As long-time readers know, on Fridays — like, you know, today — I do a week-in-review type of thing. Today, I’m going to focus on a little experiment I did. Typically, the regular Monday through Thursday emails have the main story and a “bonus fact” that is somewhat related to that main story. Twice this week, I shared a long-read instead. I asked you all for feedback on the change and I’ll share it in a moment. First, I want to share the original reason behind the bonus fact, and then why I did the long-read experiment this week.
The first-ever Now I Know has a bonus fact. If you read that issue, you’ll see it is VERY different than today’s email; the main story is very short and the bonus fact is a mere sentence or two. But the bonus fact has been part of the newsletter since day one. I included it because of a very simple observation: what if the reader already knows the main story? My hope, day-in, day-out, is to share something that’s new to you. This gives me two chances.
So, why try something new? The short answer is that I was having a hard time finding a good bonus fact for Tuesday’s email. In the process, though, I found this long-read about a privately-owned tank (just like the main story) that was causing all sorts of chaos in the Houston suburbs. It was a perfect fit. I considered keeping it for the Weekender and trying, again, to find a new bonus fact. But, again, a perfect fit, and one that met my original goal of “here’s something new!” So I chalked it up to an experiment and went with it.
I didn’t really feel great about it, though. Long-reads are there for when you have time, and I’m sending email every day, one that is designed to be a five-minute experience. I was leaning against making this a long-term thing — and your feedback supported that take. By and large, it fell into three categories:
1) People who liked the long read idea, but also liked the bonus facts.
2) Those who preferred the bonus facts. There were many who really, really preferred the bonus fact, with a handful of people telling me that it’s the best part of the email. I’ll take that as a compliment, I promise!
3) Readers who didn’t really care, so long as I keep writing the newsletter. Basically, if it’s easier for me, great!
There were a couple who preferred the long read, sure. But most saw it as different, not markedly better, or suggested that I do both. (Not happening, sorry.)
So, going forward, it’ll be back to the bonus facts.
The Now I Know Week in Review
Monday: The Power to Move You: This is a story about an earthquake that wasn’t. Many of you probably missed this re-run. Email newsletters don’t work on holidays — too many people just don’t check emails on their days off (even if you get this at your personal email account, which most of you do). And in the US, July 5th was a holiday as the 4th was a Sunday. I meant to take it off entirely, forgot to mention it last week, and went with a re-run instead.
Tuesday: The Pink Gun Surprise. I still want to know why it is pink.
Wednesday: Pigging Out on Video Games. I couldn’t fit it in, but two of the pigs are named Hamlet and Omellete, respectively.
Thursday: Like the Flintstones, Only Better. I’m in awe of this; I can’t even build a good standcastle. (I’m decent at moats, though.) Also, a lot of you wrote in to tell me that the bonus fact was wrong; the diamond was insured for $1MM and the price I quoted was the cost of postage plus insurance. You’re right, and I’ll update it at some point :)
And some other things you should check out:
Some long reads — and sudoku — for the weekend.
0) In case you missed them, here are the ones I shared already this week!:
“The Charmed Life of Esther the Wonder Pig” (The Walrus, 22 minutes, September 2018). The subhead: “What one celebrity pet can tell us about our curious and complicated relationship with animals.”
“The Complete Story of the River Oaks Tank” (Texas Monthly, 11 minutes, October 2017). A history buff buys himself a fully-working tank and parks it in front of his house. The problem? He lives in an area with a homeowners’ association, and the HOA doesn’t like the tank.
1) The sudoku, via YouTubers Cracking the Cryptic, is available as an image here or via the YouTubers’ software here. If you get stuck, there’s a video here that walks through it. You very likely will get stuck; it’s very hard.
2) “‘They said I don’t exist. But I am here’ – one woman’s battle to prove she isn’t dead” (The Guardian, 16 minutes, July 2021). There are a surprisingly high number of people who are very much alive who have to prove that fact. This is one of those stories, and they’re always unbelievable — except that they’re true.
3) “Why Am I Sp Bad At Typign?” (Buzzfeed, 17 minutes, April 2021). A look at the typos we make and why we make them, and also, how great is that title?
Have a great weekend!