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  • Writer's pictureRob Ranieri

Future-Proofing Podcasts: Top Tips for using AI

As podcast makers, marketers, movers AND shakers, we've witnessed the remarkable rise of the medium, captivating audiences with its intimate and immersive nature. As technology continues to propel the industry, a new force emerges to redefine the landscape: Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI's integration into the podcasting realm promises not just incremental improvements, but a seismic shift in how content is created, distributed, and consumed. We’ll look at how AI can be used to complement and enhance a narrative, at the benefits for creators, listeners and brands looking to advertise on podcasts and at some cautionary tales of how not to do it.

For the past couple of years AI has dominated headlines. ChatGPT currently has around 180.5 million users. The content and marketing landscape is just starting to embrace the potential of AI. A prime example is YouTube adding AI-powered tools for video creators. Additionally, AI Ad technology is able to use sentiment-predictive data and segment audiences accordingly. 

The opportunities are vast - from productivity automation (like AI generated podcast transcripts) to knowledge retrieval synthesis (complimenting research and audience data). However, there are also risks with the use of the technology, as it’s still in its infancy. There is potential for confidentiality and IP violation, and risk of bias.

One cautionary tale comes from Levi’s, known for their denim, who used AI to generate models of more diverse body types and skin tones to increase representation of its product models. Many critics wondered why Levi’s wouldn’t simply hire real models, rather than generate fake ones to promote diversity, calling the decision “lazy”, “problematic”, and “racist”. (The Independent, 2023).

Here is some guidance for best practice for using AI in podcast production:

  • Use the right tool: experiment with which AI tool(s) are right for your needs. ChatGPT is free to use and great for general AI prompts. There are more specialised tools for specific uses such as Adobe's Enhanced Speech which removes background noise and sharpens voice frequencies. Descript is a podcasting tool for transcripts while growing to include video and storyboarding features. Eleven Labs’ Speech Synthesis has hundreds of artificially generated voices for nearly any accent, age, and gender you can imagine in 29 languages.

  • Use AI as an assistant, not a replacement. It is important to stay in control of your work and maintain your personal and authentic voice. AI should help you shape up your ideas (for example, asking ChatGPT to summarise an idea in a more succinct way for a pitch), rather than replacing your perspective.

  • Check over everything you get AI to help you with - it's not perfect. Plus make sure you give it the human touch unique to you. Adding your own slang, humour and colloquialisms help to maintain that authenticity.

  • Be specific and provide context: Explain what you are trying to achieve and why. Also, let AI know how it should behave. Who is your AI writer pretending to be, and who will be reading the content? Including this information will help the AI tool tailor its response accordingly. For example, instead of writing “give me some ideas for a podcast for women about female friendship”, specify “act as a journalist pitching 5 ideas for a podcast about female friendship. The podcast is aimed at Australian women 25-45 and should touch on subjects such as marriage, children, work and family. The tone is sensitive and down to earth, with aspects of humour.”

  • Fact check: You don’t know exactly where it’s pulling information from, how accurate a source it is, or what portion of it is existing work. You can use a plagiarism checker online from tools like Grammarly.

Looking at a real use case of AI in the podcasting world, Dark Shining Moment is a new original podcast from Ranieri & Co. The series explores the story of how Russia exploited the internet to interfere in America’s 2016 election, altering history and helping to create the world we live in today.

During the creation of the podcast, the team integrated AI for various effects on the suspense-driven thriller. One was for voicing documents and social media posts, where the original authors’ voices were impossible to source.This adds intrigue and variance to the storytelling, plus variety from the main voice of narrator Chris Zappone (Digital Foreign Editor at The Age). Chris explains:

"What I liked about crafting the script was trying to achieve a kind of kaleidoscopic view of a moment when a new reality comes barging into view.”

Using AI in this podcast also acted as a dramatic tool to draw parallels to the story, which at its core is about how technology can be exploited. There is a certain irony in AI being used in a story about social media manipulation.

In episode 6, AI deep-fake audio was used for dramatic effect and to illustrate the power of the tool. The technology is used to mimic the voices of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, heard voicing famous quotes from their opposition. The effect is quite astonishing. The mix of media in the episode creates diversity in the soundscape that makes for compelling listening.

Sound Designer Martin Peralta elaborates: “We used AI throughout the series, but pushed it further in this episode.The effect is fun but also a little unsettling as you realise how easy it is to sway public opinion. Juxtaposed with the well-paced narrative, this contributes to an audio rich and diverse podcast that stands out and offers innovative digital direction.”

AI expert Paula Vargas elaborates on how AI could shape the future of podcasting:

"I see an even deeper exploration of what's already happening in the podcast industry. Idea generation, scriptwriting, and content production will sound more natural and human-like. AI's understanding and use of nuances will improve significantly.

We're already seeing the success of AI influencers and models – it'll be interesting to see how AI podcasters develop.

As podcasting continues to grow, tech will become even better at understanding audience needs and desires. We often think of TikTok as being super in tune with what we want to see. AI will help recommend podcasts that make us feel like it truly knows us!"

The integration of AI into the podcasting industry heralds a new era of innovation and creativity. AI offers a multitude of opportunities for growth and differentiation in an increasingly competitive landscape. However, it's essential to proceed with caution, recognising the risks and ethical considerations associated with AI adoption. By embracing AI as an assistant rather than a replacement, maintaining authenticity and human touch in our content, and employing best practices for utilising AI tools effectively, we can unlock the full potential of this technology while preserving the integrity and uniqueness of our craft. As demonstrated by pioneering podcasts like "Dark Shining Moment," AI represents not just a tool but a catalyst for innovation, offering new avenues for creativity and expression that push the boundaries of storytelling in the digital age. As we continue to explore the intersection of AI and podcasting, let us remain vigilant, adaptable, and committed to leveraging technology responsibly to shape a future where podcasts thrive as a dynamic and inclusive medium for all. If you would like assistance in implementing AI into your podcast creation or advertising process, please contact us to learn more.


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