When I met Brian McCullough, I felt like we already knew each other.
We didn’t. But I had spent hundreds of hours listening to his voice during my most intimate moments. Rocking babies to sleep. Sitting in the sauna. Walking my dog. He had been in my head (or at least my ears) for hours each week.
That’s because Brian hosts an incredible daily podcast called The TechMeme Ride Home. I have been a habitual listener for over a year, and Brian — like The Daily’s Michael Barbaro — has become a surprisingly central character in my day-to-day life.
If you are in tech, and haven’t checked out The TechMeme Ride Home, you’re missing out. It’s a simple recipe: every weekday at 5 o’clock, Brian summarizes the day’s tech news, sharing acerbic hot takes along the way. It’s the one podcast I never miss. An ingrained habit that has completely supplanted my other sources of tech news and enabled me to save hours of otherwise productive time in my day.
In a way, it’s similar to the newsletter model. Someone knowledgeable in a space summarizes all the news and chatter so I don’t have to pay attention to it during my day. What used to take hours, takes a few minutes a day, and can be listened to on my drive home.
Last year, I stopped reading The Wall Street Journal each morning and instead subscribed to Axios Pro Rata, a quick morning roundup of business news and deals. Instead of spending 20–30 minutes reading through The Wall Street Journal, I could quickly skim the Pro Rata newsletter in my inbox and get a sense of what was going on so I could get on with my day.
In the same vein, The TechMeme Ride Home has allowed me to cut out my daily scan of tech news and instead trust that Brian will fill me in on everything I need to know in a 10–15 minute burst at the end of the day.
So, when I met Brian in-person in New York and he pitched me on his idea to bring similar Ride Home podcasts to more verticals, it didn’t take long to close me as his first investor.
His pitch was simple, and obvious:
“What if, in every interest niche, there was someone you could trust to catch you up, and give you context, about that niche or topic… every day? The newsletter model, but in podcasts for every vertical imaginable.”
He called it TL;DR as a service. I loved it.
Brian has already proven that the same model works in other areas outside of tech. His first new ride home podcast outside tech, The Election Ride Home, is the most timely and erudite news source about the 2020 US Election that exists right now. And today, his new company, Ride Home Media is launching Celeb News Ride Home, with many more to follow in the coming months.
This type of daily podcast is the future of news in the audio space. If you were going to re-invent NPR or any sort of audio news for the 21st century, you wouldn’t go broad, would you? If the internet has taught us anything, it’s that the long tail is longer than you’d think. There are the obvious verticals (tech, sports, celebrity news, politics, etc), but we think there’s an opportunity to go much deeper.
A Markets and Finance Ride Home would make sense. But what about a Wall Street Ride Home for those who actually work in the industry? Or let’s go deeper: The Options Trader Ride Home? A Gamer Ride Home, obviously. But maybe ALSO a Fortnite Ride Home. A Hollywood Ride Home would be useful, but could you also do an MCU Ride Home?
There are a thousand interesting niches where people are forced to hand-curate their media lives to stay informed: following folks on Twitter and Instagram, reading blogs and subreddits, YouTube channels and spending hours anxiety scrolling. Podcasting is an amazing format to anoint professional catch-me-uppers to serve not only as trusted authorities in a given space, but also as friendly daily voices to keep you up-to-date on the topics you’re passionate about.
And that gets to another interesting part of this model: the creator side. Ride Home Media podcast are structured like franchises. Ride Home Media picks which verticals and niches to launch in, promotes and helps manage growth, handles ad sales, and provides a proven template for both creative structure and for a consistency of format that sponsors can trust in.
Ride Home Media pays producer/hosts a generous production fee, then has a straight up revenue share on top of that. The talent participates in all of the upside of any show, along-side the network. The beauty of daily podcasts is that the economics make it such that even narrow niches can be highly profitable. Get a Ride Home show just to an audience of 30,000 listeners, and the show would be profitable and sustainable for the network, while also producing income for the producer/host into the six figures. Get a show to 100k audience or beyond and the producer/hosts would be making money that most people in media only dream of… so much so that, potentially, each producer/host could staff up and create their own daily media enterprise.
We’re hoping that a few years from now, dozens, perhaps hundreds of writers, journalists and media professionals can make excellent livings writing and talking about the topics they’re expert in. Following their own passions and under their own editorial vision. Again, the newsletter model, except, if some of the shows really take off, we could be making media millionaires.
Subscribe to the first batch of Ride Home podcasts here:
And creative types: get in touch at email@example.com to pitch Brian and his co-founder James Welsh (who some of you might know from Digital Spy and Hearst Digital) on new Ride Home shows. It could be sneaker news, quilting, electric vehicles, MMA, or even just the Cincinnati Bangles. If you’re an expert in a space and think you can produce a daily 15 minute podcast about it, they want to hear from you!