The Other Projects On My Mind


I’m thinking about creating a second newsletter. Or something. I don’t really know what yet. And I want your thoughts.

To cut to the chase, here are two ideas I’ve been kicking around. If you have feedback on either, both, or any other ideas I should explore, please reply to this email to share. Thanks!

Idea 1: A newsletter, maybe twice a week?, highlighting an article from an independent publication.

I had this idea a while ago. I like it, but I don’t love it. (I really like Idea 2 more.) The basic idea here is simple: it’d be an email newsletter every Tuesday and Friday (dates TBD) where I share some articles from independent publishers. Like the bottom of the Now I Know Weekender, but focused narrowly.

Why I’d do this: I have a soft spot for independent websites — that is, publications that aren’t run by a big company. After all, I run one! When I started Now I Know back in 2010, the era of blogging was giving way to the social media explosion, and a lot of solo writers and small groups of cohorts were closing up shop as a result. I’d like to do something to help encourage and support independent writers. I considered focusing the longreads section of the Weekender on that, but honestly, it’s a surprising amount of work to put those links together. So to make it easier, I’d make this would be a stand-alone project — a free newsletter, like Now I Know, but you’d have to subscribe separately — and I’d reach out to some publications to ask them to feed my ideas. 

My reasons for not doing this: I’m not sure that the value proposition is there from a reader’s perspective, making it pay for itself is tricky, and it may turn out to be a lot more work than I expect. It’d have to be something different than the bottom of the Weekender in a meaningful way, too, and I don’t really know if “independent publications only” is enough of that.

Idea 2: A weekly email newsletter, paid subscription, where we learn along with an online class. We’d start with the Civil War and Reconstruction.

A few weeks ago, I told you that I was watching an online class by Eric Foner, a history professor at Columbia, about the Civil War and Reconstruction. The whole course is spread out over three sections: the lead-up to the War, the War itself, and Reconstruction. In total, there are something like 150 videos spread out over about 15-20 weeks. I’m through the first section and I’ve learned a lot. The presentation isn’t fantastic — it’s mostly just Foner lecturing his in-person class — but it’s good enough for my purposes.

Why I’d do this: I want to share what I’ve learned. An email newsletter where I watch a week’s worth of videos and share some key takeaways I’ve gleaned from it would be a good way to do it.

My reasons for not doing this: The only way for me to pay myself for this is to charge you to read it — I don’t think the ad model works for this — and a paywall means I reach fewer people, and perhaps very very few people. (I’m thinking $4/month.) Plus, I don’t know if I’ll always have something insightful to share. And finally, I think the topic and the stuff I’d write would necessarily bend into modern-day politics. That’s not appropriate for Now I Know, but it may be for something like this?

Any feedback on the two ideas above — or any other ideas you have — are more than welcome! Thanks.

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: The Intentionally Bad Song That Accidentally Worked: I really like the From the Archives story in this one, too.

Tuesday: Why Thomas Jefferson Was Obsessed With Moose: When big animals were proof of a thriving, or at least potentially thriving, new nation.

Wednesday: Yom Kippur. No newsletter.

Thursday: The Great Choco Pie War of 2014-2015: North Korea, basically.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “Someone is pretending to be me.” (Connor Tumbleson, 13 minutes, September 2022). A software developer, Connor Tumbleson, gets an email from a job seeker. The job seeker tells the developer that he’s about to interview for a job, but there’s a catch — he’s supposed to be Tumbleson in the interview. Tumbleson has no involvement in this; his identity is being stolen in order to help someone else get a job. The real Tumbleson investigates and discovers an intricate web of deceit. 

2) “Internet Trolls Have Tormented This Sci-Fi Writer for Years—and He Can’t Stop Them” (Daily Beast, 15 minutes, October 2022). Another story about the dark side of the Internet. 

3) “Josephine Baker Was the Star France Wanted—and the Spy It Needed” (New Yorker, 16 minutes, August 2022). I love a good spy story. Also, I wonder if this inspired part of Inglourious Basterds. I can’t find anything that suggests it does and it’s not totally spot on, so probably not.

Have a great weekend!