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BuzzFeed CEO Says AI-Powered Content Creation Will Become ‘Part of Our Core Business’ in 2023

Variety logo Variety 1/26/2023 Todd Spangler
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Coming soon to BuzzFeed: a new pop-culture quiz — possibly generated with the help of a robot.

BuzzFeed, amid an economic downturn that last month led it to lay off 12% of its workforce, this year will increasingly rely on artificial-intelligence technology to help produce content, CEO Jonah Peretti said in an email to staff Thursday.

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,” Peretti wrote.

The company’s new focus on using AI to generate content was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which said BuzzFeed plans to use OpenAI’s ChatGPT tool as part of the initiative.

“The creative process will increasingly become AI-assisted and technology-enabled,” Peretti predicted in the 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 identified AI technology and creator-generated content as the two major trends that will define digital media over the next three years. “Our industry will expand beyond AI-powered curation (feeds), to AI-powered creation (content),” the CEO wrote in the memo.

That said, human editorial employees will still be at the controls, according to Peretti: “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.”

The use of AI to produce content has recently been in the headlines after CNET, the digital tech outlet owned by Red Ventures, disclosed that starting in November 2022 it had used an internally developed AI engine to generate 77 stories, about 1% of the site’s total content. That came after tech blog Futurism first reported that CNET had been publishing articles written by AI without anyone noticing. CNET is now halting the use of the AI tech after finding more than half of those stories contained factual errors or plagiarized sections. “We’ve paused and will restart using the AI tool when we feel confident the tool and our editorial processes will prevent both human and AI errors,” CNET editor-in-chief Connie Guglielmo wrote in a post Wednesday.

Separately, New York-based BuzzFeed has struck a multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal with Meta to produce creator content for Facebook and Instagram, the Journal reported Wednesday.

On the AI announcement and the Meta deal report, shares of BuzzFeed shot up more than 150% — but the stock is still off about 75% from its original offering price. BuzzFeed went public in December 2021 via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger.

According to Peretti’s memo, BuzzFeed’s various creator-powered businesses generate “tens of millions of dollars in revenue” and reach an audience of “well over 200 million people.” For example, on Instagram, Tasty’s Creator Residents and Creator collaborations generated more than 1 billion views in 2022. More than 20% of the audience is “consuming creator-made content,” according to Peretti.

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