of news events. Consumers are seeking a dependable and authentic voice to help them make sense of everything – one that not only synthesizes information for us but also points us towards sources where we can continue our reading. One that helps us do the hard work of reading and comparing articles and opinions from a variety of sources. News aggregators, such as Flipboard and Pocket, capitalize on this in part. By adding its own editorial analysis to the links and content it presents each morning, theSkimm improves meaningfully on the basic aggregator experience.

Consistency and Convenience

Resilience in morning and evening TV news consumption habits demonstrates that the hours pre- and post-work are key timeslots for people in their pursuit of remaining informed. [1] Digital newsletters have been on the rise over the past few years to try to meet this consumer demand. Both established news organizations (e.g. the Wall Street Journal’s “The 10 Point” newsletter) and digital natives have launched newsletters (e.g. The Brief, Mic Check, Daily Beast’s Cheatsheet). TheSkimm began as a newsletter in 2012. So it is not only native to the Internet. It is actually a native newsletter, and the implications are clear: theSkimm delivers a more focused, consistent product than its peers. Its newsletters are not simple re-purposing of information published elsewhere. The company’s content is created for the newsletter format specifically. This in turn has helped theSkimm differentiate itself and earn a spot as a consistent part of its subscribers’ routine.

TheSkimm also goes to its subscribers rather than making readers come to them. That people’s overall media consumption continues to shift towards their smartphones (up from 3% in 2008 to an estimated 24% in 2015) is not surprising. [2] Daily Time Spent Percentage

It illustrates the value that can be created for people when they can consume content on their terms. With its email based newsletter, theSkimm was built from the beginning to fit into a format that we all consume daily. It’s an important distinction that puts consumers first. I, for example, often find myself reading theSkimm in the subway on my way to work. It fits into my schedule (again, not vice versa).

Capturing Value

While theSkimm’s value creation is clear, its ability to capture value remains less certain. It was founded by two young ex-NBC female employees in 2012. It has raised $7.8 million in two rounds with the backing of RRE Ventures and Greycroft Partners. TheSkimm has about 1.5 million subscribers. The fundamental question is how does and will TheSkimm make money. Its current business model is based on advertising. The founders have said that its email open rate is 50% (higher than the average email newsletter of 10-15%). [3] For illustrative purposes, if one were to assume that the CPM for an ad insertion in one of theSkimm’s newsletter would fall in the range of $20-$100, it can then be estimated that theSkimm generates $15,000 to $75,000 per newsletter. [3] The founders have hinted that their vision is for theSkimm to be a “lifestyle” brand, not just a newsletter. Given Comcast’s recent investment in Buzzfeed and Vox, an acquisition or partnership with an established news media company seems like a logical next step for theSkimm to continue to expand its footprint.

[1] http://www.journalism.org/2015/04/29/network-news-fact-sheet/

[2] https://medium.com/life-learning/may-i-have-your-attention-please-19ef6395b2c3?curator=MediaREDEF

[3] http://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets/082515/how-theskimm-works-and-makes-money.asp

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8 thoughts on “theSkimm: A Digital Weapon for the Modern News Consumer

  1. Despite its 50% open rate, do you see TheSkim remaining popular as email inboxes continue to rapidly grow in size? I am a big fan of Quartz (www.qz.com), which links-out to breaking and daily news, and then creates its own proprietary content. Quartz sends a daily email, which I rarely open, but I frequently find myself opening its app when I have a few minutes to spare because I know I’ll find something interesting to read. I have hear many positive things about TheSkim, and I am curious to see how it attacks its strategy of becoming a lifestyle brand.

  2. What impresses me most about theSkimm is how it’s cut through the dominance of the platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Google’s search — to keep control of its distribution when few in media do. They have the email addresses of each of its readers and that’s huge. It puts them in a position to learn from their audience, track behaviors, etc., the sort of things that have given companies like Google the advantage they have.

  3. As an avid reader, I love TheSkimm and what it’s done to bring the newsletter digital. Have you thought about how it will grow in the future, particularly in a post-email world? I agree with Noah that I often find myself wishing there was an app or something available to pull up news during the day. Do you see TheSkimm needing to expand into additional distribution formats, or do you think it can grow beyond its current readership with just email distribution?

  4. Thanks for writing an interesting post on theSkimm. I found out about theSkimm through word of mouth and opened almost all of their emails. I agree that going to the user instead of waiting for him/her to visit is a good strategy, but this is something that competitors could easily replicate. It seems like their sassy content is a competitive edge that brings users back for more the next day. It will be interesting to see how theSkimm can find out more information about it’s users in order to position itself into the lifestyle brand that it’s users relate to. TheSkimm should also continue to attract non-consumers of news, so that it does not attract attention from major publications. If theSkimm attempts to go into a head-on battle with the likes of The New York Times, I’m not sure I would bet on theSkimm as the winner just yet.

  5. I think it’s too early to tell if it’s a winner. I agree with a previous comment that I’m inundated with emails and some readers want to pick their news from a variety of sources. I also wonder how people decide this partial aggregator and analysis is better than those already out there.

  6. I was interested in this post because it wasn’t very clear how the Skimm was a digital innovator.. but I agree! The Skimm may not have created a new means of communication, but it created value by conveniently providing concise analysis to a target audience. The value is in decluttering and analyzing all the facts of the internet and providing it via a means of communication we still take seriously – email. Bravo!

  7. Following up on my post, I came across this interesting article about the NYT’s newsletter strategy: http://contently.com/strategist/2015/09/08/how-the-new-york-times-gets-70-email-open-rates/. The article argues that NYT has realized that email has become the new homepage. Is the NYT really ahead of the its competition in realizing this consumption shift? The NYT has spent a significant amount of time and resources focused on its newsletter strategy and currently has 30 newsletters. The NYT brand gives it a significant competitive advantage that might make it challenging for other publishers to win the newsletter game.

  8. I love the Skimm! And as a devoted daily reader, I disagree with the comments that suggest the Skimm would be better served through an app. Translating Skimm into app form would require a lot more content than what we currently get in the newsletter, and I’m afraid this would dilute the quality. I also feel like there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with the newsletter format (i.e. reading it all the way through and then moving the email to the trash folder) that would not be possible to replicate through an app experience. I hope the Skimm maintains its current bite-size format and doesn’t become a cumbersome news app. I never want to have to skim the Skimm.

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