BoomerangBeat Competition: theSkimm

I was really bummed when learned about theSkimm because they are what I consider the first real competition to BoomerangBeat.

As with all the “competitors” I find, I became obsessed. I researched how they made money, who invested in them, the founders’ background, stalked all their social profiles, learned about their planned revenue model and, for the past week, have completely analyzed their approach to content.

What is theSkimm?

theSkimm is a daily, weekday-only email newsletter geared toward women but “not geared toward women”. Some articles have described them as a news aggregator with summaries, which they kind of are. But for larger issues (like Iraq) they break it down almost exactly the same way I do with BB.

Who are the founders?

The newsletter was started by two twenty-something’s (28 year-olds, exactly my age too) who used to work as producers in the news industry. These two ladies saw the same gap in the industry I’ve been looking at – news served for the busy Millennial.

How are they different than BoomerangBeat?

  • They’re email only.
  • They provide links so you can learn beyond their summary.
  • They’re much more brief than I am. Even if we’re filling the same “hole” in the industry, I think we can each still appeal to different niches within our target population or different curiosities within those same people.
  • Their writing style includes slang in a very pop culture, modern sense … something I think will only appeal to females in their 20s and early 30s.  I’ve found my writing style with BB works for both the older and younger generations.
  • They’re following mainstream media headlines.
  • They include an entertainment angle (which I’m not interested in, yet anyway) in their newsletter which helps round out their content.
  • They’re active – they give you the news before you ask for it. BB is passive — waits for those that have questions to seek the answers.
  • They’re looking to emulate newsletter models like DailyCandy and Thrillist.

How are they the same as BoomerangBeat?

  • For larger issues, they do a good job of asking the question, then answering the question. I really believe this aides in understanding.
  • They’re female. This is something I was using as both a differentiator since this is very much a male-dominated industry.
  • They’re targeting smart, young, busy professionals (Millennials).
  • They don’t care about breaking news and do not want to be the go-to source for it.
  • They’re interviewing/connecting with other industry people (advisors) in order to learn. While I don’t have their connections, I’ve started reaching out to other organizations and people for the same reason.
  • We’re both trying to fill the same hole in the news industry.

What I think they’re missing

  • While they say they’re not necessarily just for women, they’re heavily geared toward women based on their writing style and design. I think this may turn male readers off, not to mention older generations that could find their content useful.
  • By being email only, they’re missing the SEO advantages of having content on the web.
  • I actually use research and analysis to see what people are asking, rather than following the lead of mainstream media – which is driven by corporate dollars. BB doesn’t, necessarily, which allows me to write about more obscure issues and address sensitive questions that the big guys may be ignoring.
  • According to Ken Doctor (of Newsonomics and a media business analyst), they don’t have a viable business model and he thinks it’ll be hard to “secure advertising for unoriginal content” and/or a “subscription news aggregator”. I may be missing this too, though (a strong revenue model). I’ve tried to reach out to Ken Doctor twice for some feedback and haven’t received an answer yet. I’ll keep trying. I would love his insight.
  • As for any business model, in one interview, they suggested they will look to native advertising to make money. I hate native advertising and honestly don’t think it has a place with actual news-news (Buzzfeed’s lighter content – sure, it works for). They’ve done this already with celebrity guest writers from the NBA to breakdown the Finals. With native advertising and what I’ve seen them do, they’ll need to get very relevant “advertisers” and only very relevant advertisers to stay true to their content and readers or they’ll lose them. People don’t care who wrote what, they care about the content. I’m also one of those people that believe native advertising is a passing fad and/or will only suit certain markets. It is not the be-all, end-all answer to advertising needs.
  • They’re not doing social well. Their feeds are a mix of their news bites and their personal brands. In my opinion, those are too opposite. I’d be interested in following their journey as entrepreneurs but the fact that that is mixed in with their news content feels like their lacking focus. I think they could benefit by separating the two and really honing their personal brands next to their business brand, not rolled up together.
  • Their content “condenses the news” in easy-to-understand tidbits. BB’s main goal is to answer real questions and help Millennials actually learn so they can vote in a more informed manner (which is obviously an issue, hence MTV’s longstanding “Rock the Vote” campaign). I’m not quite sure our content is different enough or that I can even claim I don’t just do that, but right now I do think they’re selling themselves a bit short with their mission.

What theSkimm has over BoomerangBeat

Probably obvious but it helps me to lay it out:

  • They did it earlier/faster than me.
  • They seem to be picking up steam and have a very large subscriber/fan base.
  • They have each other. I’ve heard it’s hard to get funding if you’re trying to start a company on your own.
  • They’ve been featured on the TodayShow and on Inc.com. There are several more but those are two of my dream placements.
  • They have $1 million in backing.
  • They’re from the news industry (NBC to be exact) and not only know the industry well, but have connections.
  • They’re TV/interview savvy — I’m far from it.
  • They’re the fastest growing email newsletter on the market.
  • They had the guts to quit their jobs and follow their dream.
  • Their advisor is the DailyCandy founder. I’m on the hunt for one.

This is what scares me the most

They’re from the news industry which I’ve said can be a bad thing (and have used as a BB differentiator).  People in the news industry are usually in so deep that they can’t see where the gaps lie with the general population.

However, these two were able to see outside of their blinders and realize that even smart, young professionals need it broken down in an easy to digest manner.

They’re filling the same hole I want to fill, just a bit differently than how I’m doing it. Better? I’m not sure yet, but certainly in a more popular way.

What I need to remember

There is always another piece of pie, the pie is not a finite commodity. Competitors can serve different purposes – GMA vs TodayShow, McDonalds vs Burger King, Seattle Magazine vs Seattle Met.

theSkimm’s style and language may not fit everyone and for those it does fit, it only “skims the surface” of larger events. To follow up, they provide links to other sources whereas I’ll answer more questions to give you a complete view of the scenario.

I also write for the open minded, a way to learn about the other’s side and why/what they may be thinking. I don’t write for those that already know their beliefs and just need a quick update. My goal is to aide in understanding so our generation can be more informed when we vote.