Navigating media's ups and downs with theSkimm co-founders

Navigating media's ups and downs with theSkimm co-founders

Introduction (00:00:00)

  • The Skimm is a digital media company that aggregates the news in a multitude of newsletters for Millennial women.
  • Co-founded in 2012 by Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg.
  • The company started from their living room couch and has since grown into a successful digital media company.
  • The Skimm's mission is to give women the information they need to navigate life's most important decisions.
  • They provide news and information in a concise and easy-to-understand format.
  • The Skimm's target audience is Millennial women.
  • Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg are co-CEOs of the Skimm.
  • They divide responsibilities based on their strengths and interests.
  • Carly focuses on the business side of the company, while Danielle focuses on the editorial side.
  • The media landscape has changed significantly since the Skimm was founded in 2012.
  • The Skimm has weathered these changes by adapting its content and business model.
  • They have expanded their offerings to include podcasts, videos, and events.
  • They have also diversified their revenue streams by introducing advertising and sponsorships.
  • If they could go back and do it all over again, Carly and Danielle would focus more on building a sustainable business model from the start.
  • They would also invest more in technology and data analytics.
  • They would also be more aggressive in growing their audience.

being on the forefront of millennial media companies (00:01:35)

  • The Skimm co-founders noticed that traditional media and emerging new media were not effectively reaching millennial women.
  • They identified a business opportunity in catering information to millennial women's daily routines.
  • The Skimm was created to fill the gap in the digital media landscape by providing news and information in a user-friendly format.
  • The Skimm started as a newsletter because it allowed them to reach their target audience first thing in the morning, becoming part of their daily routine.
  • Newsletters were not as common at the time, and The Skimm's focus on providing trusted information specifically for millennial women set them apart from other media companies.

the power of email marketing (00:06:08)

  • TheSkimm co-founders realized that email was the best way to reach their target audience as it was the first thing people checked in the morning.
  • They decided to create an email newsletter that sounded like it was from a friend, which turned out to be a successful strategy.
  • With Google phasing out third-party data, brands will increasingly rely on newsletters to reach their audience, giving TheSkimm a strategic advantage.
  • TheSkimm's business model has always been centered around zero and first-party data, allowing them to create a direct line of communication with their audience.

the early days and bootstrapping (00:08:35)

  • Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, the co-founders of theSkimm, started the company with limited savings and no business or tech background.
  • Despite the challenges, they worked tirelessly, sleeping in shifts and writing and updating the newsletter through the night.
  • Instead of focusing on revenue growth, they prioritized audience growth through grassroots efforts like printing t-shirts, sending them to celebrities and influencers, and launching a brand ambassador program.
  • After about a year and a half, they secured funding from Homebrew Ventures and hun and SAA.
  • TheSkimm co-founders started with a small team in a tiny office above a bar and faced numerous rejections from investors due to the lack of success stories in the new media category they were entering.

Not fitting the silicon valley mold (00:14:07)

  • The Skimm co-founders faced challenges raising money in Silicon Valley due to their unique approach and target audience.
  • They were told they needed a technical co-founder, that email was dead, and that women were a niche market.
  • Despite the negative feedback, they persisted because they received positive feedback from their target users.
  • The Skimm co-founders experienced a disconnect between the demand for their product and the perception of investors.
  • Investors were skeptical about the viability of their product, despite evidence of customer interest and engagement.
  • This disconnect highlights the challenges faced by entrepreneurs, especially women, in obtaining funding from traditional investment sources.

the co-founder relationship (00:17:34)

  • Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, co-founders of theSkimm, met while studying abroad in Rome and later reconnected in Washington, D.C., and New York while working for NBC News.
  • United by their passion for storytelling and entrepreneurship, Zakin and Weisberg decided to launch theSkimm after a pivotal conversation over wine, where they discussed various scenarios and potential challenges, essentially forming their initial partnership agreement.
  • They adopted a co-CEO structure to ensure equal footing in ideation, finances, and workload, recognizing that their complementary strengths and weaknesses contributed to their success.
  • Zakin and Weisberg prioritize their friendship and view it as a familial bond that has strengthened the company.
  • Instead of adhering to strictly separate roles, they divide responsibilities based on their individual strengths and interests.

Leadership styles and growing a company (00:23:11)

  • Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, co-founders of theSkimm, discuss the challenges of navigating the media industry.
  • TheSkimm's success is attributed to focusing on real engagement and building trust with their audience rather than chasing clicks.
  • The company has evolved from a daily newsletter to a digital ecosystem covering various aspects of women's lives, including financial health, wellness, parenting, and purchasing decisions.
  • Despite industry challenges, theSkimm's focus on building a strong foundation with its audience has allowed it to scale and diversify its offerings.
  • The direct relationship with their audience (zero-party data) has insulated theSkimm from industry changes like ad market fluctuations and macro trends.
  • The company excels in creating action and transactions with its audience.
  • If they were to start over, Zakin and Weisberg would prioritize leadership style and decisions about who they work with and invest their time and energy in.

Prioritizing growth (00:29:31)

  • The co-founders of theSkimm often knew what was right but didn't do it due to various reasons, leading to missed opportunities.
  • It took the co-founders a long time to realize that they should always be six months ahead of when they think they need to hire someone.
  • Some of their earliest leadership hires came six months too late, such as the SE Suite team and the executive team.
  • The co-founders aim to make theSkimm the go-to source for their audience and continue to anticipate their needs.
  • In the past year, they have grown their audience offerings with the Skimm Well newsletter and parenting content.
  • They have also diversified their revenue streams with Skimm Lab, their in-house creative agency, and Skimm Shopping, which focuses on their commerce brand.
  • The co-founders believe that the common thread in their success has been anticipating what their audience will need and providing them with the information and confidence to make informed choices.

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