Back in February I posted about Evan Williams and Obvious Corp. trying to sell Odeo. I hadn’t heard anything since then, so I kind of figured they were unable to find a buyer. Turns out they did though. From TechCrunch:
Details are just coming out, but New York based SonicMountain, a new startup, has acquired Evan Williams’ Odeo. The announcement will come sometime tomorrow. The price is not being disclosed but is in excess of $1 million, and the deal was all cash.
Mike Arrington isn’t joking when he calls SonicMountain a new startup – their website is plain and empty. The only thing of interest is the news release:
SonicMountain intends to incorporate exciting enhancements to the Odeo community within the next few months. Improvements in content organization, search, crawl, plus podcast hosting of both audio and video are only a sampling of upcoming upgrades planned for the site.
Evan Williams will work with SonicMountain as an advisor for the next six months or so.
I’m interested to see what SonicMountain actually does with the site. Intentions are one thing, actions are quite another.
Hard to believe that just two years ago Odeo was a star. Heck, they even have a star in their logo! Over that period of time, they have slowly but steadily faded from the spotlight. And now even Odeo’s founders don’t want to keep it around:
It seems likely Odeo is worth more to someone else than it is to us at this point, so we’re looking for a new home for it.
We’re open to a variety of scenarios – from cash offer to an equity position. Our main concern is the ability to focus on Twitter and to see Odeo live on in some legitimate form.
All of my criticism of the service aside, I’d buy Odeo if I had the capital. The way I see it, Odeo has two main assets: a huge database of media and lots of “online presence” – that is, lots of incoming links, good search engine rankings, etc. Tons of potential.
To his credit, Evan Williams says that Obvious will continue to run Odeo if they don’t get any attractive offers. Not sure if that’s the right thing for Odeo, but at least it proves that Evan and his team still care about it.
Yesterday, Evan Williams announced that he has formed a new company called Obvious Corp. which has purchased all of the assets of Odeo Inc. from the other investors and shareholders. Some people are probably surprised at the move, but I’m not. In fact, I saw it coming back in July:
Maybe it’s time everyone stopped calling Odeo a podcasting company. I’ve been critical of Google’s apparent lack of focus and direction many times in the past, but they’ve got nothing on Odeo. I mean here’s a company with some very smart people working for them, some substantial venture capital behind them, and yet very little to show for it.
I’d guess the investors are happy to have gotten out without any losses (TechCrunch thinks the buyout price is a little more than $5 million). Odeo is no longer a company by itself. Instead, it is now simply one of perhaps many products in Obvious’ new “model for building and running web products.”
The new model that Evan describes in his post is vague, but interesting. More importantly, he seems really excited about it, and he’s right, “from excitement and bold moves, great things often happen.” I wish him the best of luck with Obvious Corp.
So what does this mean for Odeo? A post on the official blog says that they are now “even more focused on giving Odeo the attention it requires.” Frankly, it would be difficult to be less focused than they are right now, so I guess that’s a good first step. It appears it will be business as usual for Odeo, at least for the foreseeable future. It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, they change or add.
I think the staff at Wired News must have missed the memo about Odeo. In a list of Web 2.0 Winners and Losers published today, they included Odeo on the winners list. They praised the service, saying that Odeo “breezed in and de-mystified the podcast.” Huh, is that really what happened?
Not according to Odeo co-founder Evan Williams, who when giving a talk last week said Odeo failed for five main reasons:
- “Trying to build too much”
- “Not building for people like ourselves”
- “Not adjusting fast enough”
- “Raising too much money too early”
- “Not listening to my gut”
De-mystified the podcast? That would explain why the vast majority of the population doesn’t know what a podcast is. They certainly know what MySpace or YouTube is though, yet MySpace appears on Wired’s losers list.
In some ways, the list that was voted on by Wired News readers is much more accurate – Odeo doesn’t appear on either list. This is the wisdom of the crowd at work! I don’t think they can be described as winners or losers yet, because Odeo seems to be finding their way still. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, to wait and see if they can turn it around.
The funniest part of the Wired article is this:
In the interest of brevity, I’ve chosen five sites from each category. The web services industry certainly has more than five winners and five losers, so we’ve only highlighted the exemplars.
I’m not exactly sure what reporter Michael Calore considers the definition of “exemplary” to be, but I am quite certain it’s different from my definition. And probably different than the dictionary’s definition too. The first five that came to mind for me certainly didn’t include Writely or Odeo (mine would be Flickr, del.icio.us, YouTube, MySpace, and digg).
Read: Wired News
Maybe it’s time everyone stopped calling Odeo a podcasting company. I’ve been critical of Google’s apparent lack of focus and direction many times in the past, but they’ve got nothing on Odeo. I mean here’s a company with some very smart people working for them, some substantial venture capital behind them, and yet very little to show for it. Perhaps the last notable thing Odeo did with regards to the core offering was redesign the website – and that was in December 2005. I have to agree with what Alex Williams said – “These dudes must have some pretty mellow investors.”
That’s not to say they are standing still. Odeo recently launched two new products, Hellodeo and Twttr. The former is somewhat related to podcasting, while the latter appears to have absolutely no connection whatsoever. Hellodeo lets you record a video message from your webcam to embed on other websites, and Twttr allows you to stay up to date with your friends using text messaging. Notice a trend? Yep, moving further and further away from podcasting.
I think it’s fair to say that LibSyn has done far more in terms of getting people into podcasting than Odeo has, and somehow I doubt that Evan Williams and crew have any tricks up their sleeve. Odeo, quite simply, seems lost. It’s a shame too, because they had the opportunity to do something great with podcasting. Maybe they should just purchase LibSyn?
You might recall that in May of last year, Fortune magazine named Odeo one of their 25 Breakout Companies for 2005. I wonder what they would say about the company today? I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t make the list again.
Maybe Odeo will come out with something amazing and I’ll be forced to eat my words, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. I do however, think Odeo would be wise to read Dead 2.0 Skeptic’s 11 Suggestions for Not Being a Dot-Bomb 2.0.
You might remember that way back on August 18th, 2005 I wrote a post entitled Average Joe Podcasting. Let me highlight the main point of that post for you:
Not everyone who starts a podcast is going to want to make money from it, just like not everyone who blogs does so with the intention of making a living. I read a lot about podcasting – news articles, blog posts, etc., and I can’t help but feel that far too many individuals and organizations focus on the “making money from podcasting” idea.
As soon as starting and maintaining a podcast is as simple as starting and maintaining a blog, I think we’ll see the same breakdown in podcasting [as in blogging].
You should read the entire post to get the full argument in context, but that’s the main idea – that individuals will likely start to podcast for themselves, and that they’ll become a major segment of the podcasting world.
Almost exactly two months after I wrote that comes a post from Odeo’s Evan Williams, entitled Podcasting for Regular People. Here’s the main idea in his post:
While blogging can be about playing on a world stage to influence, gain audience, and, potentially, monetize (the same goals as most other media), there are millions of people who are happily pubishing daily without those motivations. For them, it’s more about expression, self-reflection, and communication.
I call these people “casual content creators.” It’s not just that they’re amateur or part of the great, unwashed, Long Tail. It’s that they’re playing a different game.
The idea of casual content creation in the realm of audio is a powerful one. And I think it’s a yet-to-be-duly-recognized segment of the (potential) podcasting world.
Sound familiar? I thought so.
Read: Odeo Blog