Since Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin launched theSkimm in 2012, the pair has insisted their vision for the startup stretched much further than an immensely popular email newsletter.
Now theSkimm is launching its first big product that moves beyond email: a $2.99-per-month app that taps into your iPhone calendar to keep you up to date on interesting or relevant events.
What is theSkimm?
The heart of theSkimm is its email newsletter, “aka the email you read sans pants every day,” which gives you a morning rundown of the news everyone will be talking about at work.
When Weisberg and Zakin quit their jobs at NBC to launch the company in 2012, they conceived of it as a way to keep their smart friends, who were short on time, up to date on what was going on in the world. The email newsletter goes out at around 6:30 a.m., right as you’re waking up, and gives you an easily digestible cheat sheet on topics from international conflicts to pop-culture news — all delivered in its signature sassy tone.
Weisberg and Zakin tell Business Insider that the goal was to give people the confidence to chat about any news that got brought up in a work meeting or cocktail party they happened to find themselves in.
That pitch turned out to be compelling to a lot of people. The newsletter now has 3.5 million active users, according to the company.
Outside the inbox
Once Weisberg and Zakin began to develop their audience, they knew they wanted to move beyond email. But they didn’t want to add to the noise of people’s lives
Part of why theSkimm’s newsletter works because it meets you where you are: with one eye open in your bed, checking your email. It doesn’t give you a new app you had to open every time you wanted more information.
The founders have tried to maintain that ease of use by integrating theSkimm’s new product, Skimm Ahead, into your iPhone calendar.
The service will work as an in-app purchase in theSkimm’s (also new) iPhone app, and will charge $2.99 per month to plop relevant upcoming events straight onto your iPhone calendar (no Google Calendar as of yet). You’ll also be able to view the newsletter, which will remain free, in the app as well.
So what kind of events will Skimm Ahead throw into your calendar? Weisberg and Zakin say the events will range from the State of the Union, to the premiere of “House of Cards” or the “The Mindy Project,” to National Siblings Day. From their examples, the events seem to skew toward things theSkimm’s core audience, millennial women, would care about.
But the events won’t be personalised or local, the founders say. If the events exist in a specific geographic location, they have to be of national importance — like a Beyonce tour. Skimm Ahead is more about preparing you for the zeitgeist than giving you something to do on a Friday night.
Will the audience bite?
The big question is how many of those 3.5 million newsletter readers will theSkimm be able to convert to its calendar service. Part of theSkimm’s original success came from the fact that it sits in a sweet spot between voice and utility. The newsletter built a loyal fan base that connected with its style, but also a casual following (including me) who saw it as the easiest tool for a morning news breakdown.
With Skimm Ahead, theSkimm’s voice seems to seep into the topic selection in a more pronounced way than it does in the newsletter. The “news of the day” feels more universal than the examples of events the founders gave, and that could push certain users away from this new product.
That said, at $2.99 per month, the service isn’t exactly cheap, and doubling down on the core audience might be exactly the right move.