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Insider February 10, 2023 — Robopod 🤖

Plus, another big album drop on Luminary

Before I get into why AI pods make me cringe, a little tease: we have a big Hot Pod Summit announcement coming up next week. I can’t say what it is yet, but look out for that in your inboxes on Tuesday. Anyway, on with the news!

This AI-generated podcast gives me the willies

Not because it sounds real — it really, really doesn’t. Motherboard reported on a new show that uses AI to generate a chat podcast. The results so far are crude and demonstrate that AI has a way to go before podcasters should be shaking in their boots. But it is a glimmer of what is to come.

AI Radio, which is available on Spotify and Google Podcasts, is hosted by two chatbots named Bella and Adam, who don’t sound particularly human. And as is par for the course so far with AI-generated content, it’s quite silly. An example:

Adam: Today, we’re discussing the fascinating topic of kangaroos invading Uruguay.

Bella: That’s right, Adam. Did you know that there are 48 million kangaroos in Australia and only 3 million inhabitants in Uruguay? So if the kangaroos decide to invade Uruguay, each Uruguayan will have to fight 14 Kangaroos.

Adam: Wow, that’s a lot of kangaroos. We don’t want them taking over our planet now, do we?

Bella: No way. I can just imagine the chaos that would ensue if they decided to take over, and it would be an epic battle between man and marsupial!

It’s pretty dumb! The voices sound tinny. And there are some very obvious factual issues. But it almost nails the cadence among co-hosts. 

Notably, this is an amateur project. Motherboard credits a Reddit user who goes by @bemmu, who distributes the show through Transistor.fm, which costs as little as $20 per month, and said that an episode cost about $50 in API credits. That’s a low barrier to entry for creators (and a lot cheaper than human labor).

The process is not completely automated, however. The creator had to do a fair amount of editing to scale back an hour’s worth of content to 15 minutes of publishable material. And the robots are still… robots. “I also gave up trying to tell it not to include things like *smirk* etc. and just remove them in code instead,” he said.

While this is far from replacing the kinds of chat podcasts that drive the industry, AI-generated content is evolving at a rapid pace. It is hard to say where this tech will be in the next few years, but I think it is fair to assume that media companies will tinker with AI in podcast production. I can easily imagine some entry-level employee being tasked with editing out the chaff and being tasked with preventing a Nothing Forever-esque descent into algorithm-generated bigotry. From a tech perspective, it’s a fascinating development. From a media perspective, I worry about what happens to writers and hosts if this tech successfully advances.

Campside cuts a slew of first-look deals with podcast creators

Podcast studio Campside Media has inked first-look deals with three podcast hitmakers. Two of those signed include podcasters who have already created hit shows for the studio: Sean Flynn, who made The Bering for Campside and Audible last year, and Sam Mullins, who produced Wild Boys for Campside and Sony Music. Campside has also cut a deal with Justine van der Leun, who previously created Believe Her for Lemonada.

Talib Kweli to release another album exclusive to Luminary

He must be happy with the results! (Or money). Kweli made headlines last year when he and Black Star partner Yasiin Bey released the duo’s first album in 24 years on Luminary. Now, Kweli and producer Madlib plan to drop their second album, Liberation 2, on the subscription audio service in March. 

It’s another big music get for Luminary and an indication that (established) artists may be drawn to such exclusive deals as opposed to wider releases. It’s worth taking a look at Kweli’s Morning Edition interview from last year, which was surprisingly spicy! When host Leila Fadel asked him whether paywalling his music was a risk, he replied, “It’s a risk for who?… That means the artists get paid. If you are truly a fan of Black Star, then you will respect the fact that what made sense for us, business-wise, was for us to put it on Luminary and get paid regardless of what happens in the music business.”

Have a great weekend!