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Corner Office

Keeping traditional morning news alive, without the TV

Kai Ryssdal and Daisy Palacios Sep 26, 2016
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Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, founders of theSkimm.
theSkimm

Not that The New York Times is the be-all and end-all of the news business, but it’s got a certain cachet. So when it invests in a company that was built – at least in the beginning – on a conversational, but very newsy morning email aimed at millennial women, people pay attention.

Following a Series B round of funding of $8 million announced in June, theSkimm announced today that it has raised an additional $500,000 from The New York Times, CEO of Havas Group Yannick Bolloré, strategic advisory firm Media Link, and actress Mariska Hargitay. This funding is aimed at getting the company into video, under a new unit called Skimm Studios.

In addition to announcing the funding, theSkimm unveiled Skimm Studies, which offers an inside look into what female millennials think about some of the biggest national topics. Their first report is about how millennial women are voting in 2016.

TheSkimm was founded by Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin in 2012, after they quit their jobs as producers for NBC News and started writing their newsletters “from the couch.” The Daily Skimm is the fastest growing email newsletter on the market, with an engaged community of well over 3.5 million active subscribers. And the company is not slowing down either, as theSkimm is quickly expanding its collection of products.

The company launched its app called Skimm Ahead in April 2016 – a subscription app that can integrate directly into your iPhone calendar. TheSkimm also launched a non-partisan campaign to educate its subscribers on the 2016 election and register voters who have not done so yet.

Weisberg and Zakin talked to Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal about the company’s growth and how theSkimm is disrupting the traditional news environment.

Zakin on theSkimm’s engagement rates:

We’re very proud to talk about our open rate. You know, industry average for a product like ours really ranges from about 12 to 19 percent – and, in some cases, 7 percent. And our open rate is well around 35 percent. And what we really prided ourselves on is, our company really has two assets; it’s our voice that is very distinctive for anyone who notices and reads theSkimm and engages with it, but the other is this community that we’ve built. And that really goes to show why there’s so much engagement around the daily product.

Weisberg on theSkimm’s voice:

We have a voice, we’re non-partisan, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a personality. We sound like your friend telling you what you need to know to start off your day. Everyone has a friend that’s in the know, she’s kind of sarcastic, she says it like it is, and that’s who’s telling you the news.

Zakin on still feeling like a start-up:

We’re still a start-up. I think that is so part of our culture and so engrained in how we started this company. You know we’re 33 people now, and we talk [to our team] all the time on how this company was founded on hustle. And whether we’re 33 people, 3 people, or end up being 133 people, hustle will always be a part of our culture and to me, that’s inherent with start-ups. So, we like to say we’re a company that started on the couch. We definitely have more couches now than the one, tiny one we started on, but we’re definitely still a start-up.

Click the audio player above to listen to the interview.

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