He was once a distant, elusive figure accessible only through letters, parades and mall visits. Now, with the click of a mouse, Santa Claus can be easily reached via e-mail, blogs and, yes, even podcasts.

“It’s a whole new way for kids to interact with Santa on a more personal level to hear what’s going on in the North Pole, to hear his voice,” says Todd Hustins, co-creator of a Toronto-based website that posts a daily blog and free audio podcast from Saint Nick.

“If the kids know what they’re doing, it is downloadable, but you just click on it and it starts playing. We’re also in Apple’s ITunes, so you can subscribe to Santa’s podcast and story and then it gets downloaded right to your music player.”

Podcasting, which allows distributing audio or video programs via the Internet in precisely this way, is a new phenomenon for Father Christmas, says Hustins. “There’s been nothing like this done before.”

The podcasts on www.santasjournal.com contain holiday music underneath the voice of Santa telling personal stories, like how he and Mrs. Claus vacation in the winter months in colder climates so they can ski and eat la tire, a French-Canadian treat made by pouring maple syrup over snow.

“I don’t want everyone seeing me in my swimming trunks,” says the round-bellied man in his podcast on why he doesn’t vacation in the summer. “After all, it’s no secret I don’t have Brad Pitt’s look.”

The podcasts are produced from Hustins’ Five Star Experience office (the company provides a gift-giving service) by his business partner, Joseph Lavoie, who describes himself as a “press secretary” for Saint Nick.

“He has a couple elves that are involved in technological developments at the North Pole,” says Lavoie. “They try and operate as much as they can so that he doesn’t break anything. They get the microphone hooked up on him and then they set the recording, they’ll mix it if they need to and then they’ll get it published.”

One writer to an online scrapbooking forum writes of the Santa’s Journal podcasts, “Santa has a remarkably American accent (I guess he should be as non-national as possible). His voice isn’t deep enough.”

But Lavoie says the quality of the podcasts suffers a bit because “often the northern lights will interfere with the electronics in the North Pole.”

Other features on the site include “a never before told” Christmas story, a Santa Claus facts page and a space to e-mail him – features that are available on dozens of other websites devoted to Santa.

Brandon Lobaugh is co-owner of Iowa-based www.SantaSpeaking.com, which posts a Santa blog and accepts “hundreds of e-mails a day” for him.

“Santa, last year, was the seventh most popular search on the Internet,” he said over the line from his Sioux City office. “What it provides for the family is that they don’t have to get out and go to the mall.”

Still, Lobaugh doesn’t think this is the demise of the standard Santa letter.

“I still think they send them off, but there’s just more and more kids that are involved with the Internet,” he says.

“I think it’s really just kind of the way things are going of how children can communicate their wishes and wants to Santa for Christmas.”