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Podcasting Made Painless

PERSONAL BROADCASTING
It wasn’t so long ago that publishing a Web log (blog) required some Web programming skills. Then along came Blogger, software that made blogging easy enough for the masses. Blogger became so popular that Google bought it in 2003. Substitute “podcast” for “blog” in the preceding sentences, and you’ll understand the vision behind the new Web-based podcasting tools developed by Odeo, a San Francisco startup launched by Blogger cocreator Evan Williams and his former neighbor, Noah Glass.

Podcasting, for the uninitiated, is the hot independent-media trend of 2005; amateur broadcasters record their own news shows, commentary, or interviews on whatever subjects they choose and put the audio files on the Web. Anyone with an Apple iPod or other digital music player can subscribe to the shows and download and listen to them. Unfortunately, being a podcaster has, until lately, also meant being an expert in digital recording and mixing.

In May, I visited Williams’s office around the corner from San Francisco’s South Park to try out Odeo’s service. Just as Blogger did for blogging, Odeo turns the process of making a podcast (a basic one, anyway) into something any semicompetent PC user can handle. It also takes all the pain out of finding and downloading podcasts (Apple has promised that the next release of iTunes, its music organizer, will do this, too; but it won’t produce podcasts). And it will be at least partly free. The audiences of millions that podcasters have been craving may arrive soon.

The neatest part of the program is Odeo Studio, which runs inside a Web browser and converts a PC into a rudimentary recording studio. I used it to produce my own podcast, which you can find at this Technology Review web page and at Odeo.com. Making a podcast was as simple as clicking “Record,” talking into the PC’s built-in microphone (you can also use an external headset), then clicking “Stop.” Clicking “Publish” placed the podcast in my own “channel,” to which others can subscribe. What was a tedious process is now quick and mildly fun.

Odeo will no doubt cement Williams’s reputation as one of the founding fathers of the personal-publishing revolution. And it may not be long before Google comes knocking again in South Park.

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