theSkimm: making it easier to live smarter

Originally a startup newsletter, theSkimm has now built its own media universe.

theSkimm is a media platform founded in 2012 by former NBC producers Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin.[1] Originally a daily email newsletter targeted to millennial women, theSkimm now has 7 million subscribers,[2] including several celebrity fans like Oprah and Reese Witherspoon.[3] It has raised approximately $29 million to date from impressive investors including Greycroft, 21st Century Fox, the New York Times, Google Ventures, Tyra Banks, Shonda Rhimes, and Spanx Founder Sara Blakely.[4]

Function and Revenue Model

theSkimm’s newsletter is its core product that gives an overview of the day’s most important news. It generates revenue through native advertising and affiliate marketing to integrate brand and product opportunities more seamlessly into its content. The company also launched a paid subscription app called Skimm Ahead, which is a calendar of events that can be integrated into the iPhone calendar.[5] It continues to push further into its subscribers’ daily routines, broadening its monetization opportunities to include brand partnerships, content licensing and distribution.[6]

Innovative Elements

“Skimm-speak”[7]

While theSkimm’s subject matter does not pander to women, its tone is unapologetically gendered and it packages its newsletter content in a way that imitates the way young women supposedly speak to each other.[8] theSkimm’s tone has drawn its share of criticism,[9][10][11] but this “Skimm-speak” helps translate worldly current events that may be difficult for young professionals to understand into content that helps them learn and better engage with the world.[12] This tone helps theSkimm to push content that may seem less interesting to its readers as part of its decidedly editorial rather than primarily data-driven strategy (for example: The Kardashians get more clicks than Syria, but that doesn’t stop the editors from pushing more Syria-related content).[13]

Skimm’bassadors

The Skimm’bassadors program uses theSkimm’s subscribers as brand ambassadors to recruit additional subscribers to join the newsletter. As an incentive to join the Skimm’bassadors program, theSkimm offers access to private events, exclusive content, and Skimm swag.[14] As of 2017, theSkimm had 27,000 Skimm’bassadors (who qualified by getting 10 people to sign up for the daily email newsletter),[15] and the program was a key factor in theSkimm’s ability to convince approximately 100,000 people to commit to voting in the November 2018 Midterm elections.[16]

Value Creation

For readers, theSkimm creates value by making it quick and easy to digest news. It helps readers get up to speed on the basics of the world news by patiently adding humorous context to cut through the noise of social media.[17] Through a combination of pop-culture references and different content delivery strategies including videos, podcasts, and longer-form guides that help readers do a deeper dive on particular topics, theSkimm gives its readers confidence in their ability to understand and have intelligent conversations about current events.[18]

For those who want to reach readers, theSkimm creates value by helping them access a target market of young millennial women. Because theSkimm initially refused ads (placing “a long bet on loyalty”), it is now able to offer that loyalty to potential partners and advertisers.[19] theSkimm has also positioned itself as a trusted tastemaker, making it an attractive platform for affiliate marketing.[20] As demonstrated by its successful voter registration efforts, theSkimm has the ability to mobilize readers to change behavior. Lastly, theSkimm has cultivated an expertise on its audience, as evidenced by its Skimm Studies,[21] which opens up the opportunity to act in an advisory capacity to brands, partners, or anyone else who wants to reach its readers.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/carly-zakin-and-danielle-weisberg-launch-the-skimm-2012-7

[2] https://www.thecut.com/2018/10/the-skimm-carly-zakin-danielle-weisberg.html

[3] https://adage.com/article/media/theskimm-attention-media-execs-celebs/298534/

[4] https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/the-skimm#section-funding-rounds

[5] https://techcrunch.com/2016/04/19/skimm-ahead/

[6] http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/11/with-video-and-audio-the-skimm-pushes-further-into-the-daily-routines-of-its-6-million-readers/

[7] http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/11/with-video-and-audio-the-skimm-pushes-further-into-the-daily-routines-of-its-6-million-readers/

[8] https://www.thecut.com/2018/10/the-skimm-carly-zakin-danielle-weisberg.html

[9] https://slate.com/human-interest/2017/05/the-skimm-a-chic-news-digest-for-women-is-the-newsletter-version-of-ivanka-trump.html#return

[10] https://www.fastcompany.com/90275577/theskimms-tone-needs-to-change

[11] https://www.theawl.com/2017/07/pumpkin-spice-politics/

[12] http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/11/with-video-and-audio-the-skimm-pushes-further-into-the-daily-routines-of-its-6-million-readers/

[13] https://www.thecut.com/2018/10/the-skimm-carly-zakin-danielle-weisberg.html

[14] https://www.theskimm.com/about/5er7Uanv5uK6eQYMiOsmaU/skimmbassadors

[15] http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/11/with-video-and-audio-the-skimm-pushes-further-into-the-daily-routines-of-its-6-million-readers/

[16] https://www.forbes.com/sites/elanagross/2018/10/29/how-theskimm-got-100k-people-to-commit-to-vote-in-the-midterm-elections/#7643704d4180

[17] https://www.thecut.com/2018/10/the-skimm-carly-zakin-danielle-weisberg.html

[18] https://www.businessinsider.com/carly-zakin-and-danielle-weisberg-launch-the-skimm-2012-7

[19] https://www.thecut.com/2018/10/the-skimm-carly-zakin-danielle-weisberg.html

[20] https://www.businessinsider.com/skimmreads-is-oprahs-book-club-for-millennials-2017-5

[21] https://medium.com/@skimmstudies

Previous:

Rappi: Creating value across 3 dimensions

Next:

Rappi: LATAM’s newest Unicorn

3 thoughts on “theSkimm: making it easier to live smarter

  1. Great post! When evaluating platforms like theSkimm, it seems that their models of value creation and value capture are particularly difficult to reconcile. Since theSkimm has relied on integrating advertising into its content, I fear that increases in the rate of advertising will lead to its users perceiving the value of the content to be inferior (even if that is not truly the case). In that case, theSkimm would do well to continue focusing on increasing user stickiness with products like Skimm Ahead, which would discourage users from finding a similar news aggregation service with less advertising.

  2. Great post! I agree with kmh19 – it seems like advertising and targeting are contrary to the reasons why many original theSkimm users signed up. I wonder if the theSkimm can monetize better through events. Big events in large cities can likely be profitable, and as the user base grows they can probably add local events.

  3. Great post Kike, thanks for sharing! Sounds like theSkimm has been able to carve out a unique space in the crowded market of newsletters. Going forward, I believe two important issues for theSkimm will be growing their subscriber base and generating additional revenue. On the first point of growing their subscriber base, I agree with their decision to utilize their current subscriber network to increase the number of subscribers. By rolling out Skimm’bassdors they will likely be able to not only add new subscribers, but subscribers that will be more willing to engage with their platform due to the network effect. One concern that I do have is that by focusing on word of mouth marketing they are potentially limiting the audience that they can reach. So moving forward it will be interesting to see if the leadership team is open to utilizing platforms such as Facebook to reach a larger audience within the demographics they are trying to serve.

    On the second point around revenue generation. In order to deliver revenue growth, the company will likely need to turn to additional services beyond the newsletter. Based on your post it sounds like they are off to a great start with the addition of a premium tier and Skimm studies. One concern I do have around their premium tier is that the features on the premium tier are limited, as of right now, access to a calendar seems to be the only added feature premium members receive. In order to further build out their premium tier and attract additional members, it will be important for them to add additional features, such as the ability to access personalized content.

Leave a comment