Yahoo Inc. introduced a beta version of its podcast search tool on Monday, further demonstrating the growing demand for the radio show style audio clips designed for consumption on computers and wireless devices.
Dubbed as Yahoo Podcasts, the service promises to allow people to find, play and rate the audio programs which cover religion, sports and seemingly every topic in between.
The podcast search engine mirrors a similar offering launched by Yahoo portal rival America Online Inc. last month.
Among the programming made available directly from Yahoos podcast portal are audio bits forwarded by film critics Ebert and Roeper and worldwide charity organization Unicef, as well as a section offering medical advice from licensed physicians, and a service that promises to teach people to speak Chinese.
Yahoo, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., is also touting content from sources such as National Public Radio, including the presidents weekly address, and clips that offer information on music, video games, fantasy sports, politics and even knitting.
Specific features of the podcast site include a central directory of shows indexed by Yahoo, community tools for ranking and recommending specific clips, and compatibility with many different types of multimedia software and wireless devices.
Yahoo is also promising to integrate the system with its online music download service, and to launch tools aimed at helping people create and publish their own podcasts in the coming months.
"Were excited to help grow the podcasting community by giving consumers easy access to new and interesting forms of open content, and helping podcast publishers reach a broader audience," Geoff Ralston, chief product officer at Yahoo, said in a statement.
"Yahoo Podcasts will help people find the content they want, discover new content, personalize their experience and share feedback."
Some experts believe that the growing popularity of podcasts, which users download and play at their own leisure, illustrates an emerging on demand model for talk show radio formats, as people listening to the clips arent required to tune in at a specific time, as with traditional radio broadcasts.
Much like video-on-demand services and digital video recorders have changed the way in which consumers watch television, podcasts are shifting peoples habits for listening to audio content.
In another sign of the growing clout of the podcast, the term was added to the Oxford Dictionary of English in August, officially moving the term from technology jargon to certified vernacular.
The word is defined by the dictionary as "a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player."
Podcasting gets the "pod" in its name from Apple Computer Inc.s popular iPod mobile media player, the device that has helped make the audio programs so popular.
Apples own Podcast Directory service currently indexes over 15,000 of the programs, all of which are available free of charge.