(By Buzz Knight) The Radio industry has been a source of entertainment, information, and connection for decades. Over the years, it has evolved, sometimes slowly, but it has always embraced new technologies to stay relevant in the quest to reach broader audiences.
One such technology is Artificial Intelligence, which is currently transforming the entire media landscape and the way businesses operate. While generative AI is the latest iteration, the technology has been around in one way or another since 1951 when its use was first documented for a checkers-playing program.
However, I (among others) have a growing concern that the motivation for many companies to integrate AI is based primarily on cost-cutting measures. Let’s look at three early considerations around AI that radio operators and owners shouldn’t skip:
The Importance of the Human Voice
Yes, AI can mimic the human voice, and some stations are already using AI-generated air talent, but s the radio business evaluates and considers AI’s potential, strong and strategic consideration needs to be given to the role human touch plays in executing tasks with the highest degree of quality and accuracy.
It’s worth remembering that if you replace a human on-air, one thing an AI-generated jock can’t do is connect in-person at live broadcasts or in-person events. The emotion, personality, and authenticity of the human voice can’t completely be left by the side of the road, either.
AI can’t replace the humanity that a real person brings to an experience. This is especially crucial in moments when a market is experiencing some type of tragedy or disaster when radio engages with its community to help inform and heal. Even if you disclose how your talent is AI, it can’t replace warmth, reliability, and genuine emotion – and the human brain can tell the difference.
The rush to implement AI for cost-cutting purposes can have unintended consequences. Job losses in the radio industry will lead to a loss of talent and expertise.
Radio stations have worked hard to build trust with their listeners over the years based on reliable and accurate reporting. AI systems can make mistakes, and if not carefully monitored with a “human touch” they could erode this trust. As the saying goes, “Trust takes years to build, seconds to destroy, and a lifetime to repair.”
Human oversight is essential to maintain the integrity of station content delivered via AI automation.
Creativity and Innovation
Radio thrives on creativity and innovation, from pioneering new music genres to creating groundbreaking shows. AI can be a tool to assist in these creative endeavors, helping radio professionals push the boundaries of what’s possible, but it isn’t a replacement for the bizarre, idiosyncratic, and delightful spontaneity and ingenuity of the human brain.
Radio should not stifle its own creativity, particularly at this important time in its lifecycle, by focusing solely on cost-cutting measures.
While AI offers promising possibilities for the radio industry, it should not be seen as a panacea for cost-cutting. The human element, content quality, listener engagement, and maintaining trust are essential aspects of radio that AI can enhance but not replace. Radio’s future should be a fusion of technology and human creativity, where AI serves as a valuable tool, not a cost-cutting measure.
I’ll be part of an AI Town Hall on Thursday, February 29 at 8:30a led by the great Mike McVay along with Zena Burns and my pal Fred Jacobs at the 2024 Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. Hope to see you there.