Apple announced on Monday that the number of podcast subscribers within the iTunes Store have reached a whopping one billion, after formally launching podcasts within iTunes 4.9 in June 2005. Apple's announcement came from a special banner hanging within the Podcasts category of iTunes, a fitting place. 

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Specifically, Cupertino-based Apple says there are 250,000 unique podcasts available on the iTunes Store, across more than 100 languages. Adding all of the published podcasts together, 8 million episodes have been pushed to the world for your listening pleasure. 

The top-ranked podcasts currently include Welcome to Night Vale, This American Life, The Nerdist and several NPR programmes. Apple lists "The Classics" to include This American Life, TWiT, NPR, Stuff You Should Know, and more - not much different from what's hot today. 

"Podcasts have provided a great way for our audience to engage with our content,"Zach Brand, VP of NPR Digital Media, told Pocket-lint. "iTunes created a platform where fans of public radio can get the best of what they want, whenever they want.  After more than a dozen years, and many different evolutions, podcast listening is continuing to grow for us." 

It's clear that Apple has had a substantial effect on the way podcasts are distributed. A St Paul Pioneer-Press article in July 2005, one month after Apple's foray into the podcast market, explained the iTunes effect.

"Suddenly, the obscure, geeky podcasting world was thrust into the mainstream as millions of average Windows and Macintosh users discovered the downloadable shows and took to them in droves," the publication wrote. "Within about two days, iTunes fans subscribed to podcasts more than a million times for use on their Apple iPod players."