One of the frustrating things about reading an interesting feature story is the lack of follow-up. As a curious reader, I often feel left in the dust, wondering “What ever happened to her/that/it?”
Follow-up is important in any line of work, especially in the media where a follow-up story can reap more audience than the original. So, for today's last blog entry of the week, I've got three follow-up stories to blog posts from the past 12 months. In fact, one is an update from a post that published a few days ago.
One is about a music star, another is from a popular video game, and the last is about a children's character – a Muppet, to be precise.
will.I.am, meet A.I. DJ – Hopefully, all those initials and “dots aren't too confusing. The original post about A.I. DJs ran here last year on the heels of Futuri rolling out its A.I. platform for air talent, originally dubbed RadioGPT™, but now known as AudioAI™.
In retrospect, it may turn out to be an unfortunate bit of timing that the industry's first exposure to AI revolved around the concept of robot DJs replacing the familiar human version. Predictably, this set off something of a panic throughout the industry. In fact, last year at the Country Radio Seminar, a last-minute gathering to talk about the in's and out's of AI, featuring Futuri's Zena Burns, filled a large room with curious, angry, and confused radio broadcasters.
Cooler heads have prevailed, and with the passage of time, this year's CRS will have no fewer than three sessions dedicated to AI. I'll be participating in an Interactive Town Hall dedicated to AI on Thursday morning, February 29, along with Buzz Knight, the aforementioned Zena Burns (no longer with Futuri BTW), moderated by the unflappable Mike McVay. We hope to get attendees involved in a constructive conversation about this technology that provides perspective, as well as applications for programmers, managers, talent, and other to consider. Info on CRS 2024 in Nashville is here.
Above all else, we want the radio broadcasting industry – top to bottom – to embrace AI, learn its potential, and help figure out how to apply it to numerous media challenges and opportunities. It is no longer a matter of whether AI is “good or bad” for radio. The technology is here, it's not going anywhere, and it's on all of us to make it work for us.
Back in June of last year, I did an exclusive interview in this blog with the Alpha crew, all about the first AI DJ initiative in the U.S. (that we were aware of ) in Portland (OR). Phil Becker took that first giant step, integrating Artificial Intelligence into a contemporary radio station in the form of “A.I. Ashley,” the cyber version of Ashley Elzinga who had been voicetracking on Live 95.5 until a new PD job for a different company a couple thousand miles away made it impractical for her to continue.
Enter AI and Futuri's engine, and “AI Ashley” was born – or launched. At the time, many of you commented – vocally – about Alpha's experiment. And of course, the question was whether it would stimulate an industry-wide reaction of similar projects.
I'll leave it to Futuri to comment on how ubiquitous these concepts have become in radio in the months since “AI Ashley” debuted, the station's ratings, social engagement, and other metrics have tracked since an artificially intelligent jock took over the midday show.
But a similar, but different, experiment hit the satellites (and stream)on SiriusXM last month that's the basis of this first follow-up.
It is being conceived by music icon, will.i.am on a new venture, “The FYI Show,” on The 10s Spot, otherwise known as channel 11 on the SXM system.
The show itself is described as a showcase for all things AI, focused on technology, news, and entertainment. will.i.am appeared at CES 2024 in January to discuss the scope of the show, and his opinions about AI. You can read the SXM presser here.
Here's his big quote: “The FYI Show is a celebration of creators, innovators, and their dreams. Episodes delve into AI-powered projects exploring the What and the How, while also understanding the passion behind them. At FYI, we provide the right tools, infusing AI to help materialize dreams. An amazing journey awaits us!”
Imagine if that level of enthusiasm, optimism, and innovation accompanied broadcast experiments with AI. We might be talking different about the technology one year later.
And will.i.am is putting his technology dream where his mouth is. “The FYI Show” is being promoted as the first radio program with an AI co-host, the cleverly named qd.pi. “She” made her debut in the virtual chair next to will.i.am, and we've pulled the audio (first 3 minutes) of her introduction. Decide for yourself how you think “she” sounds, and what “she” is already bringing to the show. Remember that with AI, this first effort will be the worst qd.pi will ever sound, improving over time.
How long before she joins AFTRA?
How long before I stop using quotation marks around “her” pronouns?
(You can read the original post here.)
Grand Theft Auto's “radio stations” – Last year, the newest version of the classic video game was released, making millions of fans happy. I wrote a blog post “In My Room” that talked about the role imaginary “radio stations” play in this game, providing a soundtrack for the game's 14-25 year-old target users.
It was a fascinating look at the innards of this massively popular franchise selling hundreds of millions of copies, generating billions of dollars along the way. And “radio stations” are part of the color and character of the game.
The follow-up story from this past December was an eye-opener for me. In GameRant, Levi Briceland writes “Grand Theft auto 5: 18 Best Radio Stations, Ranked.”
I invite you to scroll through Levi's choices, not because of GTA5 (although you might find it interesting). What stood out for me was the creativity behind these in-game “radio stations,” including their attention-getting logos.
When I scroll through ratings reports in the trades, and I see the same formats with the same logos repurposed again and again, these fictitious stations in a video game have even more impact.
Many are innovative, fun, vibrant, and attention-getting. I may have to learn how to play Grand Theft Auto.
I should add that one of the consistent themes we saw at CES 2024 regarding car dashboards was the growing number of video game integration on ever-expanding screens. After all, you have to do something – and listen to something – while you're waiting for that battery to recharge.
Heal me, Elmo – And the third follow-up involves the state of our societal mental health. In a blog earlier this week, “The Forecast Calls For Pain,” I talked about depression and the way it impacts so many of us, especially given the always challenging news cycle, and mega-tragedies like the Great Recession and COVID.
On Monday, the folks at “Sesame Street” ran a little psyche experiment of their own with one of their most popular Muppets, the always empathetic Elmo.
Here was the tweet that got it going:
And the floodgates opened with torrents of reactions – and transparency – from thousands and thousands of those not doing especially well, and not the least bit afraid to admit it. Since unleashing this torrent of reactions, Elmo has appeared on “The Today Show,” and probably led to countless therapy appointments.
Below is the actual thread on Twitter. If you scroll through them, you'll run into a fascinating collection of people, including perhaps folks you know, as well as celebrities. It very much reinforces what I was talking about the role radio can play to make people feel better. It is a window on the world, and it says a great deal about our collective mental state.
Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?
— Elmo (@elmo) January 29, 2024
DJs may not be therapists, but neither are bartenders, hair stylists, and others we are connected with, all serving an important role in trying to keep those around us sane.
As well as ourselves.
(You can read the original blog post here.)
Subscriber note: Starting Monday, February 5, JacoBLOG will begin publishing at 8am ET, an hour later. I hope it will provide you with better reading and the delay doesn't throw off your routine. As always, thanks for reading it. – FJ