For many web users, Pandora's streaming radio was their first taste of algorithmic recommendation engines tailored to the listener. Pandora has a lot of competition now, but it expands to a new area: podcasts.
From today, some Pandora beta users have access to personalized recommendations for podcasts based on Podcast Genome Project. It is an extension of the original Music Genome Project, the proprietary engine that drives Pandora's recommendation engine by finding common elements in music that a single user has. Podcasts are usually spoken and far beyond individual music tracks, so they can not be quantified in the same mathematical way as music can. But the principle of recommending content based on things that a user enjoys or dislikes (the familiar thumbs up / thumbs down) is sound.
The Recommendation Engine uses 1500 different data points to accommodate upcoming episodes of the listener and covers the wide range of genres in the medium, from This American Life to Questlove. That said, Pandora talks about how it has "collaborated with top level publishers," which probably means getting your indie Beyblade enthusiast podcast to the real Pandora app will not be as easy as it's on platforms like iTunes and SoundCloud.
Pandora accepts early access applications on this link. The press release states that the full podcast functionality will be widely available "in the next few weeks." Podcasts are only available in the mobile app at the moment.