As journalism’s old guard grapples with questions of fake news and partisan bias, one media outlet is ditching it all, with the recognition that in the current moment “news has a stigma.” Now the company, theSkimm, is trying to flip that stigma on its head.
“We saw, you know, for the millions of people that are out there that don’t work in D.C. or don’t necessarily live in New York or aren’t on the coast, how do we create something that provides information every single day in a way that they trust and in a way that is conversational?” Danielle Weisberg, a co-founder of theSkimm, said on the most recent episode of the Women Rule podcast.
Weisberg, along with co-executive Carly Zakin, founded theSkimm in 2012 as a daily emailed newsletter digest of current events. And it began, in part, as a recognition that a specific audience was getting left out of the conversation: female millennials.
“It just made no sense that there was no news source geared towards how this demographic likes to get information,” Weisberg said.
The brand rapidly grew into a multimedia “audience” company, with products like video series, civic engagement campaigns and, most recently, a podcast interview series focused on female entrepreneurs.
Attempts by theSkimm at upending the news industry are ramping up even as public trust in the media is diminishing. According to one Monmouth University survey released in April, more than three-quarters of Americans (about 77 percent) say that traditional TV and newspaper outlets report fake news stories at least occasionally.
While theSkimm’s founders came from mainstream media (both worked as producers at NBC News), they also took issue with the formality of news writing and built their brand around it.
“There is this conversational element that some people are sort of shaken by, for better or worse,” Zakin said, noting that “the way we write is how people talk.”
“So sometimes you’re like, ‘What the F happened?’ and we’ll write that,” she added. “And sometimes it’s not grammatically perfect, because when you send an email to a friend, it’s not grammatically perfect... And I think that’s been really part of the authenticity that has been the underlying factor behind the brand and what’s also helped us get this far.”
To hear more from theSkimm’s founders on how they started their company from a couch, the future of the brand and advice on how to raise capital for a new venture, listen to the full podcast here. Women Rule takes listeners backstage with female bosses for real talk on how they made it and what advice they have for women looking to lead.