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Feb. 21, 2018, 11:16 a.m.
Reporting & Production

With audience engagement and live events, Finimize is finding new ways to boost readers’ financial literacy

“Publications like the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal assume a lot of things about what their readers know. If the price of oil goes up, what happens to the dollar? They assume you know that. We assume our readers don’t.”

What better way to promote a daily email newsletter that sums up an industry’s latest news than…in another daily email newsletter that sums up an industry’s latest news? It’s a natural. So if you get Axios’ Login tech-industry newsletter, you may have seen some in-email ads this month promoting Finimize, a daily finance newsletter aimed at millennials. Or, if you’re one of Finimize’s 175,000 subscribers, vice versa.

Finimize’s formula for drawing in more readers is straightforward: less jargon, more emoji. The London-based newsletter is designed to give its readers a crash course in financial literacy. Each day, the newsletter offers a brief digest of the day’s biggest financial stories, breaking them down in a way that it think will be most accessible to people unfamiliar with complex financial concepts.

For example, earlier this month, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1,000 points, Finimize centered its coverage around a handful of big questions: What’s going on here? What does this mean? Why should I care? (“Investors are fearful of sharply higher interest rates,” it answers.) Finimize uses these questions to frame its coverage of all its stories — an approach that makes it a kindred spirit with Axios, which uses phrases like “Why it matters” and “What’s next” to guide readers through stories.

Finimize CEO Maximilian Rofagha said that Finimize’s coverage is valuable because it simplifies complex stories — but not so much that they become “so dumbed down and simple that [they] doesn’t really have any value anymore. People read us because we’re accessible, but also because there’s real substance and analysis,” he said. Hearing that pitch, you won’t be surprised that Finimize’s homepage highlights a comparison to breakout email success The Skimm.

Finimize’s approach is in large part informed by Rofagha’s experience building DeinDeal, a Swiss travel and home goods e-commerce company that he helped launch in 2010. He said that taught him the importance of product thinking and making the needs of users central to the experience. This user focus is clear in various features of Finimize, particularly the one that tells users exactly how long it should take them to get through the newsletter (typically around three minutes). The newsletter itself is a product of following and responding to user behavior. Rofagha initially launched it as a website, but soon realized that its readers (whose average age is around 28 to 30) were mostly sharing and reading it via email, which encouraged him to focus entirely on email distribution.

Rofagha said that that Finimize’s approach has helped broaden its appeal beyond its target demographic. It’s 175,000 daily subscribers may not be in the same league as The Skimm (6 million!), but it compares well to one-year-old Axios, whose 11 newsletters had a combined 260,000 subscribers as of late January.

Finimize also has a heavy audience engagement component. At the end of every story, a big green button invites readers to email the Finimize team with questions about the story they just read. Finimize’s writers (who include former employees of Goldman Sachs and Barclays) answer every question they get, but they also pick the most interesting question and publish it at the bottom the email each day. Recent questions have included: “Does an increase in a company’s earnings correlate to an increase in stock returns?” “Why is it that acquiring firms usually pay a premium to share prices during a takeover?” and “Why hasn’t the US Department of Justice initiated antitrust suits against Amazon and other monster tech conglomerates?”

Rofagha said that this is another area where Finimize differentiates itself from typical finance news coverage. “Publications like the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal assume a lot of things about what their readers know. If the price of oil goes up, what happens to the dollar? They assume you know that. We assume our readers don’t.” The company’s audience research suggests that this is the area that Finimize’s readers enjoy the most, Rofagha said.

Finimize has also been working on ways to deepen its relationships with readers. The company has organized a handful of community events focused on topics like cryptocurrencies and personal finance. While resource constraints have limited the events to London, some Finimize readers have independently organized similar events stateside as well. A February event in Boston, for example, brought together readers to discuss the future of millennials and banks. “We really had nothing to do with that event,” said Rofagha. “It really shows you how alive the community is.”

While Finimize started as a newsletter in 2015, the company has since used the initial product to funnel users into Finimize MyLife (check that acronym), a free financial-planning platform that helps users track their goals and manage their money. Rofagha argued that the company’s success so far in selling that product to its newsletter audience is a direct byproduct of the relationship that it’s built with them over the past two years. “We use the content to build up that trust and add real value to people’s lives,” Rofagha said. “It always starts with that.”

Photo of a stack of dollar bills by photobunny used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     Feb. 21, 2018, 11:16 a.m.
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