News You Can Use

Danielle Weisberg, A08, co-founder of the email newsletter theSkimm, talks about business and politics
Danielle Weisberg at Tufts
“We care about what people actually talk about at a wedding, a conference or a family dinner, not what’s going to be covered on the evening news,” said Danielle Weisberg. Photo: Paul Rutherford
October 21, 2016

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Danielle Weisberg, A08, and Carly Zakin were young producers at NBC News when they had an epiphany: female millennials who were not interested in nightly news programs—like the one they worked on—would more likely tune in to an e-news digest before the start of each workday.

In 2012, with just $3,000 in savings, they started theSkimm from the couch of the New York City apartment they shared. “We knew how to tell stories, and that was our foundation, but we had to learn everything to do with the business side,” said Weisberg, who joined Zakin at Tufts on Oct. 18 to give the Lyon & Bendheim Alumni Lecture, which celebrates accomplished alumni.

Now their flagship product, the Daily Skimm, an email newsletter that presents major news stories in conversational language, has 4 million subscribers. In April, they launched Skimm Ahead, an iPhone app that integrates news and events with subscribers’ iPhone calendars for a monthly fee. The business world has taken notice. In June, they raised more than $8 million in funding from investors, including 21st Century Fox and the New York Times.

While 80 percent of the Daily Skimm readership is female, Zakin said they do not believe that stories are gender specific or that women read in a different way than men. The decision to target women, she said, was based on this data point: female millennials now outnumber males in both college degrees and paychecks.

During the 2012 presidential election cycle, the duo embarked on a college tour—including a visit to Tufts—to raise visibility for theSkimm. Zakin fondly recalled reporting on the election returns from a bar in Boston. This election, theSkimm was granted interviews with 12 candidates during the primaries, and has become an engine for mobilizing voters. Its Skimm the Vote initiative, a partnership with Rock the Vote, has resulted in more than 100,000 new registered voters.

Unlike print and broadcast outlets that have to fill a certain amount of space or time, Weisberg said theSkimm has the freedom to cover stories others might ignore in favor of a big election-related scoop. “We care about what people actually talk about at a wedding, a conference or a family dinner, not what’s going to be covered on the evening news,” she said.

That has allowed theSkimm to retain its nonpartisan voice during this heated election season. “Our take on the election is there is no excuse not to vote,” said Zakin. “We don’t care who you vote for, but we want to you to educate yourself about the issues and go out there and vote.”

Divya Amladi can be reached at divya.amladi@tufts.edu.  

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