These days it seems that everybody has a newsletter. Between retail stores, news sources, gossip websites, your buddy’s weekly fantasy football picks, etc., the choices for what we can receive in our inbox is seemingly limitless and still growing every day.
Yet one has risen above all others, growing astoundingly from 0 to reach 3.5 million inboxes every morning in a little over three years.
On the surface, the idea behind theSkimm is almost too simple. A daily newsletter that comes every morning around 7:30 am ET with the summaries three to four major news stories. From world news to sports to politics. A 2-3 minute read at most, typically. So how did theSkimm achieve their massive growth and become the go-to morning newsletter for millions?
With Facebook and Twitter feeds, hundreds of news websites plus the few people who still receive a daily paper, the market for content and news seems oversaturated. To start a news website or newsletter one would be a drop in a very large ocean. However, too many information sources may have been exactly the problem.
What the digital era has given us is the most options of news sources and the most stories to read, all at our fingertips and it can be hard to navigate. Furthermore, despite all the options and the constant churn of stories, most people don’t have enough time to read the news. It’s hard enough to stay on top of who is ruling Westeros and what Littlefinger is up to.
theSkimm hit that market right in the center of the target. Those who want to be informed, who have an interest in the news, yet not a lot of time to consume the media, and they do it in a way that speaks to their market with headlines like: “What to say when you’re on a date with someone who only talks about himself…” and “What to say when you have to accept surge pricing…”
It’s quick, simple, informative and can be read on a commute on a smart phone or tablet.
The whole point of the theSkimm is in their motto: “We read. You skimm.” The curators read the news, pick and choose what to write about/summarize and give it to their readers in an easy to read, yet still informative format with the necessary background information. It’s one thing to know the President of Brazil is facing impeachment and another to know how and why and what the implications are.
The minds behind theSkimm, Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, interned at NBC news and have a passion for current events and politics. They have the experience in writing and filtering news.
In order to write bite-size stories on four or five world events from Monday to Friday, they need to consume as much news as possible and focus on what they think is both interesting and informative. A 3-minute read takes hours to curate, write and publish.
Having a solid concept or idea you believe in is one thing, however, getting other people to see it and sign up for it is something else entirely. Writing and creating content is a large amount of work, however, it’s only step one of many. Think of a newspaper. The writing is one thing, the editing, meetings, advertising, printing, and distribution are all equally as important and time-consuming steps to get the information to readers.
For a newsletter or website, you can create your content and post and pray or you can get out there and tell everyone and their dog about your product.
The founders of theSkimm knew that while content was the foundation for their product, distribution and growing readership was king and so they worked on growth even harder than the newsletter itself. From literally hitting the streets to get people to subscribe, to email marketing and starting their skimmbassador program
It’s what took their newsletters from grassroots and put it into the hands of millions of readers:
From Academy Award-winning actresses:
Well this made our day and then some. Look who's #UpWiththeSkimm #SkimmLife Name: Reese Witherspoon @reesewitherspoon Job: Actress, Producer, Creative Director & Founder @draperjamesgirl, Mom What time do you get up? 6:30am Do you snooze? Once Do you snore? My 3 year old says yes…but only a little ? Favorite line from theSkimm recently? When they mentioned Luckiest Girl Alive as a must read! I think I danced around the house for 5 solid minutes Morning drink? Coffee w/coconut milk Who do you let speak to you before coffee? No one – but everyone talks to me anyway! No respect! Complete the sentence: Woke up like this: Grateful.
To (former) Republican Primary Candidates:
Or another online news innovator:
Good morning, Arianna. Happy World Sleep Day #UpWiththeSkimm #SkimmLife #WorldSleepDay Name: Arianna Huffington Job: HuffPost editor-in-chief, mother, sister, flat shoe advocate, sleep evangelist What time do you get up? Ideally, 7-8 hours after I go to bed How many times do you snooze? Never! If you feel like you want to hit the snooze button, that means you’re not getting enough sleep. My hope is that one day snooze buttons will be obsolete because everyone wakes up naturally and fully rested. Do you snore? That’s something between me and the NSA. 3 things you can't live without in the AM? Thirty minutes on my bike, meditation, and “good morning” texting with my daughters. Favorite line from theSkimm recently? “Bone broth is the new kale is the new I hate everyone.” Made me laugh. What's your morning drink? Bulletproof coffee. Very, very hot. Who do you let speak to you before coffee? Pre-coffee privileges go to my daughters, my sister Agapi and HuffPost editors. Complete the sentence: Woke up like this: Refreshed, recharged, grateful.
To Oprah Winfrey herself:
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) October 15, 2014
All of which helps lead to $6.25 million in funding and with that, theSkimm was off and running.
A 3 minute morning read was a 24/7 hustle for theSkimm’s founders.
Hustle is key, funding is great but cashflow is necessary. After building their brand and following, theSkimm found sponsors and advertisers (or with 3+ million readers the sponsors found them) and now theSkimm introduced their own paid app skimmahead which users can use to sync to their phone’s calendars with different personalized reminders, etc.
Now of the 3.5 million who read every day not everyone will pay for what they are already getting for free, but some will.
The time to choose when to grow or when to stay is not easy. theSkimm could have stuck with the status quo and but it’s the type that set out to create something new and disruptive like theSkimm who are never happy with the status quo to begin with.
They’re always looking for the next step even before they’re ready.
The Skim on theSkimm
It’s easy to look back at the success theSkimm has now and forget the risks involved with getting it off the ground in the first place. Two girls in their mid-twenties with no business experience and a passion for news quit their jobs to start a daily newsletter, the risks were large, the potential was there but the odds were unlikely.
Standing out in a seemingly saturated world isn’t easy or common, but theSkimm took a simple idea and through hard work, a great product and hustle, built it into a daily must-read.
No clickbait. No spam marketing. No business experience. Just content, distribution and hustle.
It’s what took theSkimm from 0 to 100 to 1,000, to 3.5 million+ in 3.5 years, including Oprah herself.