Search company Blinkx has today added tools to track down podcasts and online blogs to its armoury of content trackers.

There has been exponential growth in the amount of such content being posted on the Web in the past six months, with industry experts estimating a 25-fold growth, almost all of which is accounted for by podcasts.

With the exception of the podcasting functions recently added to iTunes, it’s been nigh-on impossible to hunt down weblogs and other user-generated content except for those hosted on the best-known blogging sites, such as Blogger and Blogcast. To make it easy to distinguish between types of content sought and returned, dedicated buttons for podcast and RSS feeds have today been added to the Blinkx interface.

Bots and spiders

The reason, according to Blinkx co-founder and chief technology officer Suranga Chandratillake, is that most search engines such as Google, Yahoo and AltaVista, rely on ‘bots’ or ‘spiders’ to crawl the web looking for text-based web pages and metatag information supplied by website designers. Audio streams such as podcasts are therefore nearly invisible to most search engines.

Blinkx uses traditional search tools but augments them by tapping into the spoken word, too. A bank of PCs hunts down spoken audio and video content and uses voice-recognition software to transcribe it. In addition, its searchers seek out closed captioning information from UK and US TV programmes, adding to the amount of video content consumers can access.

Chandratillake says Blinkx has agreements in place with 30 to 40 of the largest broadcasters through which it is able to return previews and full-length clips of TV and movie content.

By the end of this year, he claims, Blinkx should be able to offer toolbar links to commercial content, at which point the company will be able to start recouping some of its development costs. Examples include context-sensitive advertising, much like Google, but also partnerships and push-throughs with Amazon and others.

Blinkx has already been trialling a partnership with online movie rental service Movielink in the US and is likely to try something similar with European DVD download and rental services once copyright issues can be agreed across the film industry.

Blinkx brought in a new search era when it launched TV searching at the beginning of the year. As with podcasting, Blinkx TV is based around voice-recognition engines that can make sense of dialogue and then regurgitate it as results returned by the Blinkx search engine.