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Yahoo Adds Podcast Search

The service, in beta test, heightens Yahoo's competition with Apple's iTunes.

Yahoo Inc. on Monday launched in beta a podcast search service, heightening the web portal's competition with Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes music service.

Yahoo Podcasts enables consumers to search a directory of 10s of thousands of the audio programs.

In launching the service, Yahoo, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., adds capabilities that strengthen its position against Apple. The Cupertino, Calif., company lets consumers search and subscribe to podcasts through its iTunes music service, which is a downloadable desktop application.

Through Yahoo search, consumers can choose the podcast player that they want to use, including the Yahoo Music Engine, iTunes and the Windows Media Player. Podcast files can also be saved and downloaded to a digital music player, such as the Apple iPod, iRiver, Dell DJ and Creative Zen.

Podcasting leverages a technology launched by former MTV VJ Adam Curry, who began distributing the iPodder program he wrote with AppleScript on an open source basis in November 2004. The software launched a cottage industry of amateur podcasters.

Now, thousands of podcasts are available on the Web with content ranging from talk to music in all manner of formats that can be easily saved on iPods and other portable MP3 players. Several public radio and college radio stations have also begun distributing shows via podcast, as well as many professional news and entertainment companies.

While most podcasts today are commercial free, many companies are looking at the possibility of inserting advertising in the future.

The new Yahoo service allows consumers to contribute ratings and reviews to podcasts. One difference from iTunes is the ability for consumers to contribute their own tags to the podcasts. Tags are words used by the Yahoo search engine in finding listings. Tagging is an easier method than searching through audio files.

Yahoo also lists the most popular podcasts on its service and the highest rated, and also offers editor's picks and browsing by categories.

During the testing period, Yahoo plans to add publishing tools that would enable people to create and publish their own podcasts.

Rival America Online Inc. has said it plans to add podcast search to its general search engine this fall. The Dulles, Va., company said it plans to integrate TVEyes Inc.'s Podscope search technology to AOL Search. TVEyes's technology creates a spoken-word index for every word in audio and video files, making them searchable in the same manner as text pages on the Web, the Fairfield, Conn., company said.

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