The Co-Founders of Mental Floss Are Leaving to Develop Podcasts at HowStuffWorks

Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur are moving on

Mangesh Hattikudur and Will Pearson are getting into the podcast space. Sources: Getty Images, Mental Floss
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Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur started Mental Floss as a campus magazine at Duke University in 2001, hoping to create something entertaining and educational. The rest, as they say, is history. Although the print publication recently closed, the site now boasts 15 million to 20 million unique visitors each month, with an additional 30 million monthly video views.

“The company’s at a good place to pass it along,” Pearson told Adweek.

After conversations with the leadership team at HowStuffWorks, Pearson and Hattikudur decided to leave Mental Floss to join the company as part of the publisher’s growing podcast initiatives.

HowStuffWorks podcasts, like Stuff You Should Know or Stuff You Missed in History Class, are frequently ranked in the top five podcast publishers for global downloads, seeing nearly 30 million downloads per month.

“We’ve been a quiet giant in the podcast space for nearly nine years,” said Jason Hoch, CCO for HowStuffWorks.

"You can pick and choose what you consume. That’s a powerful, different model than what used to exist on the market."
Jason Hoch, CCO for HowStuffWorks, on podcasts

“The podcast platform is not a three-second Facebook video view,” said Hoch. “It’s a platform that’s gaining and grabbing fans who want a more longform experience.”

“We have pages of ideas and are just so excited to play and brainstorm together,” said Hattikudur.

“Podcasts are such an intimate relationship with an audience, and we want to foster that communication.”

“It’ll be fun to experiment with what a ‘knowledge podcast’ can be,” he said.

With thousands of other podcasts available for listeners to download or stream, Pearson and Hattikudur decided to work with HowStuffWorks based on their proven track record to create shows and “podcast families,” according to Pearson, that really connect with audiences.

“It felt right to try something new with a parent company and partner who is already doing incredible work in the space,” said Pearson. “HowStuffWorks has really learned how to successfully grow a podcast and a community around it.”

“For Mental Floss, we’re going to continue doubling down on our digital growth,” said Ethan Trex, Mental Floss’ editorial director. “Our audience loves our fun and fact-checked approach to topics.”

Mental Floss won’t be changing too much from its current day-to-day activities, as both Trex and editor in chief Jessanne Collins have been part of the brand for at least 10 years.

"It felt right to try something new with a parent company and partner who is already doing incredible work in the space."
Will Pearson, co-founder of Mental Floss

The site will launch a redesign in early May, which has been planned for months, according to Amie Deutch, the site’s publisher.

“There’s a lot of silly or inane stuff online,” said Deutch, “but our content will give you some kind of pay-off at the end of every article. We’re not snarky, but we’re intelligent.”

Pearson and Hattikudur’s vision for Mental Floss is not totally unlike HowStuffWorks, in that it’s all about providing readers and listeners with informative, entertaining content.

“Mental Floss was always a bit of a bizarre bird,” said Hattikudur, “and joining HowStuffWorks will help us just contribute to the space without feeling threatened by competition.”

Their move to HowStuffWorks, together, will be a chance for the pair to continue creating for a niche, intellectual audience.

“This is what the millennial audience is doing,” said Hoch. “They’re not listening to the radio, but they’re figuring out ways to listen during their commutes, or chores, or while exercising, to podcasts.”

“You can pick and choose what you consume,” he said. “That’s a powerful, different model than what used to exist on the market.”

@samimain Sami Main is social editor for Adweek, where she posts Adweek content onto social platforms and looks for creative ways to communicate what's new.