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Podcast Listeners Still Few

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NEW YORK Despite a growing familiarity with podcasting, only a small percentage of Americans regularly listen to them, according to a new report.

A Forrester Research consumer poll found that 25 percent of online consumers expressed interest in podcasts, citing the ability to listen to programming on their own schedule. Just 1 percent of households, however, said they regularly listened to podcasts and only 2 percent had sampled them.

"It doesn't diminish how powerful or interesting it is, but people need to be realistic about how many people are listening," said Charlene Li, an analyst with Forrester.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based firm surveyed 5,000 Internet users.

It found podcast listeners are currently a small group, more likely to be young, male and tech savvy.

Li said finding podcasts is still too difficult, although it was made easier by Apple's decision to add a podcast directory to iTunes and Yahoo's introduction of a podcast search engine. In addition to the small audience, podcast advertising is held back by few reliable measurement standards, with most based on files downloaded rather than actual listening audience.

The research also cast doubt on podcasting as a medium to level the playing field between media companies and amateur content. It found the most respondents either interested by podcasts or already listening chose existing content, such as broadcast radio programs.

Despite the low adoption rate, Forrester sees podcasting growing quickly, predicting 12 million households will regularly listen to the media delivery system by 2010.

Forrester's findings are in contrast to those of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which in April estimated 6 million Americans had listened to a podcast, including 29 percent who owned an MP3 player.