Mental Floss

Mental Floss (stylized as mental_floss) is an online magazine and its related American digital, print, and e-commerce media company focused on millennials. It is owned by Minute Media and based in New York City, United States., which presents facts, puzzles, and trivia with a humorous tone, draws 20.5 million unique users a month. Its YouTube channel produces three weekly series and has 1.3 million subscribers. In October 2015, Mental Floss teamed with the National Geographic Channel for its first televised special, Brain Surgery Live with mental_floss, the first brain surgery ever broadcast live.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

Mental Floss
Mental Floss Logo 2017.png
FounderWill Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur
First issue2001; 21 years ago (2001)
Final issue
 2016 (2016-November/December) (print)
v. 15, no. 6
CompanyMinute Media
CountryUnited States
Based inNew York City, New York, United States

Launched in Birmingham, Alabama in 2001,[7][8] the company has additional offices in Midtown Manhattan. The publication was included in Inc. magazine's list of the 5,000 fastest growing private companies.[9] Before it became a web-only publication in 2017, the magazine mental_floss had a circulation of 160,000 and published six issues a year. The magazine had more than 100,000 subscribers in over 17 countries.[10] The November/December 2016 issue was the last issue of the print edition of the magazine.[11] Instead of getting a refund, subscribers were sent copies of The Week.[12]

The company frequently publishes books and sells humorous T-shirts. It also developed a licensed trivia board game called Split Decision, similar to Trivial Pursuit. Its online store sells quirky home and office supplies, games and toys.

Dennis Publishing bought Mental Floss in 2011.

Mental Floss was acquired by Minute Media from the Felix Dennis estate in September 2018.[13]


The magazine was co-founded by William E. Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur while they were students at Duke University. According to the Mental Floss website, the idea came from conversations in the Duke cafeteria about the need for an entertaining educational magazine.[14] According to Hattikudur, they wanted to "distill some of the best lectures from our favorite college professors. We thought if we could bottle their enthusiasm and deliver it in monthly installments, it'd be great."[10]

Later, Pearson met with president of Duke University, who loved the idea, but disliked the name. The first published issue, known as the "Campus Edition", was published in spring 2000, distributing 3,000 issues.

The founders spent much of their first year looking for investors and staff members while raising funds to publish the first issue, which was released in May 2001. Over the following summer, 8,000 copies were distributed, and 60% sold out on newsstands.[15]

Mental Floss was sold to magazine mogul Felix Dennis in 2011[16] and again to Minute Media in late 2018.[17]

Notable contributorsEdit

  • Novelist John Green worked for the magazine early in his career. Having later become an established YouTube personality, he began hosting its YouTube channel in March 2013. In 2014, the Mental Floss channel was listed on New Media Rockstars Top 100 Channels, ranked at #71. In 2015, Green won the Webby Award for mental_floss on YouTube.[18][19]
  • Author A. J. Jacobs contributed articles based on what he learned reading the Encyclopædia Britannica, as described in his book The Know-It-All. He currently writes a history column answering reader mail.
  • Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy! fame, wrote a feature called Six Degrees of Ken Jennings, in which he played the game six degrees of separation with two unrelated people or things, like Benedict XVI and Benedict Arnold or Isaac Newton and Apple Computer. He now contributes a quiz called "Kennections" on[20]
  • Kara Kovalchik and Sandy Wood served as research editors for the magazine from 2002 to 2015.
  • Celebrity chef Alton Brown wrote a food column and appeared on the cover of the September 2012 issue.
  • Saturday Night Live writer Streeter Seidell has written for both mental_floss magazine and the website.
  • Comedian Amir Blumenfeld writes a column called The Curious Comedian.
  • Author Ransom Riggs was a longtime contributor to both the magazine and website.
  • Linguist Arika Okrent is the language editor for mental_floss. In 2015 she received the Linguistic Society of America's Linguistics Journalism Award.[21]
  • Science journalist Maggie Koerth-Baker was an assistant editor and co-authored the 2009 mental_floss book Be Amazing.
  • Hank Green has written for the magazine and is executive producer of the YouTube Channel. He also authored the mental_floss book Scatterbrained.
  • Comedian Elliott Morgan hosts the weekly series "Misconceptions" on mental_floss on YouTube.
  • Comedian Max Silvestri has hosted two series on the mental_floss YouTube Channel.[22]
  • Craig Benzine hosts the weekly series "The Big Question" on mental_floss on YouTube.[23]

Magazine sectionsEdit

Each issue of Mental Floss magazine was divided into the following sections:

  • Scatterbrained: 10 pages of trivia, facts and anecdotes about an everyday topic or item.
  • Be Amazing!: 10 pages of short articles and interviews, often by guest contributors.
  • Left_Brain/Right_Brain: articles about "left brain" topics, like science and logic, and "right brain" topics, like art and literature.
  • Features: Some examples were an exposé of Shel Silverstein's darker side and a collection of the 25 Most Important Questions in the Universe.
  • Go Mental: articles about religion, art, history and world culture.
  • The Quiz: a brief quiz at the back of the magazine.[24]

Recurring themesEdit

Every year, Mental Floss published a "Ten Issue". It usually featured lists of ten things focusing on subjects like: "Ten Most Forgettable Presidents" or "Ten Famous Monkeys in Science".[25]

Initially, "Mental Floss" tried to feature self-proclaimed mascot Albert Einstein on the cover of each issue. The magazine even did a 'swimsuit issue', which featured a topless Einstein.[26]

Recurring blog categoriesEdit

  • Morning Cup of Links: Interesting links to news stories, videos and memes from across the Internet
  • 5 Questions Quiz: Daily quizzes with subject clues hidden inside trivia questions
  • The Amazing Fact Generator: A page that generates random facts and trivia
  • Big Questions: Articles that answer questions about history, origins, or science


  • Mental Floss History of the World: An Irreverent Romp Through Civilization's Best Bits
  • Genius Instruction Manual
  • Scatterbrained
  • What's the Difference?
  • Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets
  • Condensed Knowledge
  • Forbidden Knowledge
  • Instant Knowledge
  • In the Beginning
  • Be Amazing
  • mental_floss Trivia
  • mental_floss: The Book: Only The Greatest Lists in the History of Listory
  • The Mental Floss History of the United States: The (Almost) Complete and (Entirely) Entertaining Story of America

Media coverage and awardsEdit

Mental Floss has been covered by magazines and newspapers such as Reader's Digest, Los Angeles Times,, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, Dallas Morning News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Washington Post.[27] Other media coverage includes:


  1. ^ "Gone Native: The Magazine Whose Editors Write Ad Content – Digiday". Digiday. 19 September 2013. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  2. ^ "We're Hiring Writers, Editors, and a Producer". Mental Floss. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Brain Surgery Live with Mental Floss". National Geographic. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  4. ^ "Gone Native: The Magazine Whose Editors Write Ad Content". Digiday. 19 September 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  5. ^ "Quantcast - Mental Floss". Quantcast. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  6. ^ "4 Ways Mental Floss Won Millennials". Digiday. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  7. ^ Press Release Archived 2006-03-26 at the Wayback Machine describing magazine launch
  8. ^ "The 20 Best Magazines of the Decade (2000–2009)". Paste Magazine. November 26, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  9. ^ "Folks behind mental_floss open retail store in Chester Township". The News Herald
  10. ^ a b "Ohio couple share in the fun as Mental Floss magazine executives",
  11. ^ D. B. Hebbard (30 September 2016). "Mental Floss latest to go digital-only, Dennis Publishing announces". Talking New Media. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  12. ^ "Mental Floss to end print edition", Politico, September 30, 2016
  13. ^ Jerde, Sarah. "Minute Media Acquires Mental Floss". AdWeek. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  14. ^ "mental_floss About page". Archived from the original on 2006-06-11. Retrieved 2006-06-13.
  15. ^ "Details". Mental Floss. 5 (6): 8.
  16. ^ Diel, Stan (15 March 2011). "Mental Floss sold to magazine mogul Felix Dennis". Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  17. ^ Jerde, Sara (September 20, 2018). "Minute Media Acquires Mental Floss". Retrieved 2019-01-23.
  18. ^ "The NMR Top 100 YouTube Channels: 75-51!". New Media Rockstars. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  19. ^ "Mental Floss' John Green". Webby Awards. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
  20. ^ "Ken Jennings - Dabbling". Ken Jennings. Archived from the original on 15 January 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  21. ^ "Arika Okrent announced as winner of LSA Linguistics Journalism Award". Linguistic Society. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  22. ^ "Watch Max Silvestri Learn to Open Champagne with a Sword". Splitsider. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  23. ^ "Wheezy Waiter Answers Questions In New Series On Mental Floss Channel". IMDb. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  24. ^ "What is mental_floss?". Archived from the original on 2010-03-05. Retrieved 2010-03-18.
  25. ^ See Mental Floss volume 4, issue 3.
  26. ^ "Making knowledge fun: a look inside the pages of Mental Floss magazine". Trivia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  27. ^ "Press Room". Archived from the original on 2010-03-05. Retrieved 2010-03-18.
  28. ^ "Our 50 Favorite Magazines". Chicago Tribune. June 26, 2007. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  29. ^ "100 Blogs We Love". PC World. June 2007.
  30. ^ "30 Under 30: America's Coolest Young Entrepreneurs". Inc. Archived from the original on 2009-02-27. Retrieved May 25, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  31. ^ "Our 50 Favorite Magazines". Digiday. 14 September 2012.
  32. ^ "The 140 Best Twitter Feeds Of 2013". Time. 25 March 2013. Archived from the original on 18 July 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  33. ^ "Blog – Cultural". 2013. Archived from the original on 26 February 2014. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  34. ^ "National Magazine Awards 2013 Finalists Announced". (Press release). Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  35. ^ Casserly, Meghan. "Mental Floss – In Photos: The 100 Best Websites For Women 2013". Forbes. Archived from the original on August 23, 2013.
  36. ^ Kastrenakes, Jacob (20 May 2020). "Here are all the winners of the 2020 Webby Awards". The Verge. Retrieved 22 May 2020.

External linksEdit