My Plan to Modernize Now I Know


Today, I’m going to outline some future plans I have for the newsletter — one you’ll see as early as Monday! — but before I get there, I wanted to say thanks. Last Friday, I asked you to consider giving Now I Know some financial support, and the response was fantastic. While I didn’t meet my (very ambitious) goal of 450 new/up-leveled supporters, I came a lot closer than I expected, and I’m grateful beyond words. Now I Know is a passion project, but it’s also good to know it can help pay some bills! Thank you to everyone who chipped in, and to everyone who reads the newsletter regardless.

With your support especially, Now I Know remains a sustainable project, and I’m thrilled to be in that position. I’m also ambitious, though. In January, I outlined some goals for the year — you can read those again here — and I’ve not delivered on any of them. (II’m still planning a charitable fundraiser for December, though.) Further, the newsletter space has matured massively since I started Now I Know 13 (!) years ago. There’s a lot of opportunity for Now I Know that I simply haven’t taken advantage of. So I’m recalibrating my goals. Here’s what I’m hoping to do:

1) Improve the ad experience. 

This isn’t the most important, but it is the one I’ll be tackling first, chronologically. A lot of the ads I run in the newsletter are low quality and not in line with the ethos I want for this project, but, to be blunt, they’re an easy, passive way to make a few bucks. On Monday, and here and there throughout the next couple of weeks, you’ll see a new ad format. It’s designed to be cleaner, following the format you’ll often find in podcasts: a quick mention of the sponsor at the top, a bigger one in the middle, and a reminder at the end. Please email me your feedback after you see it!

2) Involve you more in the newsletter.

This one will take a while, but it’s very high on the list — and it’s also kind of ambiguous, I know. My goals from January talked about changing platforms from Mailchimp to one more geared toward newsletters like mine; over the last decade or so, Mailchimp has become more e-commerce-based and newer companies have filled the niche for “blog-as-newsletter.” And they’ve developed all sorts of tools and features for projects like mine that are better than Mailchimp has ever had. Many of those tools make it easier for me to make the newsletter more fun and interactive; for example, one of the platforms allows me to embed a poll question in the newsletter. Note in the item above, I ask you to please email me your feedback on the new ads once you see them; how much better would it be if I could just ask you to click a “like/meh/hate” button in the email itself? And that’s probably the smallest of the interactivity points I’m hoping to add. 

3) Ultimately, build more of a community.

That’s really what everything is laddering up to. The ads should be more respectful of your interests, yes, and I’d like to be able to get feedback from all of you more easily. But really, what I’m trying to do is pivot from a newsletter where I’m talking to you to one where we’re interacting with each other and, if possible, with one another. I don’t know how possible that is yet, but I’d like to get there.

For now, though, I’m starting with a cleaner ad design. Again, I’m testing one idea on Monday; let me know what you think.

The Now I Know Week In Review

MondayHow The Worst Swinging Strike in Baseball History Broke the Game: The general rule is that batters try not to strike out. But in one weird game, the opposite was true. Here’s why.

TuesdayWhy Only Dead People Are On American Money: Meet Spencer M. Clark, the man who ruined it for everyone.

WednesdayWhen Emergency Broadcasts Go Wrong: Wednesday’s U.S.-wide alert hit my phone two minutes early, catching me by surprise and almost causing me to knock my phone off the table.

ThursdayJonesin’ For the Queen: A teenager breaks into Buckingham Palace for… well, an odd reason.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend:

1) “They Studied Dishonesty. Was Their Work a Lie?” (New Yorker, 47 minutes, September 2023). The subhead: “Dan Ariely and Francesca Gino became famous for their research into why we bend the truth. Now they’ve both been accused of fabricating data.” One thing to flag about this one: I previously cited Ariely (see here) on the “decoy effect,” which isn’t about dishonesty. I hope that his research into that matter, at least, was legitimate!

2) “They Accidentally Bought the Wrong House. So They Made It the Right House.” (New York Times, 9 minutes, October 2023). This is a nice story about an unintended reclamation project. Almost everyone I know — myself included, I suspect — would have just taken the loss and been done with it.

3) “Experts say don’t pre-rinse your dishes. We put that advice to the test.” (Washington Post, 7 minutes, October 2023). I’ve never been a pre-rinser, but I’ve heard all sorts of debates on the topic (Idle conversations at work go to strange places, but thankfully ones that are still work-appropriate.) I won’t tell you what the Post concludes here; you can just scroll to the end of the article if you don’t want to read the whole thing. 

Have a great weekend!