It’s the latest media organization to turn to automated methods to process content. But the company says its newsroom will stay focused on human work.
BuzzFeed says it’s going to use more AI tools to “enhance” and “personalize” its content, according to a memo sent this morning to staff by CEO Jonah Peretti. News of the memo was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which says BuzzFeed will specifically be working with tools made by OpenAI, creator of the AI chatbot ChatGPT.
In the memo, Peretti says AI will be one of the two major trends defining the future of digital media (the other being “creators”). Peretti says that in 2023, BuzzFeed’s “AI inspired content” will launch on the site, “enhancing the quiz experience, informing our brainstorming, and personalizing our content for our audience.”
“Our industry will expand beyond AI-powered curation (feeds), to AI-powered creation (content),” says Peretti. “AI opens up a new era of creativity, where creative humans like us play a key role providing the ideas, cultural currency, inspired prompts, IP, and formats that come to life using the newest technologies.”
In an example cited by the WSJ but not included in the memo, AI could be used to generate personalized rom-com pitches for readers. They would be asked a series of questions, including personal information (like “name an endearing flaw” and “pick a favorite rom-com trope”), which would be used to generate a shareable output.
Peretti notes in the memo that he’ll be sharing “a preview of the content we’ll be launching in February” at an all hands meeting later today. (You can read the memo in full below.)
It’s not clear how else the digital publisher plans to use AI, but a spokesperson for the company told the WSJ that the company’s newsroom would remain focused on journalism written by humans.
The increasing capability of AI tools like ChatGPT to write prose has made the technology a tempting prospect for media companies hurt by falling advertising rates. BuzzFeed, in particular, has had a rocky ride on the markets since going public in December 2021. By June 2022, the company’s share price had already fallen 40 percent and has continued trending downwards since. Following news this morning that BuzzFeed will be using AI to produce content, its share price had risen more than 100 percent at the time of writing.
Although publishers like The Associated Press have used automated tools to produce stories for nearly a decade, these have tended to be formulaic articles covering news like earnings reports and sporting results. Automated tools are used to input figures and results into prewritten templates. As AI systems have improved, though, so has their ability to write more of a story. The problem is that the more AI is used in a story’s creation, the more chance there is for mistakes to be introduced. This is especially true of tools like ChatGPT, which have a tendency to produce “fluent bullshit” — that is, plausible but incorrect information.
Recently, CNET was criticized for failing to clearly disclose its use of AI in writing a number of articles offering financial advice in its money section. The company, which is owned by private equity firm Red Ventures, has since paused its use of AI tools and says it found errors in more than half of the articles written with the technology’s help.
You can read the memo in full below:
I want to share thoughts today on our strategy. As we continue to navigate through challenging times, our mission is more important than ever – to spread truth, joy, and creativity to the biggest, most diverse, most online audiences. We are fortunate to have a talented team, iconic brands, and a differentiated technology platform that allows us to stand out in a crowded market and have an unparalleled impact on culture. And, of course, the best of the Internet: lists, quizzes, and video from BuzzFeed; premium, award-winning series from Complex Networks; two of the largest food brands on the Internet in Tasty and First We Feast; and free, award-winning journalism from HuffPost and BuzzFeed News.
In the short term, we will fiercely focus on delivering strong value for our partners so that they continue to spend with us during the recession, and manage our costs and run our company like a lean, scrappy startup. In tough economic times, we need to fight for every penny of revenue, and try to save every penny of costs.
But the truth is that working hard for our partners and operating cost efficiently, while essential, will only get us so far. To fulfill the promise of our mission, we need to build a stronger business foundation by executing a forward-looking strategy. We must look ahead and shift our business towards longer term trends in order to seize the opportunities that will come in the eventual recovery.
Over the next three years, the future of digital media will be defined by two major trends: creators, and AI. We will help shape these trends to create massive value for our audience, our employees, and our shareholders. Working together, we will:
Build the premier platform for creative people to do their most inspired work, reach the most people, and live their best lives. Content will increasingly be produced by talent around the world who work for themselves and multiple companies. Broadly defined, I’ll refer to these people as “creators,” but they include people who you might also refer to as celebrities, actors, athletes, entertainers, freelancers, influencers, contributors, producers, community members, or talent. The best media companies will provide a differentiated creator platform to help creators succeed in a crowded market. The creator platforms of the future will bring together widely known and loved brands, distribution channels, creative partnerships, business opportunities, and purpose-built creator tools.
Lead the future of AI-powered content and maximize the creativity of our writers, producers, and creators and our business. The creative process will increasingly become AI-assisted and technology-enabled. 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. Our industry will expand beyond AI-powered curation (feeds), to AI-powered creation (content). AI opens up a new era of creativity, where creative humans like us play a key role providing the ideas, cultural currency, inspired prompts, IP, and formats that come to life using the newest technologies.
Here is how we are going to do it:
Our teams at BuzzFeed, Complex Networks, Tasty, HuffPost and BuzzFeed News will serve as the braintrust, innovating new models, creating new formats, and developing new production models to help creative people reach more people and have a bigger impact.
Our business team will serve as the monetization experts, helping creators make the most money from their work, bringing new tech-powered products to market, and tapping into studio, commerce, and advertising opportunities.
And our tech, product, and select content teams will become the experts on the latest technologies, the best AI-models, and the most interactive formats in order to build industry-leading tools and bring creator ideas to life.
We already have significant scale and growth opportunities from creator initiatives across the company; and with a new mindset and added focus, we are set up to win. Across BuzzFeed, Tasty, Complex Networks and more, we’re connecting brands with the best emerging talent and publishers across the Internet.
That includes a wide variety of amazing talent in our Catalyst Creator’s Program: foodies backed by iconic brands like Tasty; identity-focused creators from brands like Cocoa Butter and Pero Like and beloved creators in the shopping space, who drive viral recommendations and brand purchases.
BuzzFeed, Inc.’s Catalyst creator network overall encompasses many more creators, with more than 280+ million total followers.
Over 20% of the BuzzFeed.com web audience is consuming creator made content.
On Instagram, Tasty’s Creator Residents and Creator collaborations generated more than one billion views in 2022.
HuffPost Voices and HuffPost Personal will attract 250 new contributors this year.
Last year for the first time, BuzzFeed News and HuffPost launched a 10-month residency for ten external creators who are focused on short-form video content that complements the incredible reporting from our newsrooms. The creators meet regularly with newsroom leaders to discuss ideas for content that riffs off, or is inspired by, our original reporting.
Next month we’re beginning to work with the first class of Complex Creators with over 15 new faces joining our roster of talent.
Our Creator, Webscouts, and Video Acquisition teams will partner with 600+ creators this year and are growing off of a base of over ten billion views in 2022.
The highest end creators – celebrities – are both hosting and appearing on our shows regularly, with talent like Sean Evans, our host, interviewing Viola Davis and Lizzo on Hot Ones; Joe La Puma hosting Mark Wahlberg and Idris Elba on Sneaker Shopping; and stars like Tom Holland and Chris Evans (finally!) playing with puppies.
In total, today our wide variety of creator-powered businesses generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue and an audience of well over 200 million people. Research firm Statista recently reported that the global media spend in the influencer advertising segment is projected to reach $51 billion by 2027, increasing at an annual growth rate of 13.21% from 2022 to 2027. Many creator-focused startups are struggling because they don’t have the brands and compelling offerings we are all to provide. We are well-positioned to take share in this lucrative and growing new market segment in the coming year.
Our work in AI-powered creativity is also off to a good start, and in 2023, you’ll see AI inspired content move from an R&D stage to part of our core business, enhancing the quiz experience, informing our brainstorming, and personalizing our content for our audience. I’ll share more soon about the encouraging developments and new applications we are working on as AI models continue to advance. To be clear, we see the breakthroughs in AI opening up a new era of creativity that will allow humans to harness creativity in new ways with endless opportunities and applications for good. In publishing, AI can benefit both content creators and audiences, inspiring new ideas and inviting audience members to co-create personalized content. When you see this work in action it is pretty amazing. I’ll share a preview of the content we’ll be launching in February at the All Hands later today.
That’s our plan. We’ll fight for revenue and manage costs through this recession. We’ll build the best platform for creators. We’ll lead the future of AI-powered content. Throughout it all, we’ll stay true to our mission. This is all possible because of our strong brands, huge audience, and talented teams. Together we can build the future of media. It will be a worthy challenge and an exciting adventure.
It is an honor to work alongside you. Looking forward to fighting through a tough market and creating the future of media together.
See you at the All Hands today at 1pm ET/10am PT, where we’ll talk more about all of this.
Update Thursday January 26th, 13:21AM ET: The story has been updated with the memo from Peretti.