4 out of 5 jobs most likely to be lost to robots, are in radio

Observation from Peter Saxon

According to the latest research from Oxford University the global job market is about to be disrupted on an unprecedented scale.

The study suggests that around 47 per cent of the workforce in the U.S. will be displaced by artificial intelligence or robots of some kind within the next 20 years.

In a recent article based on the Oxford study, American technology writer, Shelley Palmer, identified the top five jobs that he believes will be the first to go. Four of them exist in radio.

Of the five, only Doctors are not generally found on the staff list at a radio station. The others, Middle Management; Commodity Salespeople (Ad Sales, Supplies, etc.); Report Writers, Journalists, Authors & Announcers; Accountants & Bookkeepers, all inhabit the corridors and studios of broadcasters.

For the purpose of this exercise, Palmer defines “Robots as technologies, such as machine learning algorithms running on purpose-built computer platforms, that have been trained to perform tasks that currently require humans to perform.”

Should you be worried?

Depends on whether you believe you’re dumber than a machine. If you do, then you’ve already lost, which is something you ought to worry about.

On the other hand, if you are happy to embrace change and see a machine as doing the boring, repetitive bits, leaving you to concentrate on the fun, then there’s plenty of scope for hope.

Some of this predicted displacement is already well underway. Advertising Sales through “programatic” platforms is already here and despite some serious “teething” problems will ultimately succeed because the technology will improve as there is too much money to be made and cost savings to be realised.

However, good, professional radio sales people aren’t disappearing. They’ve adapted to the new millennium. They have long ago moved beyond selling dots and spots on a schedule – which is, technologically, as easy to do online as booking a flight to Bali.

What’s a far more intricate task, requiring human input, is coming up with multi-platform branding solutions that require the collaboration of creative, content, talent and promotions. As importantly, it requires human sales people to build trust and rapport with the client who has to believe in the proposal – belief being a uniquely human trait – in order to sign a sizeable cheque. Or, for our younger millennial readers, a sizeable electronic funds transfer (EFT).

Still, while it’s easy to imagine machines replacing bean counters as the ranks of middle management get thinner by the day, it is harder to see how announcers can be made redundant by a sat-nav style app. But according to Palmer, the latest “Text-to-speech systems are evolving so quickly and sound so realistic, I expect both play-by-play and color commentators to be put out of work relatively soon – to say nothing about the numbered days of sports or financial writers.”

Based on that, are Kyle and Jackie O’s days on radio numbered? Will you be getting your favourite Drive team from a “replicator?”

Palmer offers some clues: Almost every human job requires us to perform some combination of the following four basic types of tasks:

•    Manual repetitive (predictable)

•    Manual nonrepetitive (not predictable)

•    Cognitive repetitive (predictable)

•    Cognitive nonrepetitive (not predictable)

Obviously the last option is the least likely to be replicated by robots. Like dots and spots salespeople, time and temp jocks long extinct. If you’re on air and creativity, fun and a human bond with your listeners are your tools of trade, you probably have little to fear.

According to a follow-up article from Shelley Palmer the least vulnerable jobs or “The 5 Jobs Robots Will Take Last are:

1. Pre-school and Elementary School Teacher

2. Professional Athlete

3. Politician

4. Judge

5. Mental Health Professional

For radio, one might substitute.

  1. Producers/Minders
  2. Promotions/ PR
  3. General Managers, CEOs
  4. Content Directors
  5. Talent (Mental Health Professional/Patient?)

 Peter Saxon