In a sign that what is old is new again, U.S. conglomerate General Electric Co is producing its own science fiction podcast series in an effort to raise its profile among a younger, tech-savvy audience.
GE, in partnership with The Slate Group's podcast network Panoply, is running "The Message," a fictional eight-episode podcast that will follow the decoding of a 70 year-old message from outer space. The cryptologists decoding the message turn to a real ultrasound technology developed by GE to decode the messages.
"It's science fiction meets real science," said Andy Goldberg, GE's global creative director.
The idea for the series stemmed from the company's historic "GE Theater" television series, which was hosted by Ronald Reagan, then an actor, in the 1950s.
GE is producing its own podcast series, rather than running ads on other podcasts because it specifically does not want the shows to come off as advertising, but rather as a way to raise brand awareness, Goldberg said. The 40-60 minute spots, which begin Oct. 4, will be advertisement-free and will be available for download for free. Goldberg declined to comment on how much GE is spending on the podcasts.
GE is among a number of firms whose interest in podcasts has increased since last year's airing of "Serial," the hit podcast chronicling a murder investigation.
"It flipped a switch for us that podcasting was no longer going to be informational pieces but could be entertainment," Goldberg said.
Podcasts are a small, but growing part of the digital media marketplace. Seventeen percent of teens and adults listen to one podcast per month, up from 15 percent last year, according to Edison Research.
The medium has gotten so much initial interest, that the Interactive Advertising Bureau held its first "podcast upfronts," for companies to promote their podcasts to advertisers in September.
While GE's move is novel, it is likely that more advertisers will follow rather than just run ads during podcasts, said eMarketer analyst Paul Verna. It is like the next iteration of "native advertising," where companies create sponsored content to promote their offerings, he said.
Launching podcasts is the latest initiative by GE to get in front of a younger, tech-savvy audience. Last year, the company teamed up with the "Tonight Show," to run "GE Fallonventions," 8-10 minute segments where child inventors showcase their creations on the show.
(Editing by Bernard Orr)