Toyota Motor Sales USA’s Lexus division has become the latest mainstream brand to seize on podcasting as a marketing tool. The luxury auto company has signed a 26-week deal to sponsor podcasts at Santa Monica, Calif., public radio station KCRW. The pact was signed on behalf of the Southern California Lexus Dealers and goes into effect tin October.

Other auto brands
Lexus joins marketers such as General Motors Corp., Audi and Warner Bros. that are investigating this emerging technology that combines attributes of the Internet and radio to create a new sort of hybrid.

Podcasting is a method of distributing digital audio files across the Internet for users to download onto their iPods and MP3 players to listen to at their leisure. Some 22 million Americans now have a device that plays such files.

“Podcasting is a way to reach a fresh audience, a niche audience,” said Bill Flitter, chief marketing officer and founder of RSS ad network Pheedo. Audi, for example, is sponsoring a podcast for Autoblog. But Lexus also joins brands like condom maker Durex that want to appeal to younger, hipper consumers who are never far from their iPods and the desire to experience media of their choice when and how they want it.