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DISNEY COURTS THE POD PEOPLE.

Byline: Evan Pondel Staff Writer

Could podcasts one day replace broadcasts?

The Walt Disney Co. will give the new techno-trend a boost today when it starts podcasting festivities that will lead up to Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration, which kicks off Thursday.

``This all goes back to Walt's legacy,'' said Duncan Wardle, a spokesman for Burbank-based Disney. ``Walt is the first person to put sound on animated film. And we are continuing Walt's legacy by pushing the boundaries of innovation.''

The technology made famous by Apple's iPod enables people to download audio files to a portable device like an iPod, or myriad other digital music players on the market.

Local radio stations began podcasting earlier this year with KCRW-FM (89.9) leading the way. The station offers locally produced talk, news, cultural programs and commentaries free of charge via podcast.

Music isn't included; that's because podcasting music gets a little complicated when factoring royalty rights.

``It's a sticky situation that will probably be figured out, eventually,'' said Jason Georges, Webmaster at Santa Monica-based KCRW.

For now, ``our news is the most popular (podcast) because people want take the news with them.''

When KCRW launched its podcasts in February, about 10,000 people took advantage of the technology the first week. Now, about 20,000 people visit KCRW's Web site for podcasting.

``It is becoming more and more commonplace. Magazines are podcasting and even film companies are doing podcasts of their stars,'' said Georges, who noted that KCRW podcasts are not exclusive to iPod owners.

Disney hired Michael Geoghegan to take care of its anniversary podcast. The self-proclaimed podcaster has his own show titled ``Reel Reviews'' where he waxes about films worth watching. Geoghegan entered the podcast arena in October, realizing that the technology plays a big role in easing the transfer of audio files.

``It also ensures that people can listen on their own terms,'' said Geoghegan, still giddy from his recently inked deal with Disney.

The more pressing issue is how to distinguish between a podcast and broadcast. For starters, the word podcast is like what Kleenex is to tissue, a product's name (a la the iPod) that is now a general term applied to downloading audio files. The other difference between a podcast and a broadcast is that the latter, by definition, reaches a larger audience.

That means for podcasting ``the only place to really find traction is in niche audiences,'' said Todd Richmond, Ph.D and managing director at the USC Annenberg Center for Communication. ``Personally, I don't think the typical Disneyland person is a person who is going to be listening to a podcast.''

Unless that person is a fan of country singer LeAnn Rimes. On Thursday, Disney plans a podcast-debut of her song ``Remember When'' at the anniversary celebration. Richmond said Disney will have to work hard at selling its podcast because the company is usually more concerned about experience, not content. ``And podcasts are really about the content.''

Of course, even with exceptional content, podcasts aren't always a surefire winner.

``(It's) still inconceivable to me how podcasting could go mainstream at all,'' said Don Barrett, radio historian and editor of the industry Web site laradio.com. ``TiVo isn't even mainstream yet.''

Evan Pondel, (818) 713-3662

evan.pondel(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 3, 2005
Words:545
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