Perhaps the hottest topic at the NAB Show in Las Vegas two weeks ago and the All Access Audio Summit last week was the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). Broadcasters approached the subject with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Will AI make our jobs easier, or will it eliminate them entirely? How can it best be used?
With that in mind, here's a list of Dos and Don'ts for using AI…
DO use AI to write general website and email copy.
AI writing tools essentially turn you from an author into an editor. You let the AI spit out a draft, and then you review it to see if any modifications need to be made. Because AI's machine learning is based on things that have been published in the past, it is at its best when writing about topics that have been covered before. AI can make it easy to write generic webpage copy, such as “Why You Should Donate to WKRP,” or emails on broad topics, such as “5 Ways to Get Your Garden Ready for Spring.”
DON'T use AI to write things which require looking to the future.
Because AI relies on information that has already been published, it's not very good at projecting into the future. One of my favorite email newsletter formulas for radio stations is “5 Things to Do Around Town This Weekend.” AI tools are not very good at writing this type of email…yet. For example, when I asked ChatGPT to “Write a list of family friendly things to do in Detroit, Michigan during the weekend of April 29th and 30th, 2023,” it replied with this:
I'm sorry, but as an AI language model, I do not have access to future events or updates. My training only goes up until 2021 and I am not able to browse the internet or check for real-time information. However, I can suggest some family-friendly activities that are usually available in Detroit, Michigan, which you can check their availability for the weekend of April 29th and 30th, 2023.
DO use AI to compile information for research or show prep.
AI can be a useful tool when compiling other people's research on a topic. If you're writing a story on a subject that requires background research, use AI to scour the internet and collect information for you. AI entrepreneur Allie K. Miller recently shared a LinkedIn post that shows how to do this with ChatGPT:
It's easy to see how this functionality could change the way DJs do show prep or prepare for interviews. But…
DON'T use AI to conduct primary research.
AI is not a substitute for primary research. It cannot fact-check. Journalists are right to be wary of AI because currently, it cannot do what they do; it may never be able to.
DO use AI to create voices for commercials.
Every production staffer has been there. It's 4:45 on the Friday afternoon before a three-day weekend, and the sales staff drops off a last-minute commercial script which requires a read performed in a Scottish brogue. Feel free to use AI in this situation.
DON'T use AI to replicate the voices of celebrities.
Yes, it's possible to use AI to recreate the voices of celebrities, but I wrote about the legal perils a few weeks ago. The bottom line? Don't do it. Tom Brady might sure you.
This includes impersonating your own on-air talent, especially without permission. You're not doing anybody any favors by impersonating an air talent when they're out sick our on vacation. Drew Carey recently experimented with this concept on his syndicated radio show, and he was unimpressed with the results.
Air talent should be protective of their voices. I won't be surprised when we start seeing contracts that forbid employers from using the talent's voice without express permission.
DO use AI to write commercials if your sales department can't.
Let's be honest: Poorly written commercials are the worst! If your radio station relies on salespeople to write commercials for clients and it's not a skill in their wheelhouse, AI can help. Will AI-authored commercials win Clio awards any time soon? Probably not. But mediocre copy is better than bad copy.
DON'T use AI to write commercials if your production department can.
On the other hand, there's no substitute for a brilliant copywriter, and if you are lucky enough to have one on your staff, don't even think about replacing them with AI.
DO use AI to voice production elements.
Sometimes, you need an anonymous voice for your sweepers. It's fine to use AI for small snippets, just don't misrepresent the voices to your audience. “Lisa from Waltham” shouldn't be a computer in the cloud.
DON'T try to pass off AI as human on-air talent.
Ahh, here's where we get into the thick of it! Much of the AI discussion revolves around whether or not it can be used to replace live DJs. Sure, it will probably start with those hard-to-fill slots, like overnights and holiday weekends, but does anybody really think it will stop there?
Here's my take on the issue: The other big topic at the NAB Show last week was Ford's recent decision to stop supporting AM radio in its vehicles starting next year. No doubt, the other automakers are paying attention.
For the first time in its history, the radio broadcasting industry finds itself in the position of justifying its continued presence in vehicles. While Ford and Tesla and other car manufacturers are citing “interference in electrical vehicles” as an excuse for removing AM radio from vehicles, this might not actually be the real reason.
The car manufacturers want to provide the best possible infotainment experience in their vehicles. Given that traditional radios have been replaced by computer screens in the dashboard, this means that the infotainment needs to look good as well as sound good. This is where many radio companies have fallen (pun intended) asleep at the wheel. Too many broadcasters have failed to make sure that their on-air content comes with clean, consistent metadata, including album art and correct song titles. Some broadcasters have ignored this entirely! And this creates a poor in-car experience.
The radio industry has never been particularly good at speaking with one voice, and nowhere is that more apparent than in car dashboards. This makes it easy to understand why auto manufacturers would prefer to rely on a small handful of well-funded tech savvy companies, like Apple and Spotify and SiriusXM, instead of waiting for thousands of radio stations to get their acts together.
Radio will, of course, turn to its old standby to justify the need for radios in cars: “Emergencies.” When that tornado strikes or that wildfire blazes, people will need access to information provided through the radio.
This argument will be undermined if the popular perception is that radio stations across the country are manned by “robots” and there are no humans at the switch. As an industry, we can't talk out of both sides of our mouth: Either the work we do is important and plays a critical role in people's lives, or it's not and we can delegate it to the computers.
Put another way: Replacing human DJs with AI will give the car companies an excuse to remove AM and FM radio from their vehicles.
DO use AI to create new efficiencies.
When I was in high school, I was required to purchase a graphing calculator for my calculus class. This was not a sign that my teacher did not think it was important for me to be able to do the work myself; rather, it was a realization that these calculators were now available, and that people who know how to use these tools are better prepared for the world than people who don't. Like graphing calculators, word processors, and spellcheckers, AI is a tool that can help people do their jobs more efficiently.
We've seen the broadcasting industry adopt tools that make us more efficient many times before, from DAWs to voicetracking to music scheduling software. There are some who resist the change. But inevitably, in the words of
Jean-Luc Picard Locutus of Borg, “Resistance is futile.” Those who learn to wield new technologies to their advantage will outperform those who are unwilling to adapt. However…
DON'T use AI to cut corners.
There's a difference between cutting costs while maintaining the same level of quality and cutting costs at the expense of quality. Too often, our industry has done the latter. Find ways to use AI to be efficient, not to be cheap. This is particularly important in an industry where, as we've seen in our annual Techsurvey, the on-air personalities are now more important than the music:
The bottom line: Use AI. Don't abuse AI.
And finally, if you're terrible at writing concluding paragraphs for your blogposts, do ask the AI to do it for you:
The power of AI is undeniable, and when utilized correctly, it can revolutionize the way we operate in the broadcasting industry. However, there are important dos and don'ts to keep in mind when interacting with this technology. By following these guidelines, we can enhance the benefits and avoid potential drawbacks of AI. Additionally, as AI continues to evolve and become increasingly advanced, it is crucial that we maintain a level of responsibility and understanding in our interactions with it. It is up to us to use it in a way that serves our best interests while also keeping in mind its immense power.
Thanks, Jasper! Couldn't have said it better myself.
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