[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]‘
Back in the summer of 2011, I met Denise. She seemed nice enough but the more I got to know her, the less I liked her.
Denise was not a real person. She was a “virtual DJ” at a community radio station in Texas. No flesh and blood. No actual personality. No independent thought. For $200, the program director bought some software that was a (un)reasonable facsimile of a live radio announcer. Denise still required human input for her to work — this was 12 years ago, after all — but the idea of a computer program replacing a human DJ was horrifying to me and others in the media business.
Consultant Dave Ramsey wrote this at the time, pondering the importance of the DJ’s role on the radio.
“No jock who adds significant value to the radio experience need fear ‘Denise.’ She will always be a wooden Pinnochio in a world of real boys.
“However, any jock whose contribution to the station is indifferent from ‘chatter’ — any jock who is more of an obstacle to giving listeners what they want than an asset in providing the kind of relevance and spontaneous joy great jocks have always been famous for — those DJ’s are no better and certainly more expensive than ‘Denise.’
“In other words, if a jock can be replaced by ‘Denise’ with no fallout to the station in terms of ratings, revenue, or audience and advertiser satisfaction, then that jock can and should be replaced.”
Yeah? Keep reading. You’ll see why the latest developments are freaking me out. Meanwhile, The Simpsons predicted this years ago.