Celebrating Denise


Max Headroom is back, with a new name:  Denise.  You may not remember the Cyberpunk star of the 1980s, a badly-glitching artificial intelligence construct named Max Headroom as a faulty brain-scanned simulation of a comatose TV reporter. The character originally appeared as the host of a surprisingly successful (non-fiction) pop video show, titled “The Max Headroom Show”.

Now, 25-plus years later, radio has it’s own version of Max, named Denise.

Mark Ramsey’s blog post on “Denise”, the new artificial intelligence DJ just introduced, is well stated and a point of view that mostly reflects my thoughts on the technology…so I’ll link to Mark’s post here in case you haven’t read it yet.  When you’ve finished, come back and share your thoughts on these points and questions:

1)  For years, I’ve advised talent and programmers that every personality is either making the station better or they’re making it worse.  The advance in technology has made it possible for automation to make music intense stations sound great.  But automation does not connect with the audience on a deeper level.  It doesn’t become their “friend”, providing the special bond between station and listener.   The arrival of Denise ushers in a new era of automation that raises the bar yet again.  It’s even more critical now for personalities to elevate their performance, to be more significant…to be a difference-maker.

2)  In a programming world that is pressured by cost controls and is (over) reacting to the tactics dictated by PPM measurement, Denise will provide attractive options for some stations.

3)  The accountants are likely going to see another opportunity to eliminate talent, particularly those less experienced, developing positions.   We’ve already managed to drain the pool of many aspiring personalities.  If AI DJ’s catch on, how much more difficult will it be to grow as talent?

At the end of the day, this could be a good thing for radio.  As mentioned, it increases the “competition”, making it more important to grow personality that matters.   And, as technology takes over, the premium on human connections grows.   Is that a threat or an opportunity.  It depends.  How important are you to your audience?

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  1. August 25, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Another warning to air-personalities. Get out there and meet your listeners. Interact with them on facebook. Listening doesn’t mean they have a “bond,” so create one and make it strong!! This will increase your VALUE to the station and will insure continued success down the road.

  2. August 26, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Denise is un-listenable. It’s clunky. But the day will come when it isn’t. Unfortunately, it’s the current sea of voice-tracking and poor 7 second interactions that make Denise competitive with humans.

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