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Search giant Yahoo tunes into podcasting

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hoping to tune into the latest craze in digital media, Yahoo Inc. is introducing tools for finding, organizing, and rating ''podcasts" -- the audio programs designed to be played on Apple Inc.'s iPod and many other portable music players.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, which operates the world's most visited website, plans to begin testing the new service today at podcasts.yahoo.com.

Although it can do several things, the free service focuses on making it easier for people to sift through the tens of thousands of podcasts currently available on the Internet to find the programming best suited to their personal interests.

''We intend to be the most comprehensive source for podcast content," said Geoff Ralston, Yahoo's chief product officer.

Yahoo isn't the first website to search podcasts. Specialty websites such as Odeo.com and Podcast.net already do the same thing.

But Yahoo is the first Internet heavyweight to tackle the task.

''We feel like we are really getting ahead of the curve with this," Ralston said.

It's only a matter of time before Yahoo's rivals, including online search engine leader Google Inc., introduce similar podcasting features, predicted Phil Leigh, an analyst for Inside Digital Media in Tampa, Fla.

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