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Human Versus Machine

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is at the center of conversation in many conference rooms around the nation. Nowhere more so than in the realm of media. The NAB was abuzz with conversations both pro and con the use of AI. NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt, in his opening address, expressed concern over “Big Tech” taking broadcast content and not properly compensating broadcasters and content creators for their content. Concern was also expressed about misrepresenting a story and how that impacts credible journalism. The CEO shared his fear of what could happen with AI and is asking lawmakers to provide guardrails.

During his talk, he also outlined what he sees as opportunities. “My own view is there are some real potentially hyperlocal benefits to AI.” Noting the lack of resources and the constraints that local stations are under, LeGeyt said “Investigative journalism is never going to be replaced by AI. Our role at local community events, philanthropic work, is never going to be replaced by AI. But to the degree that we can leverage AI to do some of the things that are time-consuming and take away your ability to be boots on the ground doing the things that only you can do well, I think that’s a positive.”

The NAB exhibit hall had several companies displaying their tools that employ Artificial Intelligence. Present at sessions and events during the NAB was Futuri. Their brand of AI is RadioGPT and their marketing of the tool prompted a lot of word of mouth leading up to and during the NAB. Listen to the online stream of RadioGPT and you can understand why. The AI Jocks sound nearly human. It takes a trained ear to hear the nuances.

RadioGPT is connected to TopicPulse which enables the AI talent to talk about topics trending in a local market targeted to a specific demographic. As such it can provide local information and content. It can tell you when there’s a tornado warning or when a train carrying hazardous chemicals has derailed. It’s that service that can be a benefit to radio in using the service during hours that currently lack live and local air-talent, have no syndication and are without voice-tracked personalities. Although the leadership at Futuri said that they believe human intervention is always necessary when such breaking news events happen.

There are some big competitors in the space. 11Eleven Labs markets their platform as “The most realistic and versatile AI speech software, ever.” Their platform is the backbone of several in the AI Audio space. ENCO was high profile at the NAB and displayed two ChatGPT solutions. Those are AITrack and ENCO-GPT which generate language responses from text-based queries. These programs have been added to their TV and Radio Production workflows. SuperHiFi has an AI Radio solution. Typecast provides AI voice and Avatar images. Veritone presented AI Voice at last year’s 2022 NAB Show.

Social media has had an ongoing conversation about AI and it’s use in Media. Mainly from talent, but also from some operators, producers and programmers. These social media comments are often peppered with anecdotal comments, little fact, and many emotional responses. It reminds me of how people reacted negatively when voice-tracking was first introduced. Daypart syndication/network shows came long and satellite programming became widespread. It harkens back to the early days of automation.

In Radio Ink Headlines for April 2nd I wrote “Stop the Surrender.” In that article I shared my concern that too many broadcasters are ignoring nights, overnights and weekends. I pleaded that we stop ignoring non-prime dayparts and add quality syndicated programs, use voice-tracked talent or master the use of AI, but stop believing that 48 minutes of music, no talent and lots of commercials, will do anything to attract an audience. AI is just one solution. Voice tracking is another and so is syndicated programming.

Artificial Intelligence is here. It can be used to enable broadcasters with limited resources to magnify their employee team by giving them more time to execute their jobs in the communities we serve. Sadly, there will be those who will eliminate local talent and use an AI disc jockey. I wish that wasn’t something that I expect will happen. Still, I cannot imagine they will eliminate high-performing on-air personalities who generate real revenue for their station, that have big ratings, and are connected to the market. Take notice; If you’re not one of those high-performers, you have more than AI to worry about.

How does man VS the machine? Talent should look to do those things that AI cannot do and take this opportunity to improve your radio game.

  • Be observational on-air. Talk about those things you see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Use all of your five senses. Mention the new graffiti you see on the water tank on the ride into town.

  • Share stories from your life and experiences that matter to your audience. We often talk to talent about character development. This is the reason why. Be human and be relatable.

  • Make a connection with your audience. Becoming their friend, means that AI, Syndication, or a Voice Tracker has to come between you and the audience.

  • The content you create and prepare to present needs to be more than something you found on the Internet. What can you say, share, present that isn’t accessible to every other personality who does a show on the radio? What can you create that goes beyond what you get from a show prep service?

  • Think about what you can do off-air that increases your worth. Go on ride-along’s with members of the sales department as they visit advertisers. Endorse products. Execute remote broadcasts. Offer creative ideas to the promotion and production departments. Even if they won’t use your suggestions. It shows that you care.

  • Make appearances whenever possible. Be everywhere and be seen everywhere. My longtime friends who performed as Jeff & Jer on multiple San Diego radio stations always spoke of the need to “Marry the Market.” Do that. Be committed to your community and that doesn’t mean reading PSA’s.

Artificial Intelligence has been a part of the media landscape for a while, even though it is new to radio. It’s not going away. It will get better. There will be more tech companies entering the arena. Its’ presence cannot be ignored without damaging a stations long-term success. Changes to the personality approach is necessary. Use AI to your advantage. Stop worrying about the machine … be better than the machine.

In the words of George Bernard Shaw “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds about change cannot change anything.”

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