theSkimm is a media platform founded in 2012 by former NBC producers Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin. Originally a daily email newsletter targeted to millennial women, theSkimm now has 7 million subscribers, including several celebrity fans like Oprah and Reese Witherspoon. 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.
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. It continues to push further into its subscribers’ daily routines, broadening its monetization opportunities to include brand partnerships, content licensing and distribution.
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. theSkimm’s tone has drawn its share of criticism, 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. 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).
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. As of 2017, theSkimm had 27,000 Skimm’bassadors (who qualified by getting 10 people to sign up for the daily email newsletter), 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.
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. 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.
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. theSkimm has also positioned itself as a trusted tastemaker, making it an attractive platform for affiliate marketing. 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, which opens up the opportunity to act in an advisory capacity to brands, partners, or anyone else who wants to reach its readers.