How Brian McCullough built Techmeme Ride Home, a daily tech podcast
Welcome to the latest edition of Creator Collab House. I’m your host, Simon Owens. For those who don’t know me, I write a media industry newsletter you should definitely check out.
Today’s featured creator is Brian McCullough, the voice behind Techmeme Ride Home, a daily tech podcast with tens of thousands of listeners. I’ll start by asking him a few basic questions, but my main goal is for you, the audience, to ask him questions of your own. Brian is an expert on the tech industry and building a successful podcast company, and he’s happy to jump into the comments section to answer your questions.
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Ok, let’s turn it over to Brian…
What's the origin story of Techmeme Ride Home?
Three and a half years ago, I was in discussion with a major podcasting venue to do a weekly tech podcast for them. It never went anywhere, but in the midst of the discussions, I mentioned to [Techmeme founder] Gabe Rivera what was going on. Gabe and I have been friends for the better part of a decade and I told him if I did any sort of tech show I'd just be regurgitating what I read on Techmeme every day. I asked him if he had ever thought of doing a podcast. One brainstorm led to another and we decided if a Techmeme podcast happened, it had to be a daily. It had to do what Techmeme is good at which is: here's what you missed, let me catch you up. So, the arrangement is simple. I licensed the brand for use on a podcast, I get access to their back end editorial in order to help guide what stories I go with, but I have day to day editorial control. It's a good arrangement. I stand on the shoulders of the talented Techmeme editors to surface what's important and timely, put my own spin and commentary on it, and kick them back a rev share.
What have you found to be some of the most effective growth strategies for getting new subscribers?
100% being on other podcasts. This can mean buying ads on other podcasts to promote my podcast, but better is going on other people's podcasts and (hopefully) having something smart to say. I've done hits on TV, on radio, been quoted in publications and it won't move the needle at all. But I could go on the smallest podcast and I promise you I'll see a meaningful bump in subscribers right away. It's about being further down the "funnel" as they say. If I'm on a podcast, I'm already guaranteed to be exposed to podcast converts, they're in their podcast app right when they're listening to me, so it's easy for them to be like, "Hey, I'll just swipe over and give this guy a try.”
Can you walk us through the business model for your podcast?
90% ads. Our ad inventory has been sold out for 18 months now, and that includes when the pandemic hit last year. It's what they tell you: for certain advertisers, podcast advertising just works. I have a sponsor that experimented with me last year, we were their first every podcast ad buy, and they came back and were like, "This was the best ROI we got on any spend we did in 2020." So they reupped for the full year, one week a month. We just launched a subscription product (ad-free feed, bonus episodes, special subscriber participation) just last month. So, early days on that. So far, haven't even converted 2% of the audience to the subscription feed yet, but since it monetizes at 4x per listener vs. what ads earn us, that's why I'm projecting it could be 10% of revenue by the end of the year. We'll see. To answer your other question, this show is my career now. Third year in a row podcasting will have paid all my bills.
What are some recent episodes that you're particularly proud of?
Ohh. I dunno. Funny thing about my show is that since it's a daily, it's like trying to put your mouth over the firehose of information. I can't remember what I talked about that day like 20 minutes after hitting publish on a show. The last week of January was fun because that was when that whole GameStop madness was going down and I could only, like everyone else, take a step back and just give a low whistle. But then, that's what I think the show is good at: collecting all of the tik-tok of information. I try to collect all the hot takes, all the tweets, all the context and try to be like: you know that thing you've been hearing about all day? Let me sum it up for you in 8 minutes. I can be a meme-wrangler. I don't have to have a take myself, I can just let everyone else's hot takes tell the story. But at the same time, I like days when the news shakes loose a rant from me. Like, the 02/01 and 02/02 episodes allowed me to return to a long-running take of mine about how you can never trust Google NOT to lose interest and deadpool a product/project of theirs. Or the 12/22/20 episode where I literally was inspired to give a long take about why I think we WILL eventually see an Apple Car. For real.
What are the podcasts that you immediately play when a new episode hits your podcast app?
CoinTalk, which is about Crypto. Pistol Shrimps Radio. Blank Check with Griffin and David, and especially, especially The Flop House. Common denominator for all of them? I feel like they're my friends. I feel like I'm hanging out with friends. Never underestimate the power of podcast intimacy. I've listened to the entire Flop House back catalog three times because it's my happy place.
Want to ask Brian questions of your own?
Go ahead and leave your questions in the comments section and he’ll dive in and answer them.
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