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AI and Radio

The Country Radio Seminar (CRS) wrapped up this past Friday night. The trend of media conferences focusing on Artificial Intelligence continued with this one. There were four different presentations or panel discussions on AI, including the AI Town Hall which I moderated. Joined by Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media, Zena Burns of Moxie Coalition, and Buzz Knight of Buzz Knight Media. The packed room was treated to research results from Jacobs, insight, and shared experiences as well as takeaways from Burns, and real life experiences from Knight.

This year’s Town Hall was the follow-up to last year’s CRS AI session anchored by Zena and WIVK Morning Personality Joey Tack.  That one was on the heels of the launch announcement of the first ever AI Radio Personality. While last year there was a threat of villagers at the gate with torches and pitchforks, the two handled it beautifully. Twelve months later there was concern expressed, but none at the heightened pitch of the 2023 session. There’s been much learned over the past year, and more are engaged in learning how to harness the power of AI than to fear it. Although an Instant Poll executed by Zena showed that a significant number of attendees remain “suspicious” of AI.

Fred Jacobs shared insight as a part of the annual Jacobs Media Tech Survey. Particularly that segment that asked Country fans about AI. The sample consisted of 3,900 Country fans all over the USA with some Canadians included. The survey was conducted in January and early February of this year, so the data was very current. Interestingly 60% of those surveyed were unfamiliar with AI. When probed further, of those who are aware if AI, 74% are either Very Concerned or Somewhat Concerned about AI. The biggest flashing warning light, not surprisingly, is in regard to 72% of the group being concerned with AI taking over for their favorite personalities. There is less concern over AI voicing commercials and little concern with technology being used to deliver station imaging.

Zena reminded the attendees that some ignored digital, and it didn’t go away. AI isn’t going away either. She shared a list of productive ways to engage AI, including Generating Ideas, Thought Partnership, Getting insights from social media, Creating content in your voice, analyzing content, and so much more.

In another session, the Recording Academy’s Chief Advocacy and Public Policy Officer Todd Dupler focused on voice duplication, which is an issue for both artists and performers, but is also an issue for all talent who make a living using their voice.  Bo Mathews, Alpha Media San Jose Programming and Operations Director, moderated a session titled “AI; Work Smarter, Not Harder” which included the aforementioned Tack and Futuri’s Scott Lindy. Futuri is famous for having worked with Alpha EVP Programming & Content Phil Becker to launch the first personality AI product which landed on one of Alpha’s radio stations.

Cumulus VP/Country, Charlie Cook, moderated the final of the four sessions which paid finite attention to how AI can impact people both positively or negatively. Those being impacted, whether on-air, working in production, voice-tracking or in a support role, were attentive as AI Ashley (Ashley Elzinga), Attorney Anna Chauvet, and Talent Agent and President of The Weiss Agency, Heather Cohen spoke.  This session did feel some heat from the audience as talent are concerned for their future employment. The most important underlying statements from the panelists is that we don’t know what we don’t know about AI. This is an ever evolving situation.

I can think of no better words to put a bow on the attention AI received at CRS beyond the words of Zena Burns. She emphasized that we should not allow the tail to wag the dog … and encouraged us to remember that we’re the dog.

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