Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg left their jobs in TV four years ago to found their insanely popular email newsletter TheSkimm. It now counts 3.5 million subscribers to its daily news briefing aimed at young women, many of whom report reading it on their phones in bed in lieu of picking up a paper — or watching TV.
Forbes 30 Under 30 list members Zakin and Weisberg have benefited from the changing way millennials consume news, raising over $7.8 million in venture funding in 2014. They’ve also won the approval of that most famous of queenmakers, Oprah Winfrey, who tweeted that she’d become a fan of the snappily-written digests.
Now they’re taking the next step in media brand-building: charging for their content. While TheSkimm’s daily email newsletter — their core product — will remain free, the company is launching a subscription iPhone service called Skimm Ahead.
For $2.99 a month, users will get TheSkimm’s event picks, travel recommendations, must-see-TV reminders and the like integrated directly into their iPhone calendars. Zakin and Weisberg are betting the same ardent fan base that trusts them to distill the day’s news will be happy to pay for a curated to-do list, dispensed with the same breezy, best-friend tone TheSkimm readers know and love.
Skimm Ahead users will be able to book, say, Beyonce concert tickets or a trip to Washington, D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival directly from the app in what seems like a boon for marketers looking to target affluent young women. For now, though, all the recommendations in Skimm Ahead’s calendar are simply favorites chosen by Weisberg, Zakin and their team. They may well experiment with paid links or other forms of sponsored content further down the line, the two told Forbes.
TheSkimm, with its enviable 40% email open rate, has been monetizing its freebie news briefing with advertising for some time. Integration has been slick and keenly targeted; for example, an ABC campaign saw the newsletter’s logo subtly changed to feature characters popular with its readership, like Olivia Pope of Scandal.
Skimm Ahead launched for iPhone only on April 19th. The first month is free.