This crazy controversy about Denise, the artificial intelligence “DJ” being tested at KROV radio just took an interesting turn.
Alan Cross took on Denise in a recent blog. A couple of days later, we opined in this space about how seminal personalities can have great impact on local communities. WCSX’s Steve Kostan, recently inducted in the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, was our poster boy for personality radio done right.
Then last Friday, Denise’s Dr. Frankenstein, Dominique Garcia, responded to Alan’s blog. Garcia took a more defensive approach, and I’ve taken the liberty of lifting out a couple paragraphs from his response to Cross:
“The first thing I have to say is as much as personalities on the air do not want to believe this… listeners do not care about jocks. PPM proves once a jock starts to talk they flip stations. Statistics [PPM] clearly prove this. It is the egotistical mind frame of human personalities that makes them want to believe that radio cannot survive without them. Or that people listen solely for the jock. That is not the case and if you believe that you are mistaken.
Anything you can say on the air Denise can as well. She is not a robot, she is an artificial intelligence program. There is a big difference. The concept was simply an alternative method of achieving automation. It was a one time deal to show the proof of concept worked. Sure it can be perfected to be even better but still none the less a proof of concept.”
You can read his entire letter here.
Look, Garcia and other inventors have the right to create whatever kind of product they like. And the industry will determine whether they are viable enough to be successful.
But his assumption that radio listeners don’t care about DJs is an extreme statement. It is true that a percentage of the audience would rather hear music without any other spoken word content. For them, there are Jack stations and other outlets that make it a positioning plank to be music-intensive. But to suggest that PPM “proves that once a jock starts to talk they flip stations” is simply incorrect, and demeans great personalities and the stations they represent.
Look at who’s on top of PPM ratings in market after market and you’ll find engaged, personality-oriented stations that reflect their community values. Last December, Arbitron’s most successful 18-34 and 25-54 year-old stations in PPM were two very personality-rich stations, Entercom’s KRXQ in Sacramento (Dog Face and Joe Maumee – pictured) and Clear Channel’s WDVE in Pittsburgh. Denise couldn’t break into a weekend airshift at either of these stations.
Radio will either commit to great local radio and personalities that matter, or succumb to music outlets like Pandora or iPods. We limit ourselves and our business if we make the assumption that only spoken word formats will have success in broadcast radio in the coming years. In the meantime, the invention of Denise should serve as a rallying cry for programmers and jocks around the country.
It is less about how Denise sounds and more about how you sound. Get in the car over Labor Day Weekend and listen to radio – in your town, in smaller markets where your cottage is located, or wherever you are – and tell me whether you're hearing live, local, engaged radio. Or are you hearing voicetracked breaks, random content, and the lack of accompaniment as you enjoy your holiday?
The decision is in your hands. Your vision of radio – today and in the future – is very much going to determine whether Denise (or her next generation of DJ bots) is a part of your on-air lineup. This isn't a debate about automation, voicetracking, or even artificial intelligence jocks like Denise. It is a fundamental conversation about how radio will survive down the road.
Garcia and Cross deserve credit for creating a point-counterpoint. So what do YOU hear? Let's see some comments from personalities, programmers, and manager/owners about how you see radio's future.