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Radio Just Got Smarter Thanks to AI

Cognitive engines represent a key tool to expand radio beyond boundaries of the airwaves

The author of this commentary is senior vice president of Veritone Media.

With rivals moving at internet speed, online media seems to have reduced broadcast media powerhouses to the status of media dinosaurs. However, new AI technologies are giving the so-called old media firms a chance to turn the tables on their internet rivals.

It’s true: Broadcast media is at a crossroads. Consumers are swarming to new opportunities that maximize content and minimize advertising, but that doesn’t mean that traditional broadcast mediums are disappearing — it means they are adjusting. While ad buying and selling remain a vital part of the radio industry lifeblood, quick decisions must be made in order to maintain success for both advertisers and broadcasters alike.

Quantifying and measuring broadcast hits, native advertising and on-air product placements has historically been difficult and tedious. Despite the reporting struggles, in 2015, radio garnered $18 billion in revenue. In order to continue growing this revenue stream, ad efficacy and validation, as well as reporting efficiency and analytics, are increasingly important in 2018 to show ROI measurements to key advertisers.

The solution to the struggle between broadcast outlets and advertising is more innovative metric reporting that assures proper advertising investment. As consumer interest is garnered and lost at the speed of sound, artificial intelligence is the key to an innovative and successful future.

Drew Hilles

I. There is a wealth of practical uses in AI technology

Incorporating artificial intelligence for analysis has capabilities that extend much further than word-for-word transcription. For example, sentiment engines enable the tone behind a series of words to be analyzed. This is then used to gain an understanding of the attitudes, opinions and emotions expressed.

However, AI engines aren’t limited to sentiment and can include a suite of tools such as:

  • Audio/video fingerprinting engines generate a condensed digital summary, deterministically generated as a reference clip, that can be used to quickly locate similar items across multiple media files.
  • Transcription engines convert spoken audio and video recordings into readable text. They are built and trained to recognize different languages, dialects and topics.
  • Location engines associate media with geolocation data points and enable search by location, displaying a map view of media file collections or other specialized functionality.

If a product is being endorsed on-air, whether a paid radio spot or more organic mention from the radio host, AI engines can capture and calculate data that provides deeper insights previously inaccessible to manual searching.

II. Reporting and verification is near instantaneous

Previous tactics of media tracking involved manual monitoring, analyzing and logging components. Further complications arise when dealing with product placement, brand integration, native advertising and endorsements that aren’t identified with commercial breaks. These native and organic mentions must be tracked, as they remain a critical brand tool because they are delivered by trusted, relatable and opinion leaders.

While these tactics provide an opportunity to influence the audience and shape purchase intent, paying an individual or team to monitor this type of material can cost millions of dollars. Utilizing cognitive engine technology allows the potential for nearly instantaneous tracking and aircheck verification, freeing employees to focus on more critical tasks.

AI was recently implemented into the workflow of Cumulus Media because a radio broadcasting powerhouse reaching 245 million people each week doesn’t have days to wait for airchecks or for campaign reach and efficacy insight. With stale, often incomplete information as the only source of reporting, Cumulus knew change was in order.

Cumulus turned to the Veritone Platform to provide a holistic solution, and customer satisfaction, retention and upsell had increased as a direct result of their enhanced abilities to analyze and share success metrics with valued partners.

III. Content and media management just got smarter

Cognitive engines represent a key tool to expand beyond the boundaries of the airwaves by allowing traditional media to repurpose their content for presentation on search, on-demand and social-media services. By sharing broadcasts online, stations can get more ears on segments, showing more value to advertisers and drawing in new listeners.

Radio broadcast listenership isn’t limited to the car-ride commute home from work. Digital radio is increasingly popular with over 100 million listeners monthly in the U.S. — including users who are actively enjoying services like Pandora or Spotify during their workday.

When audiences are actively listening to radio via desktop or mobile device, pairing what they hear with a visual opportunity can garner more interest or a stronger click-through on a call to action. A content management tool that utilizes an exhaustive search function meets the industry’s need to deliver specific content, clips, and verifications in near real-time. This enables radio to precisely pinpoint, play and share an exact second of audio or frame of video according to search criteria. Once the content has been discovered and captured, promoting across social media platforms can be tied into the brand’s digital marketing plan.


New realities for traditional media may initially cause concern, but revenue generated from radio advertising is not dying. Broadcasters can preserve and enhance their value proposition for advertisers by employing cognitive engine technology. With the use of AI, the once-linear data of audio and video commercials can be efficiently tracked and analyzed, including native content. As a result, broadcasters can not only prove the brand mentions, but also track the value they deliver to their advertisers.

Drew Hilles has more than 20 years of experience in the media industry on- and off-line, with expertise in advertising sales, technology operations and partnership development.