What Do Listeners Want From Radio Talent? Mostly, A Good Time


The integration of generative artificial intelligence into broadcasting sparked a significant study focusing on the most pivotal roles of radio air talent. The 2024 CRS Research Presentation by Smith Geiger underscored the irreplaceable value of human connection.

The research reveals a clear preference among country music fans for live radio, driven by the personalities that bring music and content to life. With 65% of listeners tuning into country music via streaming and 60% through terrestrial radio, the convenience and familiarity of radio remain unmatched, providing a hassle-free listening experience that caters to the audience’s desire for relaxation and entertainment.

Listeners value the connection they feel with on-air personalities, who not only introduce them to new music but also offer companionship and insights into the songs and artists they love.

74% of listeners recall hearing on-air voices at least occasionally, with a significant 34% often or every time they tune in. The presence of an on-air personality is a driving factor for increased listening time, particularly noted in 32% of the overall audience and an impressive 46% among Black audiences.

The study highlights the audience’s preference for authenticity over polish, with 86% favoring genuine personalities who might not always be polished but are relatable. 73% of listeners prefer personalities who share stories and insights about the music, indicating a strong desire for a personal touch that enhances the listening experience. This preference extends to the style of presentation, with 68% favoring a casual, everyman approach and 63% appreciating personalities who steer clear of values or politics discussions.

Key findings about the essential elements for on-air talent include the importance of being a real person (not a bot), authenticity, and a positive outlook, which resonate the most with listeners. Conversely, less critical elements include having shared interests or political views, and surprisingly, being local to the listener’s area, suggesting that great personalities can transcend geographical boundaries.

When it comes to content, listeners show a preference for country music news, information about the music or artist being played, local breaking news, and general area weather. They express less interest in broader news categories, including national and international news, sports, and politics, highlighting the role of country radio as an escape from the everyday.

The format and style of on-air talent also play a role in listener preferences, with slight preferences for teams over solo talent, humorous over earnest presentations, and a focus on music over other content types. However, the reception of AI voices in radio broadcasting is mixed, with a notable portion of the audience either skeptical or outright opposed to the idea, emphasizing the continued importance of human elements in radio.

As country radio navigates the evolving landscape of AI and digital technologies, the study underscores the enduring value of human connection, authenticity, and relatability in on-air talent, which remain central to the listening experience.


  1. Listeners want someone real, that talks about real stuff. Not the overly excited nonsense that 99% of air-talent display. It’s so beyond fake and radio still has not received the hint… somehow. This is why nobody listens. With instant access to satellite, streaming apps, podcasts, etc., radio needs to wake the f@*k up!


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