Ep. 2 - The Past and The Present of The Internet with Brian McCullough
For our second episode (and the very first one with a guest!), we sat down with Brian McCullough, the creator of the Internet History Podcast, one of my all-time favorite podcasts. Brian’s current project is Techmeme Ride Home, a popular daily summary of tech news that has over a million downloads every month. Brian is also an investor running the Ride Home Fund and a resident at TED (check out Brian’s talk).
This episode was very special for me because the Internet History Podcast was *the* podcast that hooked me on podcasting back in 2014. I couldn’t stop listening to it and kept binging on and on, reminiscing in my teenage memories about Netscape, Napster, and other early internet artifacts.
A few months ago, I reached out to Brian and asked him if he’d come to talk to us on our show. He graciously said yes and became the first ever guest on our to-be-launched podcast.
It was our first recording and we were a bit nervous (and celebrity-struck to be honest!) so we didn’t even notice the echo coming from Arnab’s side during the soundcheck. Brian, being the podcasting pro he is, pointed it out, which was kind of embarrassing for a podcast where we talk about podcasting lol. But hey, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and are always open to feedback!
We spent two awesome hours talking to Brian about his story of starting businesses, getting into podcasting, creating shows, networking with guests, his venture fund, gear, etc. We even talked about the money that his podcasts make! As usual, we went on a few detours about semi-random stuff, including ads in urinals and memories about the pre-historic internet.
In the last couple of minutes of the recording, we discovered that Brian is a soccer fan. In fact, we recorded this episode on November 20th, 2022 during the very first World Cup game between Ecuador and Qatar, which both Arnab and Brian went back to watching before seeing scores or spoilers anywhere. I personally wouldn’t even know World Cup was happening unless Arnab told me, but I appreciated the sacrifice these two soccer nuts made to record the episode.
You got to have the goods. At the end of the day, the popularity of your podcast depends on whether you deliver what people are interested in. It matters more than sound quality.
Career is a snowball. Brian’s podcast, book and TED residency were like an investment with compounding interest that led to many exciting things, including the ability to raise a venture fund.
Find a niche and be there. Brian suggests that it’s easier to succeed in niches where people are dying for someone to come and tell the story of their field.
10 years is about the right time for people to tell their story unedited. It takes time for people to fully process their experience of starting something (e.g. a company). After 10 years or so has passed, it’s about the right amount of time for things to get settled and become distant enough, so they can talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of the story.
Get strategic about your guests. Invite people who can bring new listeners to your show (exactly what we did with Brian, by the way!)
Overprepare. Brian always overprepares for interviews, so that the conversation can go wherever it needs to go.
The standard CPM for ads in podcasts is $30 (per thousand downloads). Do the math to see how much you can make with your podcast!
You’re not going to become a millionaire by writing a book (unless you’re Malcolm Gladwell). Brian’s book “How the internet happened” earned him $50k but it also took 6 years to write.
Ilya looks a bit like James Hetfield. That’s what Brian said :)
Where to find Brian
Brian’s book “How the Internet Happened”
Brian’s TED talk “History in the digital age”
Brian’s resume-writing company: ResumeWriters.com
Get in touch
We’d love to hear from you! Arnab is a Twitter guy and I’m on Instagram. Use the method that works best for you!
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (both of us get it)
Arnab’s Twitter: @or9ob
Ilya’s Instagram: @podcasthacks (I publish videos of how we create the podcast as it’s happening)
You can also leave comments on this substack post. Don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already!
Descript — a tool that can help you edit audio similar to editing text in a word processor.
SquadCast — a powerful tool for recording interviews. It saves high quality audio locally and uploads files to the cloud, so you can download and process them later.
Zoom — video conferencing and audio recording.
GarageBand — the audio editor that comes for free with MacOS that Brian uses for podcast editing.
Libsyn — a podcast hosting platform we mentioned in the conversation.
Shure SM7b — a kick ass condenser mic for podcasters and radio hosts. It’s pretty much the golden standard in the industry. It’s expensive and also requires an audio interface because it only has an XLR output (no direct connection to your computer’s USB port).
Blue Yeti — an inexpensive USB mic that has multiple recording modes (e.g. cardioid, condenser, etc.) Arnab recorded this (and other) episodes using a Blue Yeti mic. Brian was also using a Blue Yeti for this recording!
Harlan Hogan’s Porta-Booth — the foamy thing that helps prevent the room echo during recording that Brian uses for recording Techmeme Ride Home in the home office.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcode History
This American Life (Ira Glass)
Bye for now. Don’t forget to subscribe!
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