The co-founders of theSkimm, a popular daily online newsletter, spoke to a group of roughly 45 students in North Quad Residence Hall Wednesday night as part of a nationwide campaign urging college students to vote in the upcoming presidential election.
theSkimm was founded by Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg after they decided to quit their internships at NBC News in 2012. Zakin said she and Weisberg created their campaign “Skimm the Vote,” which focuses on getting their readers to register, after discovering a gap between who said they were registered and who really was registered.
“We asked our audience months ago how many of them were registered,” she said. “Eighty-seven percent said they were registered. Eighty-seven percent were definitely not registered.”
Zakin added that through their efforts, she and Weisberg are also hoping to ensure their audience is well-informed on the issues surrounding this election.
“What we have done is spent all this time educating our audience,” she said. “We spent a lot of time making sure that our audience was going to vote and feel like they know the issues.”
One issue in particular that the duo said they encountered was the number of people who made excuses not to register to vote, which the campaign aims in part to respond to.
“We have tried to take the excuse out,” Weisberg said. “We participated in a campaign to make sure that employers were telling their employees that they could take time off (to vote).”
Citing the 2000 presidential election, which came down to an extremely slim margin, Zakin said the excuse that one’s individual vote does not count is inaccurate.
“The reality is, that is not a valid excuse,” she said. “Seeing that we registered over 108,000 people, that can legitimately make or break the election.”
LSA senior Sally Thoresen said she thought the “Skimm the Vote” campaign is an effective way of reaching college students that make the excuses Weisberg and Zakin are seeking to eliminate.
“I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “I think everyone thinks it’s harder than it is to register to vote. It literally takes two seconds and that fits in with the college lifestyle because we’re all busy.”
LSA senior Rebecca Rothbart, a campus ambassador for theSkimm, said while Zakin and Weisberg reached out to her to speak at the University of Michigan mainly about registering to vote, many students in the audience also came to hear about the pair’s entrepreneurial experiencing in building their own company.
“The big focus is on getting students to vote,” Rothbart said. “But I also think that a lot of people here are interested in them as co-founders of theSkimm. There’s a lot of young entrepreneurs in the room and people interested in the news. I think it’ll be really cool for people to hear from them as people, instead of just about the election.”
Zakin and Weisberg founded their company after discovering their peers, young professional women, did not have the time or interest to follow the news. During their remarks Wednesday, Weisberg cited the duo’s passion for the news and media, which she said was not always shared among their peers, as a prime motivation to start their company.
“We were a little bit of an anomaly for our friends. We loved watching nightly news, we loved reading the paper, we loved watching ‘Meet the Press,’ ” she said. “But we also realized that our friends were not watching what we produced for a living and they were asking us really basic questions about what was going on in the world.”
Zakin said delivering the news via email was the best way to reach the young millennial audience since many people in that generation use it daily.
“For us, theSkimm is a company that makes it easier to be smarter,” she said. “We went after email because it was the one thing that our friends and us did every single day.”
LSA senior Katie Dalman said she likes how accessible and informative theSkimm is to read, which is why she has made it a part of her day.
“It’s really convenient,” she said. “It’s part of my daily routine. I wake up, read theSkimm. I actually feel informed about what’s going on in the world.”
Weisberg said overall, she and Zakin both wanted to create a reliable news source within the confines of people’s daily schedules.
“People really want a voice,” she said. “They want information from a place they can trust. If people aren’t getting the news, it doesn’t make sense to get them to go outside what they already do day to day. We really wanted to bring information into people’s routines.”