AI in Broadcasting: A Companion, Not a Competitor
This is a transcript of the latest episode of Anstandig on The Business of Content: Artificial Intelligence and The Future of Broadcasting. Listen to the episode, which explores AI and the future of broadcasting, on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
Hi, I'm Daniel Anstandig, and this is Anstandig on The Business of Content. There is no audience without content, and there is no business without audience. So whether you're working in mainstream media or you're building your personal content empire, if you want to thrive in the business of content, this podcast is for you.
Today, we're talking about artificial intelligence and its role in the future of broadcasting. We'll also talk about some recent controversy on that topic, which is not something I usually find myself in the middle of, but recently have. Stay tuned and find out why.
In the year 2030, there will be two types of companies: those that have incorporated artificial intelligence into their operating strategies, and those that are extinct. AI is already disrupting many industries, and companies that fail to embrace it will be left behind. AI will be more advanced and mature by 2030. And companies that don't adopt it now will struggle to compete with those that do because it's going to accelerate.
There are many benefits of AI for business.
AI can help companies automate many tasks that are repetitive and time-consuming, like data entry and customer service. It can also help businesses make better decisions by analyzing large amounts of data and identifying patterns that humans may miss.
It can improve customer experience by providing personalized recommendations and faster service. There are huge benefits. But overall, AI will change the nature of work.
A big question that comes up all the time is, “Am I going to lose my job to AI?” Well, I don't believe that AI will replace people. But I do believe that people who use AI will replace other people.
So this means that companies and people who harness the power of AI to make themselves more efficient are going to be the ones who win long-term. And that includes broadcasting.
Now broadcast media is an industry that I personally love. I grew up loving this industry. I started in radio when I was nine years old at in Cleveland, Ohio at WELW, a family-owned radio station (I also had a pirate radio station — another story for another time). But growing up loving the media business, and radio in particular, I always had this idea that radio was invented 100 years ago in 1920 — but what if radio was created after the internet?
What if today was the first day that radio existed?
Well, we started Futuri with this question. And we answered that radio would be on demand, it would be personalized, and it would be highly interactive. It would be integrated with social media. Advertisers would deliver compelling targeted promotions to captivate audiences.
So we've built a team at Futuri to bring that vision to life. Our team has computer scientists, data scientists, business managers, broadcast managers, all working together to shape the future of media. And we're always pursuing creative innovative ways to use technology to keep broadcast media ahead of the curve.
Well, to that end, in February, at Futuri, we launched RadioGPT™, the world's first localized radio concept powered entirely by artificial intelligence — said differently, 100% ai powered radio personalities. Here's how it works:
First, we tie into a broadcast stations automation system, we see what they've scheduled. We can see what's trending in their local market using our TopicPulse system, which scans Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and over 250,000 news sources.
Then we use the back end of GPT, which today is GPT-4. And we use AI voices that we've been developing since 2019 at Futuri, and altogether, this creates RadioGPT™, a full end-to-end solution, completely automated, that sees what's trending, sees what's in your music log and talks about it on the air, live and locally because the voice tracks are updated in real-time based on what's happening in your market.
More than just text-to-speech
Now, this should not be confused with text-to-speech engines that have been out there for a number of years. This is not entering text and then having a robot read it. This is a full end-to-end artificial intelligence personality.
You're giving it a voice, you're giving it character traits, and a personal view of the world based on age and characteristics. And then it's looking at what's currently trending, and it's talking about those topics based on the sentiment and even adjusting its voice based on the sentiment of the story that it's reporting on or talking about.
A passionate response — pro and con.
Well, as you can imagine, the launch generated a lot of passionate responses, some positive, some negative. On the positive side, a lot of people see RadioGPT™ as I do — a way for broadcast radio to use technology to enhance our relationship with listeners, because the fact is that radio personalities have a relationship with our audience like no other.
But very few radio stations are actually live and local 24/7. In fact, if we're being real, most radio stations only have one or two live day parts anywhere in the country, and those that have more than that are beyond blessed. Now, in the radio business, there are a lot of shifts like nights and overnights and weekends where almost every station runs, essentially pre-recorded content sweepers, promos, maybe voice tracks that were recorded hours or days in advance thousands of miles away by an overworked radio personality. That's just the truth of it.
Mike McVay, who is a radio programming legend, talks often about how some broadcast radio stations have surrendered what's called the fringe day parts to streaming platforms like Spotify. And radio needs to give people a reason to listen to all hours instead of just assuming that they will because they have an amazing morning show, so they might as well also listen on Thursday night.
Well, RadioGPT™ is a way to use artificial intelligence to surround beloved, in-the-community personalities with relevant content around the clock. Also, think about this. Over 15 million people in the United States work third-shift. These are emergency medical technicians, factory workers, security guards, transportation workers, truck drivers, airline staff, hospitality workers, and all they ever hear of radio is pre-recorded sweepers liners and maybe voice tracks. What a shame. Don't we owe them more as an industry?
Add to this the irony that on the same day, we announced RadioGPT™, Spotify announced their new AI DJ. So if radio doesn't add more personalization and personality to our 24/7 linear streams in the broadcast industry, it certainly will be done by the streaming companies.
Using AI as a tool.
Now, since the release of RadioGPT™, there are a lot of people in the radio industry who have expressed concerns about job disruptions. But I believe that RadioGPT™ can be a valuable tool for broadcasters. It can enhance the quality of programming and listener engagement. And it's true that tech advancements can sometimes lead to job disruptions. But I believe that embracing new technology can ultimately lead to a more vibrant and sustainable radio industry. And I encourage my broadcast brothers and sisters to view RadioGPT™ as an opportunity to innovate and explore new possibilities, rather than to treat it like a threat to traditional radio talent. GPT and AI can't go out and hug a listener at a remote radio GPT can't go stuff a truck. RadioGPT™ can help to populate 24/7 streams with live and local content.
So Chris Cruise, the host of a nationally syndicated throwback to K radio show recently sounded off on this very topic on a TikTok. His account is @DJChrisCruise. Take a listen:
“I've been working in radio for 20 years and now every single person in the industry is asking, ‘Is AI going to replace us? Has artificial intelligence already gotten to the point where it could replace an actual human radio DJ?’
I get why everyone's concerned. On one hand, it's really scary to think that AI could take your job at the drop of a hat. And some people may not even be able to tell the difference. As I'm recording this, there are companies in the broadcast industry who are using real AI on the air as radio DJs. It sounds so real, it's kind of creepy.
But there may be some really good advantages of having AI's ability to instantly tell you something over the radio. Sadly, not every radio station can afford to employ DJs 24 hours a day and seven days a week. So AI could be there to give you breaking news if no one was in the studio. Of course, it would be better if someone was actually in there to tell you. But that's not always realistic.
You may not like it. But even in radio, AI's potential to serve the public is astronomical. Now, I don't claim to be some industry professional. And I definitely can't tell the future. But I don't think any of us have any idea where AI is going to be six weeks from now, let alone six months. It's way way too soon to predict how the broadcast industry and most industries in general are going to change over the next few years because of AI.
If you're still thinking this is stupid, no one wants some AI robot on the radio — well, I used a website to clone my voice and this entire time you've been listening to an AI-generated voice. I told you it's scary.”
What a plot twist. Well, a lot of people in his comment said that they could tell it was AI and not him. And I could tell, too. There's a lot of voice cloning software out there; some is better than others. And it sounds like Chris was just doing an experiment. At Futuri, with RadioGPT™, we've invested in humanistic language models that sound very natural and it's only going to continue to improve That's what we have to remember about the voice quality of what we hear today. Today is the worst it will ever be.
“AI’s potential to serve the public is astronomical.”
I love what Chris said also at the end there — ”You may not like it. But even in radio, AI's potential to serve the public is astronomical.” And Chris is totally right. I mean, think about this AI can work as a companion rather than a competitor.
Let's look outside broadcasting for a second in healthcare. AI is already helping doctors to analyze medical images, diagnose disease, and monitor patient vitals. It can work as a companion by providing doctors additional insights and recommendations and helping them make more informed decisions. For the people I love, I am glad that AI is there to help a physician.
In education, AI can personalize the learning experience for students, and tailor recommendations for studying materials and activities. I'm glad for students today that this type of tutoring and study support is available.
And in creative industries like broadcasting, it can help us with content creation, with personalization, with ad targeting quality control, audience engagement — accessibility, even. Think about this: closed captioning, audio descriptions, automatic translation. You could host a show in English and have it automatically translated into Spanish and reach more people. These are the types of things that are enabled by AI.
“Be better than AI.”
A veteran talent coach, Valerie Geller, even said, “Work harder and be better than AI. If our presenters are doing the job, they’ll be hard to replace. But lazy radio without a good deal of personality and humor and show prep and focus on offering the audience a unique journey, new information, or genuine human companionship — those are easily replaced by computer announcers.”
Well, her example is specific to radio, but it applies to so many fields. I mean, use AI for whatever your version of show prep is. Use AI to make you better in your field. Use AI to enhance what you do.
The pre-ChatGPT / post-ChatGPT line.
If you're in the business of content, you'll look back on a line in the sand in late 2020 to a before ChatGPT line and an after ChatGPT line. And it's not because GPT was invented in 2022. That technology has been around for a long time. It's been developed now since 2018, and AI has been in development for many years. But the release of ChatGPT brought into our awareness new possibilities about how artificial intelligence could be integrated into our lives. It's the fastest-growing app of all time. It hit the 100 million registered user mark in just over a month. It took Netflix 10 years to do that.
And speaking of Netflix, Blockbuster once had the opportunity to purchase Netflix for $50 million. And they passed. They didn't see the promise of technology. Today, there's one Blockbuster left in the world. It's in Bend, Oregon. And as I record this Netflix has a market cap of $150 billion.
So you can't stop technology. But you can make it work for you. Find ways to do it. You'll thrive in the business of content.
For more information also on RadioGPT™, you can check it out streaming at RadioGPT.ai. I think you'll be impressed with what you hear. In fact, radio futurologist James Cridland recently reviewed RadioGPT™. He said that he took a listen to the RadioGPT™ stream while on a train to Sydney, “looking forward to being really rather rude about this horrible idea. Irritatingly, though, it's rather good.” Cool. Thank you, James.
At Futuri we've designed many AI-powered systems that can help you to grow your content or your audience or your revenue, ranging from our POST podcast system to our TopicPulse system that shows you what's trending in your market and automatically using AI writes first drafts for you of your content for broadcast, to TopLine, that helps you to generate sales and marketing materials.
Altogether, we believe that AI is an important — it’s a critical — part of our future as an industry. And yes, there will be debates in every industry around equity and privacy and transparency and accountability and social impact. It'll be up to all of us to shape how AI becomes a part of our industry, and frankly, a part of our lives. But there are a few things that you can't deny about AI that you have to know.
Undeniable facts about AI.
First, AI is accelerating. There's no way to stop it. We have to adopt, we have to adapt, we have to go faster, not slower.
Secondly, by 2049, AI will be one billion times more intelligent than humans. Okay, let's just put that in context. That's the difference between Albert Einstein and a housefly.
So that leads us to number three: AI will have a profound impact on the global economy and society. It will displace jobs and change the way that we live and work but it will also create jobs. It's not a replacement for human intelligence. It can augment and enhance human capabilities in many ways.
It can provide insights, it can improve productivity. It can aid in our decision-making. It can help us to solve the world's biggest problems. And yeah, like everything in a world of duality, it can create problems too. But that's why it's up to us to be conscious consumers, and conscious users, and ultimately proliferators of this new type of technology.
If you're interested in keeping up on the latest developments in AI, you can listen to my new podcast, Future Daily — it’s AI news that you need to know in two minutes or less, and it's released every day. Please check it out.
Thanks for listening to Anstandig on The Business of Content. If you like what you've heard, I encourage you to follow this podcast. Please share it please give me your feedback. I'm @anstandig on Twitter. I appreciate you listening.
This has been a transcript of the latest episode of Anstandig on The Business of Content: Artificial Intelligence and The Future of Broadcasting. Listen to the episode, which explores AI and the future of broadcasting, on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.