Foundr Podcast
Oct 9, 2018

Building Community as the Foundation for a Successful Content Business


Nathan Chan interviews the theSkimm founders Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg on their journey from two friends with laptops to a 70+ employee company.

If you haven’t heard of theSkimm it’s daily email newsletter aimed at giving female millennials the most important stories of the day. In an easy to read, informal and informative style.

And they have 7 million daily subscribers (!)

Why should you listen?

Because it’s impressive how something so simple got so big (and keeps growing). Anyone could follow the same business model in almost any market.

And proof of that is a number of other email newsletter businesses that are doing a similar thing, and acquiring massive audiences (the Hustle 1 million subscribers, Morning Brew approx 600K subscribers).

With very little startup costs you could do something similar.

3 lessons…

  • Choose what to focus on based upon what you’re good at – in theSkimm’s case it was grow the audience and build the brand over monetize the product.
  • Understand how your product fits into the daily routines of your subscribers and double down on that.
  • If you’re going into the content business, plan for differentiated revenue streams

Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg started their business as good friends on a couch, with nothing but their laptops and a healthy dose of hustle. Today, their millennial women-focused media company theSkimm serves seven million daily subscribers, employs 70 people, and boasts more than 30,000 enthusiastic brand ambassadors.

The company also just closed a round of Series C funding led by GV (formerly Google Ventures) and a group of mainly female investors—including the likes of Shonda Rhimes, Tyra Banks, and Spanx founder Sara Blakely.

Weisberg and Zakin have maintained a close friendship and strong collaboration throughout their six years in business. This dynamic forms the backbone of their company and sets the tone for daily operations, which is largely focused on supporting and empowering women.

In this interview, learn about the early days of theSkimm, the power of community and connection, and how the brand monetizes its content to build a sustainable media business.

The company publishes news that fits into the daily routines of its members, continually nodding to its mission statement of making it easier for people to live smarter, more connected lives. But if you ask us, these powerful founders are the smart ones, effectively proving the mantra, “We are all stronger when we work together.”

Key Takeaways

  • How and why they waited two and a half years to monetize their community of loyal followers
  • How they monetize their content with multiple income streams to build a sustainable, well-rounded business
  • Details of the Skimm’bassadors program and why it has grown so rapidly
  • Zakin and Weisberg’s top tips for growing a content-based business