That robust audience was reading the latest entry in the "Skimm Your Candidate" series, a set of interviews with 2016 candidates modeled on an introductory job interview. (The question to which Clinton was responding, naturally, was "What's your greatest weakness?" having just answered, "What is your greatest strength?") The spelling of "skim" there is not a typo; the interviews are a running feature in the daily e-mail newsletter, the Skimm.
I first heard of the Skimm after it included a story I'd written in its morning round-up. Any number of people e-mailed me to discuss the piece, mentioning where they'd seen it. The newsletter came to broader attention, though, after the interview with Bernie Sanders, which ended like this:
As is so often the case when you are a not-Millennial person stumbling upon something new in the media world, my lack of familiarity with the Skimm by no means meant that it was some scrappy little thing. The Skimm was founded in 2012 by Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, two young NBC News veterans who'd met at college in Europe. They realized that the constant questions posed by their friends about what was going on in the world could be better answered by sending out a morning e-mail. A round of Series A venture capital funding to the tune of $6.25 million later, the Skimm is now a bit more sophisticated, with an audience that numbers over 1.5 million.
An audience that can attract the attention of the possible next president of the United States. "We thought about what they'd want to hear, what issues are important to them, and when they'd want to hear it," Zakin said, explaining how they decided to enter the 2016 world. (Among the important issues? Abortion rights. The target audience is young women aged 22 to 34.) "We spent a lot of time thinking about when we were going to jump in and make sure that we weren't going to overwhelm our audience from the beginning."
They settled on the job-interview format. "We created a series of basic interview questions to really have the candidates' personality come through, but also give our Skimmers the chance to hear from candidates that might not have been on their radar before." The first interview was with Carly Fiorina, over e-mail. Subsequent interviews -- with Lincoln Chafee, George Pataki, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham, as well as the Democrats -- were in person or over the phone, with both Zakin and Weisberg participating. (Graham, I'll note because I concur, answered the coffee question by saying he drinks Coke Zero.)
Given the duo's background in media -- and their obvious polish in our interview -- I wondered whether it was intimidating to talk to Clinton. It was, Zakin said: "You could be interviewing the next president of the United States!" Weisberg added, "Honestly, talking to every single one of these candidates is surreal. It's weird to meet them in person and it's weird get a call on your cell phone from one of these people."
It's not clear which candidate's interview has generated the most interest; the pair said that they hadn't crunched the numbers to that end. The Sanders interview evoked a good response, thanks in part to his responses. "Pataki and Chafee did well as well," Zakin said, "because they were lesser-known candidates." But "we don't do it to pull data from our audience," she added. "We do it because we want to give our readers more information about who's running." This was the first round of interviews. They look forward to a round two.
At the end, feeling clever, I asked: How do you take your coffee?
"That's a good question," Zakin said. And then her response. "The answer's always: with Skimm!"
I groaned. "You just walked right into that one," I was told, and that was correct.
I told you they were polished.
Correction: The target age was originally listed as 22 to 24, due to a transcription error.