May 19, 2020 - Technology

Scoop: theSkimm launching digital membership model

Co-founders of theSkimm Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin. Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

TheSkimm is planning to launch a full-fledged digital membership model later this summer called "Teal Memb’rship," Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The company has been affected by the coronavirus crisis, with 20% staff layoffs a few weeks ago. Like many media companies, its heavy reliance on advertising revenue left it exposed to the economic downturn.

  • The company does not expect further layoffs, sources tell Axios.

Details: TheSkimm is providing its "Teal Memb’rship" for free through 2020, according to a source familiar with the launch plans.  

  • Eventually, the company hopes to charge roughly more for full monthly access to all of its content, which also includes its calendar products, than it currently charges for access to its app, which is $2.99 monthly.
  • The membership will feature access to new products, such as SkimmMoney, which is set to launch this week, as well as health and career verticals down the line.
  • Earlier this week, Business Insider reported that the company, after some internal controversy surrounding the app, decided to launch SkimmMoney this week for free.

Background: The company was looking to launch its membership product last year, sources familiar with the rollout tell Axios. The product team has experienced personnel shuffling which may have delayed the process.

  • Sources say that it would've been better if the company was able to get the membership model off the ground before the pandemic.
  • Many media publishers have been hurt by big e-commerce platforms like Amazon pulling their affiliate marketing deals with publishers.

By the numbers: Sources tell Axios that the company just barely hit profitability in 2019, with Business Insider reporting that they were able to hit that milestone off roughly $20 million in revenue.

  • The thinking then was to have 2020 be a year where the company aims to build out its membership product, focusing less on profit and more on creating a more stable business foundation moving forward that could appeal to future investors or partners.
  • With the crisis taking hold, that strategy is still on, but the company will need to be more disciplined around things like marketing spend around the membership offering.

The big picture: Reports over the past several years have suggested that theSkimm founders Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin were in conversations with investors about potential partnerships or acquisitions. Sources have confirmed such talks to Axios.

  • The company has taken on nearly $30 million in fundraising, with its latest round valuing it at roughly $100 million.

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