I’m the last to jump on any bandwagons. I resisted Harry Potter until well after all the movies came out. Only when a close friend finally wore me down, I read them… and reread them… and immediately tried to get everyone I knew to read them because, yes, they’re that good.
With podcasts, I’m still in the transformation process. I love them when I’m listening but, for some reason, I’m hesitant to start a new one. Maybe part of me knows that the inevitable will happen: I’ll fall in love with them, and there I’ll be, with an endless list of podcasts to catch up on.
After all, there’s something primal about podcasts. As James Wolcott writes, “Podcasts are essentially radio on the installment plan, a return to the intimacy, wombed shadows, and pregnant implications of words, sounds, and silences in the theater of the mind.” We plug into them, and they find their way into the depths of who we are.
It’s not just a subset of people that love podcasts, either—the industry is anticipated to reach $1 billion by 2021. What’s behind this phenomenon?
Let’s be honest; aren’t podcasts just hours of listening to people talking about stuff? Adam Sternberg explains that, “In an age when we were promised jetpacks, or at least Augmented Reality goggles, it turns out what we’ve really been craving is the companionship of human voices nestled in our ears.”
Podcasts offer human connection at the intimate level of our minds.
You can imagine what happens when we suggest that AI can play a role in the podcast: people are suspicious. Podcasts are about the unedited truth of everyday life from the perspectives of all kinds of people. They’re the realized hope, in audio form, of the early 2000s livejournals and blog posts. What does any of this have to do with AI?
Plenty. Here are 6 ways to include AI in your podcast:
Introduce new segments
Breaking your podcast up into smaller segments? Add some audio texture by including a new voice. Consider using an AI voice to introduce new show features. Think of them as a waiter introducing each new audio course to your listeners. Tasty!
Read quotations, citations, excerpts
I love this option for people whose podcasts cover print or editorial media. Maybe you plan to introduce your favorite new blogs, or you want to discuss an excerpt from your latest read. Using an AI voice gives your readers a cue that the material is from a third-party source — an auditory correspondent, of sorts. Plus, you’ll want to make sure the excerpted material gets the most polished sound.
Provide updates from a live feed
Some of our friends in the radio business use TTS to read weather forecasts and traffic reports. Do you include any live-feed information in your podcast? AI voices would be great at adding some color to these otherwise mundane reports.
Introduce your sponsors
If your podcast has sponsors, you’ll definitely want to introduce your sponsor segment. Best practice suggests you make sure your listeners know they’re listening to an ad while maintaining your show’s general feel and flow. Using a voice other than your own can help you accomplish both goals. When you have access to a library of voices, you can choose which voice best suits your sponsor’s audience.
This one’s great if your show tends toward humor, or if you’re a fan of MST3K. Maybe your podcast tends to showcase your own rampant, messy humanity. If so, having a polished, professional AI act as a foil to your “on-air” personality is a humorous and original option.
Finally interview your air-shy friend
Some of my friends are wise, warm, and uniquely intelligent, yet people on the outside of their intimate circle would be surprised to know just how true this is. Wouldn’t you love to interview your smart, capable introvert friend and share their wit with your followers? Do the interview, let your friend pick their own AI voice, and you can revel in the fact that you’ve just helped air the thoughts of someone who would otherwise stay silent.
Podcasts are about what it means to be human. Characters powered by AI can help you drive home the punchline of a story. They give you the opportunity to add depth to a story and create an engaging listening experience for your audience.