XX in Tech

Ex-NBC News Producers Launch theSkimm: a Newsletter for Women to Appear Well-Read Without, Well, Reading

Get ready to clutch your pearls, Mr. Sorkin.

logo Ex <em>NBC News</em> Producers Launch theSkimm: a Newsletter for Women to Appear Well Read Without, Well, Reading

The siren song of Startupland, it appears, has wafted beyond Wall Street and is now calling journalists to its shores. Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin–both twenty-something New Yorkers and former producers at NBC News–left behind their careers in media to found theSkimm. The daily newsletter, which launched today, addresses the modern dilemma of media overload by digesting the news for you. In some instances, regurgitating might be more apt.

The newsletter opens with the story of the day, broken down into bite-sized segments like “What” and “Why,” followed by a short summary of the day’s top stories in a winking, chatty voice organized under rubrics like “What to say on a date” or “What to say at dinner with girlfriends” or “What to say to your boss.” 

The overall affect is sort of like Newser (“Read Less. Know More”) meets Daily Candy.

“We saw the industry changing as corporations began trying to repackage news to reach wider and younger audiences. All of the news sites, Twitter feeds, RSS feeds, constant updates become noisy,” Ms. Weisberg told Betabeat by gChat. As TV news producers, the cofounders had always been a go-to source for quick summary of major news stories. “One day it hit us, we’ve had a business all along as an information concierge.”

Unlike other news curation services–like News.me or Newsle, which surface relevant articles based on who you follow on Twitter and Facebook–theSkimm doesn’t filter by interests or industry. Relying on self-selected silos like Twitter, Ms. Weisberg explained, “leaves you open for that uh-oh moment that everyone has had when you realize you’ve been caught uninformed.” Instead, the cofounders rely on their own judgment as a filter to “give you everything you need to know for social and professional settings without clogging your inbox or taking up too much of your time.”

The idea of turning current events into cocktail party chit-chat sounds like fodder for a Aaron Sorkin diatribe on The Newsroom. But Ms. Weisberg says theSkimm’s target audience, female professionals in their 20′s and 30′s, don’t necessarily have the time or interest to keep up with the 24-hour news cycle. “For us, news has not only been our career, but it is our hobby and passion,” she said. “We don’t expect everyone else to share that but as journalists, it’s our job to keep people informed,” she added, couching theSkimm as a public good. “We’ve seen a lot of room for theSkimm in this demographic because women in this age range are out-earning men in degrees and paychecks. But women almost always score lower than men on current events tests.”

Ms. Weisberg claims theSkimm has received “a lot of investor interest,” but the startup has not yet closed any funding. The cofounders plan to monetize by advertising on the newsletter. “But we have other innovative ways to integrate advertisers on our site,” she said, declining to elaborate. The company also has “some exciting sponsored events in the works.”

Even in the crowded market for news digests and curation, Ms. Weisberg doesn’t see any competitors. “We are more than just a content site, we are a service that seeks to change the way women get news,” she said.

Of course, keeping a light spin on serious stories can get tricky. Yesterday, a development in the case of Trayvon Martin’s shooter George Zimmerman was stuck under “What to say to your coworker.” A special prosecutor in the case released testimony from a witness accusing Mr. Zimmerman of years of sexual molestation through her teens. TheSkimm’s suggestion for what to say to your coworker? Tell them George Zimmerman “had a bad day today, too.”

“At least they would be having a conversation about Zimmerman or the topic per se, whereas before, you may not have even participated,” Ms. Weisberg said when we asked what would happen if everyone got their news from theSkimm. “It opens people up to further discussion and curiosity.” Considering we were too deep in Marissa Mayer reactions to catch what happened in the trial, perhaps Ms. Weisberg is onto something.

One humble suggestion: If it’s about further discussion, a link out to the original story would go a long way.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com