Podcasts: they’re everywhere, and it’s becoming easier to list the media companies who don’t utilize the technology than it is to get a handle on the actual numbers available to potential listeners. Feedburner, a media distribution and audience engagement service provider, has 431,171 publishers as clients (including “A-List bloggers,” Wall Street Journal Online, Reuters, Wired News, and a couple hundred thousand others), and 736,494 feeds available as of May 29. In that mix, Feedburner services 112,989 podcasts.

Google bought Feedburner June 1. No details were announced, and Feedburner was quick to point out that “the terms of the acquisition are confidential, and the deal is officially closed.” Even more interesting is this quote: “We are excited to have the FeedBurner team join the Google team. The FeedBurner website will remain operational as we continue to integrate their technologies with Google’s tools.”

Which is apparently Feedburner’s best response to questions about the service maintaining it’s autonomy from the insatiable Google media monster (Care for a Facebook sandwich, GoogleMonster?).

Podcasting makes sense. It’s a flexible medium for listeners and creators, and is tied to affordable technology. News, entertainment, nonsense, it’s all readily available. But as a vehicle for independent production, is podcasting in danger of being overwhelmed by the usual corporate suspects, like Google, Business Week, the major news corps or any other major media company that can afford to dominate what could be an important tool for the indie scene?

Money and time and brand recognition are indie issues. Business Week, for instance, can afford to pay for the creation of podcasts under the BW brand, ensuring the potential listener of a certain level of familiarity and quality. An indie podcaster likely isn’t making any money for her efforts, and with the vast number of podcasts available, recognition comes slowly, if at all. Nora Young, a technology writer and CBC broadcaster, says, “if there isn’t a viable business model for indie podcasters, there’s going to be a lot of burnout. Will regular people be able to compete? No, but they can have a niche as long as they are offering something unique.”

Not all podcasters have Youngâe(TM)s skills or media connections (or her voice). She is currently creating podcasts as a value-added soft marketing tool for businesses. This work allows her time to work on the sniffer, a personal, techy and fun podcast that is like a conversation with Young and her podcasting partner Cathi Bond. Much less formal than their other broadcasting roles, the sniffer allows them to talk with one another, and the listeners, more directly and personally and doesnâe(TM)t interfere with the paying work which they’ve termed ”the sniffer industrial.”

Dealing with a popular indie media bugaboo, Young sees nothing wrong with corporate sponsorship of podcasts, if (and it’s a big If), “they can be done without conflict of interest.” She cites Cathi Bond and Judy Rebick’s movie podcast, Reel Women on the rabble podcast network, which is sponsored by zip.ca, a company unaffiliated with individual movies or studios, as a good example of positive or corporate neutral sponsorship.

Podcasting is definitely working for Nora Young, and others like her with the skills and connections to create interesting and entertaining material. Young and Bond are, in a sense, brands of their own. They’ve built their careers to a certain standing and are taking advantage of their skills and name recognition to stand out in a media-saturated “netscape.” It appears they’re having fun, too.

Jim Munroe, creator of nomediakings.org, has used podcasts on his site. Munroe is also interested in corporate versus indie issues, and makes effective use of new technology. He started to self-publish his novels after going through the regular publishing game with his first book, and has since branched out into all sorts of interesting new media outlets. Munroe is an example of what Young calls “the self correcting” nature of online media. His material is fresh, creative, and fun, so his name becomes known, and his personal brand grows. If his material were poor, he’d just be another name on the net. Munroe is a fan of podcasts because of the nature of audio: “There’s an intimacy with audio you don’t get with visual mediums.” Technology is flowing alongside his own creative projects, as Munroe recently produced a movie and offers it as a vidcast (video podcast) on his site.

All this tech talk and creative meshing of media may leave indie podcasting fans pulling at their hair. There’s so much to read, so many hours of good sound, so little time to take it all in. And any newbie or hopeful podcasters must be feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of quality and quantity, let alone figuring out where they stand on the whole indie versus corporate battlefield. Perhaps Young puts it best when she says, ”I truly think that if people are doing it for self-expression, and to further the collective conversation about something they’re passionate about, then that can’t be a bad thing. The challenge as a podcaster is in staying motivated and not burning out.”

Or selling out for undisclosed sums of money and client control, like Feedburner.