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Survey: Using AI In Place Of Live Talent A Deal-Breaker For Most Listeners.

In a red flag for stations thinking about replacing live air talent with AI-generated voices, three in four core radio listeners surveyed by Jacobs Media expressed major concerns about this use case for the technology.

More than 31,000 participants in the company’s Techsurvey 2024 were asked the question, “Some stations are thinking about how they might use AI in the future. If a station you listen to used AI technology to take the place of live DJs, personalities, hosts or announcers, which of the following best describes your opinion?” Three in four respondents said they would have “major concerns” with it, while only 4% indicated they would have “no problem with it.”

Listeners expressed less concern about using AI voices in other scenarios. Four in ten (39%) said they would have “major concerns” if AI was used to read commercials (21% said it was “no problem”) and 30% had major concerns with AI-generated voices reading station identifications, compared to 34% who said they would have “no problem” with it.

“Of the three, using AI in place of live talent is a deal-breaker for most respondents,” Jacobs Media President Fred Jacobs said in a blog post summarizing the survey results. “Bear in mind, the question did not incorporate the idea of robots pushing humans out of their jobs, but it's not a stretch to assume many likely read it this way. And perhaps that's an accurate way of thinking about how AI might be used by at least some radio producers looking to not only streamline operations but do it for less money.”

Of the three applications tested, using AI to “read” station identifications fared the best. However, nearly as many expressed major concerns as those who indicated they don’t have a problem with it.

Since there are many variations in how stations produce the content described by the three Techsurvey questions, Jacobs suggests the results are best interpreted in the generalist of terms. “They will give you an idea of audience sentiment, but they cannot provide a thumbs up or thumbs down acceptance or rejection of the content in question,” he writes. “After all, respondents are not actually hearing audio, but are asked to make a call based on a written description of how a station might use this technology.

“Your willingness to research your own audience, coupled with how you produce and present the content will go a long way toward determining its passing muster or perhaps causing concern,” he concludes.

A breakout of the AI survey results among country radio listeners, presented at last week’s CRS in Nashville, showed 72% of respondents would have major concerns about AI voice technology taking the place of live, on-air talent. During a CRS panel discussion about AI, one owner of a small market group said he had replaced a live morning show at a music-intensive station with an AI personality without losing any share or encountering resistance from listeners and advertisers. The voice, he says, has continually improved in quality: “In the last six months, you really cannot tell the difference between the AI personality and the real-live disc jockey behind a mike,” he said.

The survey results about on-air uses of AI are from Jacobs Media’s soon-to-be-released Techsurvey 2024, which will be presented in an industry webinar, in partnership with Inside Radio and sponsored by Quu. Sign-up details are forthcoming.

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