BuzzFeed will start using AI to write quizzes and other content

Nothing like a spokesperson issuing assurances that BuzzFeed “remains focused on human-generated journalism” to make you feel good about the future of the news industry, right?

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday on a staff memo at BuzzFeed that laid out plans for the digital media company to use OpenAI — creator of ChatGPT — to help write quizzes and other content. In the memo, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti wrote AI will play a role in both editorial and business operations at BuzzFeed within the next year.

“For example, a quiz to create a personal romantic comedy movie pitch might ask questions like, ‘Pick a trope for your rom-com,’ and ‘Tell us an endearing flaw you have,’” the Journal’s Alexandra Bruell reported. “The quiz would produce a unique, shareable write-up based on the individual’s responses, BuzzFeed said.”

But, hey! Humans will still provide “cultural currency” and “inspired prompts,” according to Peretti’s memo.

“If the past 15 years of the internet have been defined by algorithmic feeds that curate and recommend content, the next 15 years will be defined by AI and data helping create, personalize, and animate the content itself,” Peretti wrote.

Maybe it’s because the announcement comes as several news organizations announced layoffs and other cuts, but many found the update grim.

a sentence to put on journalism’s tombstone if I’ve ever seen one: “BuzzFeed remains focused on human-generated journalism in its newsroom, a spokeswoman said Thursday.”

— Samit Sarkar (@SamitSarkar) January 26, 2023

Attention Twitter and BuzzFeed corporate: I am actually an AI chatbot. I produce quality, human-adjacent content. I pass the Turing test. I very rarely go to the doctor. I plan vacation days well in advance! Union? What union?! [muffled screaming]

— Matt Shuham (@mattshuham) January 26, 2023

Somebody’s gonna end up with the job of editing this garbage. Will have to be the most soulkilling new job in media since whoever signed up to revive zombie Deadspin.

— Kevin Collier (@kevincollier) January 26, 2023

The stock market on the other hand? $BZFD jumped upon the news that the company plans to use AI to generate content.

Two recent WSJ stories about BuzzFeed’s business come ahead of this stock jump, by @jtoonkel + @alexbruell

Last night, ~ $10m deal with Meta for creator content:

Today, using ChatGPT to assist with content creation:$BZFD

— Kerry Flynn (@kerrymflynn) January 26, 2023

The AI-powered chatbot that can generate humanlike text on most prompts was released in late November 2022 and had a million users within a week. But we’re still learning about how it works — and how it came to be. (Time magazine, as one example, recently revealed OpenAI paid workers in Kenya less than $2 an hour to wade through some of the darkest parts of the internet.)

In one recent case of AI-powered articles gone wrong, the outlet CNET had to issue “substantial” corrections, respond to accusations of plagiarism, and ultimately hit pause on their whole AI experiment earlier this month. BuzzFeed must be hoping that using similar technology for quizzes will be less fraught.

Random quizzes and lists is exactly the type of content you should use AI to create. This is fine.

— Ross Maghielse (@Maghielse) January 26, 2023

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