I’ll confess, I’m not a particularly ardent consumer of reader research, studies that are conducted in an effort to tell us what you’re thinking or wanting (or thinking you’re wanting). Such inquiries, it seems to me, miss the heart of this creative enterprise. I honestly don’t think it’s your job to tell me (and the fine editors and writers who feed your sci-tech jones every month) what you want to read. You’re looking to be surprised. It’s our job to tell you.
That said, occasionally a tenacious bit of data breaches my defenses and changes everything—as happened seven years ago when a marketing savant pointed out that the absolute number-one thing Popular Science readers loved was “how it works” stories.
I had to acknowledge that, oddly enough, we really didn’t offer much in the way of articles whose primary purpose is to crack open some seemingly incomprehensible device and show you what’s going on in there.
I’m not proud that someone else had to alert me to this gap, but at least I didn’t waste any time bridging it, as is evidenced by the fact that you’re about to dive into our sixth-annual “How It Works” extravaganza. It just made sense. PopSci is about the drive to know. It’s about the urgency of curiosity. It’s about looking ahead and looking within. That’s what landed How It Works at the top of our What They Want list. How It Works gives you what you need to know in order to understand things.
I know you, and I don’t need any research to tell me this: You’re not afraid of knowledge. Whether it’s a smarter crash-test dummy, a 3-D printer or a light-driven computer, you want to know how it works.