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Drinking theSkimm Kool-Aid

The Forrest Four-Cast: September 28, 2016

In a previous life, I was a cranky / humorless media critic for The Austin Chronicle. In that previous life, I would probably have slammed the New York Times for their part in this week’s investment in theSkimm, a breezy email newsletter that is largely targeted to Millennial women. Thank goodness I have evolved past that previous life to see moves such as these in a slightly larger perspective.

Is theSkimm absolutely perfect in its vision of 21st century journalism? No, not hardly — this mid-June WNYC piece about their Bierber-esque coverage of Obama’s visit to Hiroshima was particularly brutal. However, with an open rate of over 30%, theSkimm is clearly doing a lot of things correctly. The success of this newsletter has helped to open a lot of eyes to the idea that email is one of the most effective ways to get information into the hands of your audience. To wit, read this Medium post from Jason Calacanis: “Email Newsletters Might Save Journalism — Here’s Why.”

Cranky media critic past life aside, the New York Times should be applauded and encouraged in their pursuit of younger readers and more innovative platforms (click here to listen to their session at SXSW 2016 in which President and CEO Mark Thompson talked about their current push into virtual reality). Media outlets that remain bound to the formalities and traditions of journalism from generations past do so at their own peril. Most of those less agile media outlets have in fact already perished.

If there’s anything to criticize about the New York Times pursuit of theSkimm, its that this move isn’t really aggressive enough. Focusing attention on the media consumption habits of Millennials makes sense. But they should be shifting even more of their energies on the ways that Generation Z are digesting digital content. In the 21st century media business, tomorrow is today.

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