Ponderance

(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Odeo (pronounced like rodeo)

Saturday, February 26, 2005
It's been a while since I've mentioned podcasting. After my little proto-podcast PonderCast experiments, I dediced that it was far too soon to podcast me, and given that I live via a dialup account at home for the time being, downloading tonnes of audio slipped by the wayside somewhat. Of course, Perth's own Richard Giles has recently jumped into the 'casting mode with The Gadget Show, so there's at least one homegrown show to which I must listen!

Podcasting has certainly made a lot of headlines in tech papers and more generally, but they often end with the question as to whether money can be made? While I love Adam Curry's Daily Source Code, I'm at a loss to see how money would be made using it (except for, say, sponsored shoutouts, but that seems antithetical to the podcasting utopia Curry and Dave Winer promoted from the beginning...).

However, I think we're about to see the ultimate test as to the commercial utility of podcasting in the form of Odeo. Before they've even gone public with the Odeo platform, the NYTimes has been talking with its founders:
The primarily amateur Internet audio medium known as podcasting will take a small, hopeful step on Friday toward becoming the commercial Web's next big thing. That step is planned by Odeo, a five-person start-up that is based in a walk-up apartment in this city's Mission District and was co-founded by a Google alumnus. The company plans to introduce a Web-based system that is aimed at making a business of podcasting - the process of creating, finding, organizing and listening to digital audio files that range from living-room ramblings to BBC newscasts. [...] Compared with the other various approaches so far, Odeo (pronounced OH-dee-oh) means to be podcast central - an all-in-one system that makes it possible for someone with no more equipment than a telephone to produce podcasts and also makes it possible for users to assemble custom playlists of audio files and copy them directly onto MP3 audio players. The company plans to make money by selling audio content and advertising and, eventually, software for producing and editing podcasts. Odeo, which is scheduled to make its formal debut on Friday at the Technology, Entertainment & Design Conference in Monterey, Calif., was founded by Noah Glass and Evan Williams, two pioneers of the Web logging, or blogging, movement. Mr. Williams, who is 32, helped found a maker of Web logging software, Pyra Labs, which he sold to Google in 2003 for an undisclosed amount of stock, and then stayed at the company until last October. He predicts that podcasting will repeat the steep growth curve of the text blogging phenomenon - which went from only a few thousand blogs when he entered the field in 1999 to more than 7.3 million today. [...] Odeo, noting that advertising is already an accepted component of conventional radio, also plans to embed automatically generated audio ads within the downloadable files. And because the files are specifically chosen by the consumer, the company is also hoping that consumers and advertisers might find one another as readily as through the keyword Web search advertisements that are at the heart of Google's and Yahoo's businesses. "These media advertising paradigms have thrived for a long time," said Mr. Glass, 35, who previously founded a small company, Listen Lab, that provided a service called Audioblogger for posting audio snippets from a telephone directly to Web logs. [...] While still too much in its infancy to be considered an immediate threat to the radio industry, podcasting does present the prospect of a growing army of iPod-toting commuters who take programming decisions out of the hands of broadcasters and customize their own listening. Odeo's founders say they believe that, as with other old and new media, conventional radio and podcasting can coexist in the long term. If, through podcasting, conventional radio programs are increasingly stored and played back on the listener's schedule, rather than the broadcaster's, then the trend could have the same time-shifting impact that TiVo-style video recorders have had on the viewing habits of television audiences. But Mr. Williams said that the real promise of podcasting might lie not in what it means for conventional radio but in the new forms of expression the medium will permit. "We're going to let people do what they do," he said, "and we'll see what they do and hope they do it a lot."
On the back of the success of Blogger, I think Evan Williams is definitely one of the key developers to watch in terms of participatory media creation, although the shift to explicitly commercial aims and embedded ads will have to be carefully managed to avoid the cynicism that colours "big media" in the eyes of the blogosphere in general. Reading EvHead's own explanation of the origin and motivations for Odeo, I think it's defintely worth watching, and for the latest info, there is, of course, the Odeo Blog.

Meanwhile, the NYTimes also has a fairly banal piece on the growing video and audio blogs: "The Oxford English Dictionary added "blog" to its entries in 2003. The editors may soon have to consider "vlog" and "moblog" as well."

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