Hi! Happy 2023!
Around this time in 2020, I wrote a Weekender articulating my goals for the newsletter in the upcoming year. Looking back, that was a pretty good idea; I actually hit some of the goals. And it also gives me a chance to give you an “under the hood” look into how Now I Know works. So, let’s do it again. Here are my goals for 2023, split up into two groups — the ones I think I’ll achieve and the ones I hope to, but they’re a reach. I’ll try to remember to update you on the progress as the year goes forward.
The Reasonable Goals
I’m pretty sure I can get all three of these done, and if you have any suggestions (except for the first; that one is in motion), please reach out! Just reply to this or any other Now I Know email.
1) Make a huge, invisible change. This is the most exciting thing on my agenda, and the best part is, if it works, you’ll never notice! Since day-one of the newsletter, I’ve been using the same service to get the email from my keyboard and screen into your inboxes. For reasons I’ll articulate later on (and only if I reach this goal), it’s been a great 12.5 years with that platform, but it’s probably time for a change. This is a huge undertaking on my part — I’ve been working on the preliminary parts for weeks.
2) Find a way to give benefits to Patreon supporters. In October, I asked you to please consider lending financial support to Now I Know — and many of you said “yes!,” so thanks again for that. Right now, though, if you’re a supporter via Patreon, the only additional benefit you get is an ad-free version of the newsletter. I’m looking for ways to add other benefits. Any ideas? Send them over!
3) Run a charitable fundraiser. I’ve done this in years past and this community has raised, in total, more than $35,000 for some great causes. I need to do this again.
The Aspirational Goals
These are the goals I’d love to hit — but to be honest, I don’t think I’ll get there. If I do, great!
1) Find a sustaining, long-term sponsor for the newsletter. I’d love to get rid of the lower-quality ads, but to do so, I need to make up the money somehow, and probably a multiple thereof because it blocks the ability to monetize in other ways. (It’s complicated.) I have no idea if this is even possible.
2) Significantly grow the number of people I reach. Now I Know has had roughly the same number of active subscribers for about five years running now, mostly because I don’t have the time or budget to grow it. I’m hoping Reasonable Goal #1 will actually help with this, but that’s clearly to be determined.
3) Build more of a “community” around Now I Know readers. I’ve considered a few options for this — I ran a Secret Santa a few years back, even. I don’t know if a Now I Know Discord or Slack makes sense for you all — I’d love feedback on that, or on any other ideas.
4) Bring in guest writers. I love writing the newsletter but I don’t have to be the only voice (and I wouldn’t mind the occasional break!). The difficulty here is that I am very, very particular about the quality and voice of the writing — to the point of making this almost an impossible goal. Please don’t email me to offer your writing services — finding interest is not the problem. Me being parochial is. I may consider publishing some guest posts as non-newsletter content (i.e., only on my website with a link to it in a Weekender, maybe?), but I really haven’t given that much thought.
That’s all off the top of my head, really, so if you have other things I should be thinking about, please do let me know! The year has almost twelve full months to go, so I definitely can consider more.
The Now I Know Week in Review
Monday: Why Can’t Californians Buy This Snack?: An odd label on my bag of “veggie stix” (which are basically potato chips).
Tuesday: The Sesame Seed Backlash of 2023?: Did an effort to protect those allergic to sesame just backfire?
Wednesday: … And Then, Their Pants Exploded: I really love this title. One update: I linked to a video in that article, but the link was broken; the right one is here (and again, do not try it at home, it’s incredibly dangerous).
Thursday: South Korea’s Reverse Gold Rush: Instead of people rushing to find gold, they did the opposite.
And some other things you should check out:
Some long reads for the weekend:
1) “Why Your Family Name Was Not Changed at Ellis Island (and One That Was)” (The New York Public Library, 11 minutes, July 2013). This is a story that dissembles a longstanding myth persistent in a lot of American families.
2) “The Curious Case of Nebraska Man” (The Atavist, 33 minutes, January 2023). The subhead: “A fossil tooth, a splashy debate, and a strange chapter in America’s long history of science denialism.”
3) “The truffle industry is a big scam. Not just truffle oil, everything” (Taste Atlas, 8 minutes, December 2022). This didn’t surprise me. I appreciated the story, in large part, because of how incensed the author was. But I also don’t have a great sense of taste, so I guess truffles — to the extent that I’ve eaten them — were mostly a signaling ingredient (meaning “fancy!”) than anything else.
Have a great weekend!