At the Under the Radar startup love-fest last week, I was critical about the podcasting companies presenting. I believe that an individual can only absorb so much linear spoken-word audio during a day. Music is different - it can be played in the background. But most podcasts require attention, and most people just don't have much to spare. For my part, on most days I listen to CNET's Buzz Out Loud and maybe an NPR podcast during my commute, and after that I have no time left for other 'casts. It's a shame, but that's the nature of linear attention.
Disagreeing with my dour perspective is Johnny Mansour, who runs the company PodOMatic. He wrote to me after the conference, "For us its not about podcasting overthrowing traditional media; it's about leveraging the technology to enable anyone to express themselves even if its only to audience of 5 people."
His free service (a premium version is available) lets you record a podcast (or videocast) directly to the Web. Like Grouper and some other services, PodOMatic uses Flash to access a PC's (or Mac's) microphone and camera. You need pretty much nothing but a computer and a microphone to record and post a podcast with this service. I think it's pretty cool, despite my reservations about the podcast business overall.
I tried it, and in less than 10 minutes, I had recorded a show and posted it to my own URL, raferx.podomatic.com. The service handles RSS feeds and even makes it easy for your listeners to subscribe to your podcast in iTunes.
PodOMatic doesn't offer editing utilities (like Jumpcut does for video). However, you can easily upload audio files you create with editing tools like Audacity (which is free) if you want more control.
The system presents a lot of options. It points users to related services, like one that lets your listeners contribute via phone, and it even allows you to dive into your page templates to edit your site's look and feel. PodOMatic can also return stats on your podcast's popularity. In fact, PodOMatic's feature set is a little overwhelming. A more thought-through design, or perhaps a "grandma mode," would be welcomed (and seriously, I don't see why grandmas wouldn't want to podcast news or events to their families).
PodOMatic would be great for travel blogs. With this system, you could duck into an internet cafe anywhere on the globe and post your podcast from any machine with a microphone attached.
It probably won't be long until all the blogging services and community sites offer similar podcast-building tools (or maybe they'll license PodOMatic's). But for now, PodOMatic is probably the easiest and fastest way to get started with podcasting.