Starting a Movement: An Interview with theSkimm

skimm-fb-logoWhen people ask me what my hopes for Coffee Lunch Coffee are, I say, “I’m starting a movement to help people build better, more meaningful, more authentic professional relationships.”  As such, I’m always fascinated by organizations that launch amazing movements that gain traction and create a wave of interest on a national or global basis.  One of my current favorites is theSkimm.

A little background:  A few years ago, I received a note from my friend, Nancy Whitworth, encouraging me to check out a daily email newsletter called, theSkimm.  Intrigued, I signed up and, wow, was I wowed!  Essentially, in my email inbox every morning comes a fun, funny, pithy, easily digested summary of all the news I need to be on top of my current events game throughout the day.  As the founders of this awesome (not-so-) little newsletter would say, theSkimm makes it easier to be smarter.

Since those early days, I have become a self-selected “Skimm’bassador” espousing to anyone who will listen the virtues of theSkimm and encouraging others to sign up.  I am not alone.  Though I am outside the typical Skimm target market (millennials, aged 22-34… but that’s ok, I’m in good company.  Oprah, and other non-millennial notables like Sarah Jessica Parker are also lovers of theSkimm!), I am always delighted to learn of family and friends who have become fellow Skimm’zealots. In fact, now there are thousands of people just like me who, primarily through word of mouth, have helped theSkimm surpass 1 million active readers and counting.  It’s truly viral – a movement growing by leaps and bounds.

Blown away by the way theSkimm has engaged such a huge community of readers, I asked its founders, Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, to tell me a little more about the phenomenon that is theSkimm.

CLC:  How did you originally come up with the idea for theSkimm?

theSkimm:  It was a long time in the making. We both grew up news junkies. We started interning at NBC News as soon as we could. We loved our jobs but saw that the industry was changing and our career paths may not look the same in the next 5-10 years. But we didn’t want to leave news. So we started to think about our friends – smart, educated women who have great jobs and went to great schools. They’re all really busy. They could tell us everything about their industry but didn’t necessarily have the time or the interest to venture outside of it. We saw a void in the market when it came to a news product for this audience, which didn’t make sense to us. Our friends are representative of the female millennial – influencing billions in spending each year and leading in so many ways. We wanted to create a product that fit into their routines and one that they enjoyed waking up to each morning.

CLC:  Who writes/creates the content?

theSkimm:  Since our start in 2012, we touch every word that goes in the newsletter and now have amazing editorial support.

CLC:  How many readers do you have and where are they located?

theSkimm: Our Skimm’rs are located throughout the United States. Typically, they are women aged 22-34 years, educated, working professionals. We also skew toward college students and working and stay at home moms. We also have plenty of male readers. We surpassed 1 million active readers months ago.

CLC:  You have activated a broad ambassador program, enlisting volunteers to help you get the word out.  When and how did you come up with this idea?  Who was your first Skimm’bassador and how many do you have now?

theSkimm:  theSkimm grew from word of mouth since day 1. That’s how we got started. We had people writing in saying that they had never been connected to news like this before — always thought it wasn’t for them — or that they never felt confident talking about this wide a range of issues, or had thought about starting their own company and liked what we were doing. Whatever the reason, the question was always the same – “how can I help?” We would ask them to tell five friends about theSkimm. Eventually we realized that we had much more here than just an email chain and wanted to turn it into a formal program. Our first Skimm’bassadors were probably our moms and our friends. Today we have thousands in all parts of the country.

CLC:  In effect, you have started a movement.  Is that how you see your work? Has it been a surprise or was this the vision all along?

theSkimm:  We see theSkimm as a work in progress. We are so proud of what we have built so far; we are so excited to turn it into something much bigger. And that’s where we are focused each day. We love that you used the word ‘movement’ though. We hear our Skimm’bassadors use that to describe theSkimm a lot. It’s not something we anticipated building but we really see our audience waking up with theSkimm the way people once turned into morning television.

CLC:  What else would you like Coffee Lunch Coffee readers to know about how theSkimm creates a relationship with its audience?

theSkimm:  Whenever we publish content, we always ask ourselves, “Does our audience need this? Will they like it?” We value the trust our audience gives us immensely.

With grateful appreciation to Danielle and Carly, there are obvious lessons to be learned from theSkimm experience, namely:

  1. Listen to your audience.  Deliver what they want and need.
  2. When your contacts ask, “How can I help?” be prepared to respond.
  3. Don’t forget to ask, “How can I help?” in return.
  4. Harness the power of a movement.  It can start small and grow to something much larger over time.  The point is, get started!
  5. Join theSkimm community.  You’ll love it!

5 thoughts to “Starting a Movement: An Interview with theSkimm”

  1. Great interview! I love that you broke down the takeaway points. And, of course, that Carly and Danielle are so generous with their time and open about their journey to where theSkimm is now – and where its going. Congrats from a fellow Skimm’bassador!

  2. Thanks for sharing – this is exactly what I need. With a busy home, and work schedule, I never take the time to sit down to read the news like I should.

  3. Love The Skimm! Also, made my day to know at 54 I am a proud outlier in the Skimm tastic fandom! LOL I love how you blended the interview and the take aways for connectors! 🙂

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