iLounge Q&A: Odeo’s Evan Williams talks podcasting

Odeo is a startup company that aims to make podcasting easier for the millions of iPod users who want to take advantage of the new web-based broadcast medium. iLounge recently spoke with co-founder Evan Williams about the company and what exactly it will offer podcasters and listeners. Williams previously created the weblogging service and later sold it to Google. If his part in the blog phenomenon is any indication, podcasting is here to stay — and is set to go mainstream in a hurry.

The Odeo services are currently in beta stage and are only available by invitation. No announcement has been made on when Odeo will have its official launch for the public. Continue reading for some details of the new services and for a screenshot of the company’s website.
How did Odeo come about? Why did you decide to start the business?

iLounge Q&A: Odeo’s Evan Williams talks podcasting

Odeo came about through a series of conversations between Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and myself. Noah had created AudBlog, which allowed posting audio to the web via the telephone. We did a deal with him at Google to create AudioBlogger, which offered the service free to Blogger users.

That has existed for a couple years, and we sorta stumbled on the idea of podcasting (although we weren’t calling it that yet) around the same time others did, but mostly as a way to enhance the AudioBlogger service and make the audio content people were creating more consumable.

I started out advising Noah and eventually got more involved a couple months after I left Google as I started realizing the scope of the opportunity.

What exactly is Odeo? What services will it provide to consumers (podcast listeners) and what will it offer for current podcasters (creators)?

Odeo is a distribution and creation platform for audio content. Our aim is to make it easy to discover, subscribe to, and create podcasts.

The discovery part includes web-based aggregation of all the available audio content that we can find. We want to make the growing pool of stuff out there easier to find and listen to. The subscribe-to part allows people to get the content on an ongoing basis and synch it with their iPod or MP3 player. And the creation side involves various tools for publishing audio, whether people have existing content or the own creation tools — or if they just want a simple way to record their thoughts and put them out there, using our web-based Odeo Studio or the phone-posting system.

In each area, our system is open, so people don’t have to create with Odeo tools to show up on the site or vice versa.

What format will you offer downloads in? Will there be DRM?

MP3 and AAC at first. No DRM.

You have vast experience with blogging. Is this a natural progression for bloggers — to do audio? Do you feel podcasting is going to be as huge as blogging?

I don’t think audio is necessarily a natural progression for most bloggers — although, there are a lot of unknowns here, and we shall see.

Moreso, I think different people are attracted to different mediums. We’re hearing from a lot of people who tried blogging and didn’t necessarily take to it who are very excited about podcasting. But there are certainly others who are much more comfortable writing than speaking.

Will it be as huge? I look at it this way: Think about how many people in the world don’t sit at their computer all day, which is still the primary audience for blogs (I’m speculating there, but still…). And the fact that a ton of those people do spend hours in the car, or around the house, or in the garden, all places where they could consume audio, I think the potential listening audience is huge, indeed. How many of them will end up listening to podcasts is hard to say, but a lot of that comes down to how easy and compelling we and others make it. So that’s our goal.

How does Odeo plan to make money?

We think that some audio content will be worth paying for, and we want to enable that, as well as enabling advertising for those podcasters who want ads (on a revenue-shared basis). If we can do this better than other people, we think there’s a business there.

You recently said: “Our focus is on humanizing a very promising technology. Making it easier for those already doing it (listening or creating).