PEAS IN A PODCAST

Popularized by a former MTV personality, the latest Internet media trend is gaining listeners among Silicon Valley's most respected venture capitalists.

With the exception of the Google IPO in August 2004, there have been few “buzz-worthy” developments in Silicon Valley over the past twelve months – or, to be more accurate, the past four years. Recently, however, a new Internet phenomenon known as “podcasting” has emerged in the collective consciousness of Santa Clara County. And not only has it been drawing the type of news coverage and public interest once reserved for B2B platforms and web-based home delivery services, it's also attracting the capital of some very notable Sand Hill investors.

Last month, two of the biggest names in the venture capital industry, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital, led an $8.9 million (€7.3 million) investment in Podshow, a Miami-based company that develops software enabling users to create their own online audio programs, known as podcasts.

Named after Apple's ubiquitous IPod music player, these downloadable audio broadcasts have been gaining in popularity among the general public. Though figures are difficult to come by, a Pew survey released last April estimated that six million people have listened to podcasts. And like many other Internet prodigies of the past, podcasting even has its own B-list celebrity spokesperson.

Adam Curry, one of the founders of Podshow, has not only been instrumental in popularizing the podcast – he's known by some as the “Podfather” – but more than 20 years ago, he helped introduce the world to another new audio format: the music video. As a video jockey (or VJ) with long, flaxen hair in the early days of MTV, Curry bantered with musicians such as Boy George and introduced videos by the likes of Michael Jackson. Today, Curry hosts his own four-hour, weekday podcast on Sirius satellite radio.

Though podcasts can range from homegrown DJs spinning their very own music mixes to ministers preaching the scripture (so-called “Godcasts”) to an unclassifiable show such as the Daily Download, where the host takes calls while going to the bathroom, they are rapidly becoming, in essence, the audio equivalent of blogs – a democratic, if sometimes self-obsessive, online format for those disenfranchised by traditional media outlets.

Perhaps it's not a coincidence then that Odeo, a beta site which seeks to provide an online directory of podcasts as well as a link between advertisers and podcasters, recently received funding from VC firms Charles River Ventures and Amicus Ventures. Odeo was started by Evan Williams, the founder of Blogger, a web log-hosting site credited with helping to launch the blogging craze that was recently purchased by Google.