Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg
Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin are smart, dynamic and tuned-in New York City journalist/entrepreneurs cutting new ground in the news business. Now roommates, they first met in college while studying abroad. Danielle, a former associate producer for MSNBC's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" who also worked on NBC's "Nightly News" in Washington, D.C., and Carly, a former associate producer for NBC's Peacock Productions who also worked on MSNBC documentaries, represent a new wave of quarter-life women with cool ideas and the tenacity to launch their own businesses. In Weisberg and Zakin's case, it is an online newsletter that breaks down the headlines for busy professionals on the go. Their goal is to provide a voice, to give context and to provide a filter for important daily news events that will appeal to their short-attention span generation hungry for a solid executive summary of key current topics. Named "theSkimm," Weisberg and Zakin say they read so that their audience can "skim" and still be up on the latest news. Issues of theSkimm are delivered to loyal subscribers and advocates (Skimm'rs) by a pre-dawn daily email and are written in a crisp, sharp style. Thirsty was fortunate to catch up with these two very busy, high-energy women for a brief chat at theSkimm headquarters in NYC.
THIRSTY: How important is the news to your generation?
DANIELLE WEISBERG: It's very important to the millennial generation to be informed. We have found that our generation wants news in a voice that resonates with them and in a way that fits their lifestyles, which are usually busy. Then they can generate their own takeaways.
CARLY ZAKIN: There is a misconception that the millennial generation isn't interested in news in the traditional sense. People want to be informed and to be and feel smart, but it's important to deliver news in a way that fits their habits, and people want information on-the-go and in a voice they want to come back to.
THIRSTY: We live in a headline news culture. What makes theSkimm different from other news platforms?
DANIELLE WEISBERG: theSkimm doesn't just give the headlines. We act as a filter to sort out all of the noise out there and provide a context that is usually lost at the bottom of an article.
CARLY ZAKIN: theSkimm is your secret weapon - theSkimm is like hearing your tuned-in best friend give you all you need to be the smartest person in the room every day.
THIRSTY: You both previously worked in broadcast news. How hard was it for you to become print journalists and deliver your message only in the written word?
DANIELLE WEISBERG: I don't think that transition was very hard for us. We worked in broadcast news, but we were, thankfully, both trained in how to write for air. We spent a lot of time developing the voice of theSkimm, but translating the facts into a newsletter instead of newscast wasn't a hurdle.
CARLY ZAKIN: We are both storytellers. Whether we are telling a story in a 30-second spot, a 2-hour documentary, or a Daily Skimm, the skill set is the same. We know how to break down and synthesize information and love giving people the tools they need to feel informed.
THIRSTY: With today's economy especially treacherous for people in their late 20s, what persuaded you to leave the safety of big media organizations and start your own media company?
DANIELLE WEISBERG: If you're ever going to do it, do it now. We got that advice from a lot of people and took it to heart. To be honest, we weren't putting away huge bonuses so while economic security was certainly a factor, it was more the fear of leaving a job and media home we really loved.
CARLY ZAKIN: It was truly an out-of-body experience for both of us to become risk takers and leave a semblance of economic security, but we believed in the idea and the business too much - we had no choice and there's nothing either of us would rather be doing.
THIRSTY: Now that you have passed the first six months in business, what are your goals for theSkimm in the next six months?
DANIELLE WEISBERG: To continue to grow. We have a lot up our sleeves that we want to try out, but we want to focus on cementing the newsletter as a morning staple first.
CARLY ZAKIN: To make sure that everyone is waking up with theSkimm.
THIRSTY: In a perfect world, where do you hope theSkimm will be in five years?
DANIELLE WEISBERG: Everywhere. I'd like to see theSkimm as a revenue-driving brand that Carly and I are still happily running.
CARLY ZAKIN: Everywhere.
THIRSTY: As part of the social media generation, do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs thinking about getting into an internet business?
DANIELLE WEISBERG: Don't be afraid. The tech world can be overwhelming when you try to break in, if you're not a developer or lack a finance background. I think if you stick with what you know: a problem that needs to be fixed, and think of it that way, it's easier to block out the negative.
CARLY ZAKIN: Don't let anyone tell you you can't do this. We would still be in pre-launch mode if we had listened to everyone who told us we weren't ready. Do your homework, talk to everyone who will talk to you, and never lose sight of who you are and why you're pursuing your idea. Be flexible and write thank-you notes!
To get a free subscription to theSkimm: theskimm.com