Let’s Talk About Advertisements (and Guest Writers)


Back in October — six months ago, somehow! — I used a Friday email to share with you a change coming to the newsletter: emails dedicated to promoting sweepstakes. I also said that some other changes are in the works, and today, I’m going to share another of those changes.

(And yes, today is April Fool’s Day, and no, this isn’t some weird April Fool’s Day joke.)

The short version:

  • I’m trying to make the newsletter more sustainable for me. The first step was to get more people to subscribe, which the sweepstakes helped with. The next step is to bring in guest writers.
  • To do that, I need to pay them. So Now I Know needs to make more money.
  • A decent way to do that is to run ads.
  • You’ll find out about those advertisers through separate emails that are specifically about the contest.

That last bullet is the new thing. I’ve run ads before — all the time, in fact. And that will still happen. But no more than once a month, you’ll be getting an email from me that shares an offer from an advertiser — and it won’t be the typical day’s Now I Know. It’s called a “dedicated” email — basically, an email that is only about the service being offered. On those days, you’ll get two emails from me: the regular Now I Know and the dedicated advertiser email.

The FAQ and longer version:

“I’m fine with this — one email a month is fine, and I get that you need to make money. Maybe I’ll even buy one of the things you promote. So, why are you telling me this?”

Like I said six months ago, I’m sharing this change because it’s a change and I believe in respecting my readers by being open and transparent. You’ve invited Now I Know into your inbox; this is the least I can do.

“Do these ‘dedicated emails’ really help you?”

Yes. There are basically three types of ads, and as it turns out, these dedicated emails are particularly helpful.

First, there are banner ads that kind of litter up the newsletter — if you’re not supporting me on Patreon, you see those, and they’re ugly. And they actually don’t pay out that much. But there’s no work to be done to get them — I just add some code to the newsletter and tap into a network of advertisers. 

The second set is sponsorships that sit within each newsletter; you’ll see them every so often in the middle of the emails. About five or six of those equal the amount of money I get from the banner ads in a given month, give or take a bit. 

These dedicated emails are the third set. One of them equals about five emails with sponsors.

That’s a significant number. Over the course of the last couple of years, Now I Know has actually made me less and less money, mostly because I haven’t written a book in a while and the royalties aren’t much. And I really don’t have the time or energy to write a 4th book. 

“Why send dedicated emails about ads? Why not do what you were doing beforehand?!?”

Some of you won’t like it. It’s not what you signed up for. I get that, and if it’s an issue, you can click the “update your preferences” link at the bottom of this or any email (or just click here). Follow the steps and you’ll ultimately find a checkbox that says “Receive Partner Emails.” Set that to “No” and you (probably) won’t get them. I say “probably” there because the process to send giveaway emails is different than my typical process, and things will likely get screwed up there, especially the first few times.

“Are these dedicated emails going to feel like ads? Or will they have any trivia in them?”

They’ll feel like ads but I’m going to try to make them fun and Now I Know-ish. (This is new for me, too.)

“You say above that you need to pay your guest writers. Why? Won’t people write for free?”

Probably. But that’s not right of me, and it’s not fair to them. Plus, as the adage goes, you get what you pay for. I don’t have the time or the mental bandwidth to take something and wholly re-write it. 

“How do I become a guest writer? What’s it pay?”

I don’t know yet. I wasn’t expecting to announce this until the summer but the world had other plans. So I’m still thinking through the details. I’ll warn you — if you’re interested, I have high standards and I’ll want you to somewhat mimic my style and voice. The good news is that I have a four-page document outlining how to write a Now I Know ready to go. If you really, really want to talk to me about this, find my gmail address and email me there. 

Is this Weekender still going to have the Week in Review and the long reads?

Yep! Let’s get to that now!

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The Derogatory Term in Your Junk Drawer. Ready for an embarrassing story? Great!

This wasn’t a re-run. On Sunday and into Monday, I did what I always do: I wrote the newsletter, reading all sorts of articles to help tell the story. I had this one ready to go and then wanted to check something — I had, previously, said that the phrase “got off scot free” had nothing to do with being Scottish. So I went to find that article — and I found one titled: “The Casual Slur in Your Utility Drawer.” I had no recollection whatsoever of writing it, even though I wrote that in July 2019, which isn’t that long ago. It’s the same story — and almost the same headline! — but written entirely independently, my subconscious self notwithstanding.  

Tuesday: An Initial Reaction to Disaster Relief?: A few years ago, I wrote a full Now I Know story about the bonus item (Tim Duncan losing his pool to a hurricane and becoming a Hall of Fame basketball player as a result) — and never sent it. In fact, I deleted it instead. I wrote it, re-wrote it, and re-wrote it again, but all three times, I kept making it sound like the silver lining of Tim Duncan playing basketball somehow counterbalanced the devestating loss from the hurricane. 

Wednesday: The Internet’s Hidden Teapot: It’s short and stout, I guess?

Thursday: Why You Shouldn’t Hold in a Sneeze: It’ll come out eventually, even if it has to make its own escape.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “He Was an Ex-FBI Serial Killer Profiler. Then His Lies Caught Up With Him.” (Vice, 15 minutes, March 2022.) The subhead: “True crime author Paul Harrison claimed he’d interviewed the world’s most infamous murderers – only to be exposed as a fraud and scammer.” 

2) “How Colorblind NHL Players See The Game” (FiveThirtyEight, 7 minutes, March 2022). I think the title describes the story pretty well — no need for me to add anything! 

3) “Remembering Sidd Finch” (Slate, 6 minutes, April 2012). The subhead is “Longform’s April Fools’ Day guide to hoaxes, pranks, and outright fabrications,” but as a die-hard New York Mets fan, I’m going to always hate a love-hate relationship with Sidd Finch. (You should read the original Sidd Finch article, too.)

And a re-run, because it’s April Fool’s Day and this is one of the best long-form jokes ever written: “Guy Walks Into a Bar” by Simon Rich for the New Yorker. It’s a 5-minute read. Oh, and it has a lot of PG-13 (or maybe R-rated?) themes, so it may not be good for everyone.

Have a great weekend!