New research predicts that podcasting — the personalized downloading of media content to portable devices — is set to explode over the next few years.
The Diffusion Group predicted that the U.S. podcast audience would climb from 840,000 in 2004 to 56 million by 2010. By that time, 75 percent of all people who own portable digital music players will listen to podcasts, up from less than 15 percent last year.
The forecast comes amid much hype over podcasting. Apple Computer, whose iPod music player spawned the term podcast, recently added 3000 podcast programs to its iTunes online music store.
What began as a system for distributing mostly homemade audio programming over the Web has now caught on with big media companies. ABC News, NBC News, ESPN Disney and National Public Radio have all introduced podcast programming in recent weeks.
The Diffusion Group’s figures are higher than other research firms. Forrester Research predicted in April that 12.3 million U.S. households would use MP3 players to listen to audio podcasts by the end of the decade.
The Diffusion Group’s data is based on sales of portable digital music players and high-speed Internet penetration.