Some other creators don’t even expect audiences to like their output, especially once the novelty wears off. Andi Durrant, for example, helped create an AI-generated podcast called Synthetic Stories at his UK-based content marketing startup. In addition to featuring cloned host voices, every other element of Synthetic Stories is AI-generated, including the script and sound design. “We were proud of it as an experiment,” Durrant says. As a creative work, though? “You really quickly get the limitations.”
However, Dimitris Nikolaou, CEO of the AI podcasting startup WondercraftAI, believes that audiences could develop loyalty to AI-generated podcasts. His team created Hacker News Recap, which offers daily short summaries of the top stories on the Y Combinator-run forum Hacker News, as a proof of concept to show what his platform can do. It’s currently sitting at No. 31 in Apple Podcasts’ tech chart in the US. (Elsewhere, it’s performing even better. “We’re currently number two in Latvia for some reason,” Nikolaou says.)
Nikolaou doesn’t think that Hacker News Recap’s AI-generated scripts are superior to those written by humans, or its artificial voices more melodic. “There’s nothing special to it. It’s the same content you’d find in any other tech podcast,” he says. “It’s more the fact that we can be so consistent and publish every morning, no matter what.”
The podcast is designed to showcase how Wondercraft’s services work: Both the script and audio are AI-generated based on whatever posts appear at the top of Hacker News. (Wondercraft got Y Combinator’s permission to use its content, which is not particularly surprising; the startup incubator is also one of its investors.) For people who just want an information digest in audio form, it’s a consistent offering.
He also believes Wondercraft will appeal to some independent creative types, like newsletter writers who might want to put out an audio version of their blog posts but don’t have the time to do it themselves or the money to hire a reader.
Human podcasters have already started embracing AI editing tools, which are frequently used by major podcasting studios. These tools can simplify tasks like removing background noise or clarifying mumbled words. And some are playing around with the idea of cloning their voices for advertisements. This week, for example, The Ringer founder Bill Simmons discussed the possibility of developing ads read by AI-generated voice clones of the hosts for his stable of Spotify podcasts.
Wholly AI-generated presenters, though, are another story altogether.
Who? Weekly cohosts Bobby Finger and Lindsey Weber see the potential use cases for AI editing tools, but they don’t foresee AI voice-generating tools holding any real value for their long-running beloved podcast. “The only way it would make sense is in a literal joke,” Finger says. “It’s not convincing.”
Kelsey McKinney, the host of the recent breakout hit Normal Gossip, is skeptical that AI-generated podcasts will connect with audiences in a lasting way. “The AI stuff, I just hate it, in every form,” she says. “People want to feel connected to other people. The reason podcasts are so popular is because listeners feel connected to the people who make them.”
McKinney sees AI podcasts as part of a larger push by entertainment corporations to automate and devalue the arts—an effort that is being led by cost-cutting executives rather than creators. “They want to use AI for podcasts. They want to use AI for screenwriting. They want to use AI for actors,” she says. “What they’re trying to say is that they don’t want to pay creative people.”
Especially with podcasts like Who? Weekly and Normal People—chatty, digressive, funny, weird—the core appeal of tuning in week after week is hearing what the specific humans at the microphone have to say. No matter how advanced the technology gets, the idea that a robot could fully replicate the experience is still pure science fiction. (Spike Jonze’s Her 2: Her Starts a Podcast coming to theaters in 2033.)